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The new program brings ISVs with AI specializations to Lenovo channel.

Jeffrey Schwartz

August 23, 2022

5 Slides

Lenovo is expanding its focus on artificial intelligence with the launch of the Lenovo AI Innovators ISV partner ecosystem. The program aims to enable the Lenovo channel to deliver and scale complete solutions, especially edge offerings, that use AI.

Under development for nearly a year, Lenovo has officially gone live with 37 ISVs. The Lenovo AI Innovators program is the company’s latest step to advance its investment in artificial intelligence.

Lenovo identified AI as a major opportunity in 2017 by investing $1.2 billion in R&D dedicated to AI. Lenovo also used the funds to open three AI innovation centers, located in Morrisville, N.C., Stuttgart, Germany and Beijing.

Two years later, Lenovo partnered with Intel to accelerate the integration of AI software into high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure. Similarly, Lenovo has AI-focused alliances with AMD, and jointly with NVIDIA and VMware.

Robert Daigle, general manager of Lenovo’s AI business, said the company started shifting its AI focus last year.

Lenovo's Robert Daigle

Lenovo’s Robert Daigle

“The transition that we’ve taken over the past 18 months or so is really to shift our focus predominantly on the enterprise,” Daigle told Channel Futures. “We have a great HPC business; we’re the leading supercomputing provider in the world. But really, the challenges that our customers are facing today creates a significant amount of enterprise use cases.”

Growing Demand for AI Solutions

An IDC forecast cited by Lenovo predicts that overall spending on AI will reach $52 billion by 2025. The IDC forecast projects a nearly 22% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for AI business services. Pund-IT principal analyst Charles King noted that many of these ISVs are smaller companies or startups. Nevertheless, the ISVs “significantly enhance Lenovo’s ability to pursue granular opportunities in specific industries and vertical use cases,” King wrote in a research note.

Pund-IT's Charles King

Pund-IT’s Charles King

King added: “Perhaps most importantly, Lenovo’s AI Innovators program highlights how vendors can successfully pursue and deliver practical new solutions derived from highly complex technologies. Left to their own, it would be difficult, at best, for many or most organizations to leverage artificial intelligence on their own.”

Moreover, to support Lenovo’s shift from HPC to enterprise, Daigle said the company started creating the Lenovo AI Innovators program to enable those use cases.

“We’re trying to make it easier for the deployment of AI solutions and we’re trying to reduce the barriers to entry for organizations to use artificial intelligence,” Daigle said.

“That’s the goal of the innovators program,” he added. “And when we get into these enterprise deployments, the channel is critical,” he added. “There’s no one company that can do everything across the board. We really believe it takes the ecosystem to deliver and deploy an AI capability from the software partners that we have in the innovators program.”

3 Stages of the Program for ISVs

Daigle emphasized that Lenovo channel partners are increasingly interested in AI-based solutions. But new partners, notably operational technology systems integrators (OTSIs), have joined the new program. The Lenovo AI Innovators program has three stages: Explore, Deploy and Scale. All partners start at the Explore level, where Lenovo is still validating a solution and assessing its market maturity.

“They get more support from Lenovo as we continue to grow our business together with them, and rightly so, you want to focus on the things that are most important to the customer,” Daigle said. “As we see more collaboration in our customer engagement, we can move them through the different stages.”

ISVs progress to the Deploy stage after their first few implementations. Once there are multiple deployments, they reach the Scale stage.

“So, they’re not just someone we’ve tested in our lab or someone that we’ve done a single POC with, we’re actually doing deployments at scale. That’s where the definition came from,” Daigle said.

Furthermore, Lenovo scouted most of the partners now in the program.

“We started with looking at … the biggest challenges for customers in specific verticals,” he said. “We [saw] the most AI projects are happening over the next three years in retail, manufacturing, health care and financial services.”

Use Cases

For example, theft is a big issue for retailers, especially given the tight margin they operate under, Daigle noted.

“It’s a great use case for AI in computer vision for the visual inspection,” he explained. “We have partners that specialize in that use case. And so, we looked at … the business challenges that our customers are going to need to solve for with AI and targeting partners that address those. We did it more strategically, targeting the right software partner that addresses the specific use cases that we know are going to be important to our customers.”

Daigle said Lenovo will continue to add partners, but said the company is not looking for volume.

“It’s not really a game of how many partners we get in the program,” he said. “We are ensuring that we’re doing the right things to provide value for customers, like creating a reference design, validating their solution and actually creating a complete stack from the hardware to the software, that it’s optimized for the customer.”

The 37 partners identified by Lenovo include Everseen, Pathr.ai, Sunlight, Smartia and WaitTime. The slideshow above describes their solutions.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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