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How Lenovo is tackling HCI workloads

Lenovo has teamed up with AMD to address mission-critical workloads such as in-memory databases as APAC organisations look beyond VDI in their hyperconverged infrastructure deployments

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is increasingly being used to power more mission-critical workloads, going beyond virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) which has been one of the most common uses of the technology.

For example, in cases where workloads are moved to on-premise environments, HCI has proven to effective for enterprises that are looking to reduce datacentre complexity and increase scalability, according to Sumir Bhatia, president of Lenovo’s infrastructure solutions group in Asia-Pacific.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen customers move to the cloud but are now repatriating their workloads because of latency or security requirements,” Bhatia told Computer Weekly. “That’s where HCI comes in very strongly to support a hybrid, multi-cloud environment.”

Other mission-critical workloads, said Bhatia, include SAP’s Hana in-memory database, online transaction processing (OLTP) and customer relationship management, even as the use of HCI for VDI workloads remains.

According to the 2020-2021 TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT priorities survey, nearly a third of respondents in the Asia-Pacific region planned to increase their VDI investments during the pandemic as they looked to shore up their remote work capabilities.

“VDI solutions are in line with the scenario that we were all in over the past year, but this is not something new,” Bhatia said. “It’s been chugging along and as customers gain more confidence with VDI, whether it’s a solution from Nutanix or VMware, more of them are getting into using HCI for mission-critical workloads.”

Lenovo recently teamed up with chipmaker AMD to fit its ThinkAgile VX series of HCI appliances with the AMD EPYC 7003 series processors to support VMware workloads. It also sells VX series appliances equipped with Intel Xeon Platinum processors.

Although Xeon processors have lagged behind the EPYC 7003 series in some benchmarks, Intel is staging a comeback with the launch of its third-generation Xeon “Ice Lake” processors later this week.

For now, Bhatia said the AMD-powered VX series appliances will give enterprises up to 45% more memory bandwidth and 2.3 times more CPU cores in a single rack unit.

Peter Chambers, managing director for sales at AMD in Asia-Pacific and Japan, noted that one other capability that enterprises look for in VDI and HCI offerings is security.

“With these new products, we offer the best security solution on the market, in partnership with Lenovo,” Chambers said. “So, we’re talking about secure Roots of Trust and memory encryption with each virtual machine having its own encryption keys.

“We’ve also introduced Shadow Stack which protects against control flow attacks, so we’ve really enhanced our security and that’s something incredibly important to our customers,” he added.

Those security features will become even more important as organisations embrace edge computing – and smaller edge datacentres – that extends their IT footprint beyond the datacentre to branch offices and other remote locations.

Bhatia said edge computing has been a big focus for Lenovo whose HCI appliances are also being used at the edge, adding: “We also have a number of edge devices that fit into the cloud as well as the datacentre.”

Dave McCarthy, research director for cloud and edge infrastructure services at IDC, noted that the edge represents the next front for HCI, enabling organisations to converge their IT, operational technology and cloud workloads onto a single industry-standard platform, “thereby providing unprecedent scaling at the edge”.

In Asia-Pacific, the market for edge computing will be the second largest in the world behind North America’s by 2024. China and Japan will account for the lion’s share of the market, contributing around 61% of revenues in the region.

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