Talking about partnerships feels particularly appropriate at this time of year given the number of technology industry events taking place – and they provide a great opportunity to demonstrate what happens when companies join forces. However, one issue with partnerships in this industry is that, often, rivals end up partnering with each other – so they compete one minute then join forces the next.
One of Lenovo's key strengths is how we partner with other businesses – we look to combine our solutions when forming alliances to create a fundamentally differentiated product for the market. A specific example is our partnership with SAP, and what we’ve done with its in-memory relational database management platform HANA. Now, a lot of people can sell you HANA, but we think it’s right to say that we have the best options out there. So what do we do differently?
Focus on the hardware
First and foremost, we focus on the hardware. We don’t compete with our partners on middleware or the application layer. This means we can have a far more open and interactive relationship. There’s no moment when someone will say: “Hold on a minute. They also have a database product, so let’s not talk about this or that.” When two partners have competing products, stuff always gets left out of the alliance. With our sole focus on hardware, that’s not an issue. A second important element is integration we can offer with products like XClarity, our systems management tool. Because XClarity is a very flexible solution, we can take offerings from our partners and map it to our software, introducing features that actually enhance the solutions we provide. And there’s a third element to consider – one that’s similar to the first point about not competing with our partners. We also don’t compete with resellers. So in the case of our SAP HANA partnership, we’re happy to use and work with SAP resellers, who architect the whole thing, migrate the customers over and so on. We purely provide the hardware.
t’s also worth pointing out that SAP uses Lenovo machines for its development, and its biggest cloud runs on our machines. So that’s a big vote of confidence for us, and the non-compete position we’re in definitely helps from that point of view. Investing in SAP HANA is a big call for a company to make – it's a mission-critical system that you don’t mess around with. So for SAP to trust Lenovo hardware to underpin its software is great for us and reassuring for customers. We’ve seen our SAP partnership grow and morph over time. It works for us, and it’s an approach we’re trying to replicate with other companies. Most notably Nutanix, about whom I’m sure you’ve heard a lot over the past two years. Most of our partnerships, including the ones I’ve mentioned, develop over a number of years. With Nutanix, we could start with just loading the software onto our hardware, but then there’s real development capital pumped into it in order to identify what can be enhanced – whether it’s systems management or optimisation or something else.
What lies ahead
As well as the developing partnership with Nutanix, we recently announced an exciting alliance with Microsoft. Microsoft is really pushing into the cloud at the moment with its Azure platform. The thing is, many customers are reluctant to shift loads of their data to the cloud. Azure Stack is a way of mirroring the cloud in your own data centre. That gives you the advantage of knowing your data is in-house, while also getting the advantages the cloud offers. Our part in this is to provide hardware that sits underneath the Azure Stack. So partnerships are very fulfilling for us and our customers. With our emphasis on partnering with companies we don’t compete with, we have what I think is a unique approach to alliances. One where we are not encumbered by competition, enabling us to offer a longer and deeper integration, bringing products to market that genuinely offer something different.