Lenovo steps up server bid with new entry-level systems

The company announces two-socket rack and tower servers with Intel's Xeon chips

Lenovo announced some new entry-level servers on Tuesday, continuing its effort to become a bigger player in the server market.

The company announced the two-socket ThinkServer RD230 and RD240 rack server, and the ThinkServer TD230 tower server, all of which are powered by six-core Intel processors.

Lenovo is best known as a PC vendor but entered the server business in 2008 with its first ThinkServer products. The new systems are up to 60 percent faster than their predecessors, thanks partly to the increased core count, said Kumar Majety, Lenovo director of ThinkServer marketing. The servers can process more tasks while consuming less energy, he said.

The systems can run back-end applications such as databases or be used as cloud computing servers, Majety said. They are designed for use by small and medium-sized businesses, or by larger businesses that need an entry-level server to run a dedicated application.

The x86 server market is a US$24 billion opportunity and growing every year, and Lenovo wants a bigger share of that market, Majety said.

But the company has a long way to go to establish a viable position alongside established competitors like Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell, said Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group.

Lenovo is strong in PCs but doesn't have the reputation in servers that those rivals have built up. "It's tough and it's certainly not going to get easier," Olds said.

Lenovo bought IBM's PC division in 2005, giving it some credibility in building reliable hardware, Olds said. But it will need to build up effective server distribution channels to reach customers.

The servers will include Intel's Xeon 5500 and 5600 series chips with up to six cores. The TD230 supports up to 32GB of RAM, while the RD230 and RD240 support up to 64GB. The servers come with Windows Server 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 or Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise 11.

The TD230, RD230 and RD240 are priced starting at US$829, $999 and $1,399, respectively. They are available now in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. Lenovo didn't say when they will ship in other markets.

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