Lenovo intros an edge platform that runs Azure stack

New server hardware from Lenovo processes data at the edge instead of sending it upstream to a data center.

Edge Computing
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Lenovo is boosting its ties to Microsoft with an edge-to-cloud platform that runs Microsoft’s Azure Stack in a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), putting HCI on the edge of the network rather than in a data center.

The Lenovo ThinkAgile MX1021 server analyzes data at the edge near where it is gathered, a change in direction for the usual edge strategy. In earlier edge schemes,  data collected at an edge endpoint is merely sorted, and only the relevant data is sent up to the main data center where it is analyzed.

The ThinkAgile MX1021 platform is a ruggedized, half-width, short-depth, 1U compact server that can be installed almost anywhere: hung on a wall, stacked on a shelf, or mounted in a rack. For connectivity, it supports Wi-Fi, 4G and 5G.

It comes with an Intel Xeon-D processor with up to 8 cores, 256GB of DDR4 RAM, and 16TB of internal M.2 solid-state storage. It can handle temperatures from 0° to 55°C, as well as tolerate locations with high-dust and vibration.

It also integrates with Microsoft Azure Stack Hub and Azure IoT Hub, allowing customers to tier and move data between the edge, their main data centers running Azure Stack, and the Azure cloud service. Azure Stack is an on-premises software product that replicates the Azure cloud experience on premises and allows for seamless movement of applications and data between on-premises and the cloud.

The ThinkSystem DM7100 is an all-flash or hybrid SSD/HDD storage array, capable of offering end-to-end NVMe technology while delivering integrated, secure hybrid-cloud capability for Microsoft Azure and other public-cloud-provider solutions.

Lenovo says that data deduplication will allow enterprises to reduce their cloud footprint by up to 66% and that with all-flash arrays, analytics are performed 30% faster than by older Lenovo storage arrays.

Kamran Amini, vice president and general manager of Server, Storage and Software-Defined Infrastructure at Lenovo DCG, said the two systems are validated by Microsoft Azure and designed to fit into existing architectures.

He said this deal is not exclusive to Microsoft, and we can expect HCI edge products running Nutanix and VMware in the future. But for now it’s leading off with Microsoft because “Microsoft is being aggressive on the edge,” he says. “Microsoft is moving outside the core data centers to offices and manufacturing lines. In a Microsoft environment, customers can use [the new hardware] as an end-to-end solution, from edge to the core to the cloud.”

So Lenovo’s target markets for these devices are areas Amini sees as offering huge growth: manufacturing, retail, health care, remote offices, education, and smart cities and campuses.

“Customers see the edge becoming a more relevant space and where computing growth is going to happen. A lot of customers want to put more analytics at the edge. We are also seeing customer demand for higher reliability and throughput but also ease to put [edge] data on the cloud or on prem,” he adds.

The ThinkAgile MX1021 server and ThinkAgile MX1021 platform are available through Lenovo and partners or through Lenovo’s TruScale pay-per-use program, similar to HPE’s GreenLake.

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