IBM's decision to sell its low-end server activities to Lenovo has been given a cautious thumbs-up by partners.
Big Blue ended months of speculation this morning by confirming it has reached a definitive agreement in which the Chinese vendor will acquire its x86 business for $2.3bn.
The deal includes System x, BladeCenter and Flex System blade servers and switches, x86-based Flex integrated systems, NeXtScale and iDataPlex servers and associated software, blade networking and maintenance operations. Some 7,500 staff are "expected" to move to Lenovo as part of the deal.
With Dell and Fujitsu also rumoured to have been interested, IBM partners welcomed the fact the business is ending up in the hands of a vendor that bought (for $1.75bn) and subsequently transformed IBM's PC business last decade.
Steve Ellis, managing director of Cirencester-based IBM partner APSU (pictured, below), said: "It's no surprise it's gone to Lenovo as that's where the PC business went, and at least we as a partner community know how to work with them.
"It's a known entity. If the business had to be sold it's not a bad place to end up."
Kevin Drew, owner of Hampshire-based IBM partner DU360, said: "I think you could even argue that bringing it into the hands of a company that does only one thing - PCs and servers - and is not complicated by 47 million other things, might lead to a better world."
Rumours first emerged that IBM was in talks to offload the business to Lenovo last April and Rob Tomlin, IBM business unit director at Azlan, which distributes both IBM and Lenovo, said the announcement would end the uncertainty for partners.
"Lenovo has done a fabulous job in energising what was the IBM PC business and I expect them to do the same with the IBM server business."
IBM partners worried at the prospect of having to master the inner workings of another vendor's processes and programmes shouldn't feel too much of a change, Tomlin added.
"Lenovo has a mature business partner programme," he said. "You don't become the largest PC vendor in the world without being a solid company and they've learned over the last ten years how to manage a channel."
IBM said it will retain its System z mainframes, Power Systems, Storage Systems, Power-based Flex servers, and PureApplication and PureData appliances. Customers should see little change in their maintenance support, IBM claimed, as it will provide maintenance delivery on Lenovo's behalf for an extended "period of time".
The deal, which was for almost half the $5bn-$6bn figure being bandied around last year, sees IBM finally cast off the last of its low-end hardware activities as it pushes into services and cloud. Lenovo will pay $2bn in cash and the remainder in shares.
"This divestiture allows IBM to focus on system and software innovations that bring new kinds of value to strategic areas of our business, such as cognitive computing, Big Data and cloud," said Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM Software and Systems.
Lenovo chief executive Yang Yuanquing said the move would bolster its "PC Plus" strategy.
"With the right strategy, great execution, continued innovation and a clear commitment to the x86 industry, we are confident that we can grow this business successfully for the long-term, just as we have done with our worldwide PC business," he said.
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