IBM's sale of its x86 server unit to Lenovo was really a question of when, not if, it would clear regulatory approval. Now the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US has signed off on the deal, the real work of transition can begin - along with a bevy of competitive shifts.
This $2.3bn acquisition - announced in February - propels Lenovo into the top echelon of global server vendors and provides the China-based company with a significant foothold in the server market.
Transference of the IBM x86 server unit will present Lenovo with a test; it must demonstrate it can still defy the gravity dragging down the server sales of rivals HP and Dell. These same eroding forces are what has spurred IBM to sell the unit and redirect resources to initiatives such as cloud computing, mobility and big data.
Over the last decade Lenovo rose out of international obscurity powered by the 2005 acquisition of IBM's ThinkPad business. It has become one of the hottest and most dynamic tech companies in the world.
With the acquisition of the IBM entry-level server unit, Lenovo is poised to take on the server market as well as pushing deeper into mobility with the acquisition of Google's Motorola Mobility division.
While Lenovo already sells servers, it hasn't had much success motivating its channel to promote its products over rivals or get customers to buy machines on the same scale they do from Dell, HP and IBM.
Lenovo has big plans to capitalise on the acquisition by integrating IBM server channel partners, as well as opening the new product set to its existing channels. In interviews, Lenovo executives have said providers can expect to see expanded support and cross-sell opportunities in endpoints and mobility.
While Lenovo sees potential, the transition will be fraught with challenges. The IBM x86 server unit has thousands of employees and partners, not all of which will make the move.
Disruptions to Lenovo operations are likely as the company sorts out redundancies between two sets of staff and consolidates its resources.
Additionally, competitors are already luring partners and customers away from IBM and Lenovo. HP has been most vocal with its Project Smart Choice program, which is touting the benefits of working with qualified and certified HP partners over Lenovo, which does not have credentials for its partners.
Ahead of the US government decision last week, HP ran a full-page ad in the New York Times encouraging customers to seek out HP partners rather than continuing with IBM and Lenovo. Dell, too, is actively working to recruit IBM partners that don't want to make the transition.
Working in favour of HP and Dell is the depth of their portfolios and expansive support to partners. One of the strengths of using IBM products is the ability of partners to sell and customers to acquire complementary products to complete end-to-end solutions.
While Lenovo is expanding its portfolio, it lacks applications, infrastructure products and professional services.
Even IBM will compete with Lenovo's server business. IBM has told us that it sees its SoftLayer cloud services division - in which it's investing $1.5bn to expand - will serve as an alternative to on-premise servers.
IBM believes it will retain a fair number of server resellers and convert them into cloud promoters.
Lastly, Lenovo must deal with the overall decline in server sales. The top three server vendors have all reported sales declines in the last quarter, with IBM being the top loser, according to Gartner.
Entry-level servers are being displaced by hosted-server providers able to provide reliable services while scaling resources up and down in line with demand.
While the IBM server sale to Lenovo has cleared, the path to success in this highly competitive and commoditised segment has not.
Larry Walsh is chief executive officer and chief analyst at the 2112 Group
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