Lenovo has taken back production control of its European manufacturing facility 

Lenovo has taken back production control of its European manufacturing facility

CNME Editor Mark Forker obtained an exclusive interview with Wilfredo Sotolongo, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer of the Infrastructure Solutions Group, Lenovo, to find out the trends that are driving new innovations within the datacentre space – and the impact of Lenovo’s first in-house manufacturing facility. in Hungary.

Wilfredo Sotolongo has enjoyed a distinguished career in the IT ecosystem, one that has spanned two decades.

Before joining Lenovo in 2015, Sotolongo enjoyed great success at IBM, where he held several senior executive roles.

During his time at Lenovo, he served only to further strengthen its position as a global leader in the IT industry.

Lenovo is best known for being the world’s No.1 PC provider, but company chairman Yang Yuanqing has made no secret of his ambitions to make Lenovo the world’s No.1 infrastructure solutions provider.

Sotolongo is tasked with the responsibility of implementing that vision in his role as SVP and CCO of Lenovo ISG.

In a candid interview with CNME, we started the conversation by examining the trends driving new investments in the data center space.

“Fortunately for us, our customers continue to invest heavily in our technology, in particular, because they see the technologies inside the data centers as the real drivers of digital transformation. Unlike in other parts of the technology ecosystem, we still see a strong investment cycle in the data center space. The data center sector is expected to grow by 20%, but it grew by 27% globally, which is an incredible development for the industry and it is very encouraging for us,” said Sotolongo.

In terms of investment areas that are important for Lenovo, he highlighted content and AI.

“I think the first important area of ​​investment for us is content. We’re seeing customers move away from prototyping to creating edge use cases, and it’s not the traditional use cases of content, instead these are content use cases with some form of AI. We’ve seen that around the world in the retail and manufacturing industries. There are also a lot of opportunities in video, but that depends on a country’s philosophy may vary, but we see a lot of optics in indoor use cases,” said Sotolongo.

The dynamic executive of Lenovo says that the second area of ​​investment is related and relevant, but not only in content, and that is AI.

“At Lenovo, we now see AI embedded in all applications, whether that’s voice recognition, video, or complex algorithms to identify trends in complex data. The first people who started testing it were in academic and research environments, but are now in production mode. A perfect illustration of this is a conversation we had recently with the Road and Transport Authority ( RTA) in Dubai, a large part of the conversation is almost entirely focused on how they can use AI to improve their services for passengers in Dubai. So, in summary, these are the two areas of investment I see growing strength in the data center space over the next 12 months,” said Sotolongo.

Sotolongo admits that the company is first known as a hardware player, and emphasizes that they have implemented AI in all the main layers of their technology. He emphasized that they are currently developing AI hardware capabilities across all of their platforms.

“We’re developing AI hardware capabilities across all of our platforms, so our phone and PC businesses are now incorporating AI capabilities, and that includes special purpose-built devices for in AI use cases such as AR and VR glasses. In addition to this, our datacentre business now incorporates specialized technology such as GPUs that enable AI use cases, and within that business we enable specialized adapters for all form factors,” said Sotolongo.

He also revealed that Lenovo is now building industry standard frameworks for AI.

“We are building unique use cases where we can help customers who come to us and ask us to help them implement an AR application for maintaining a jet engine for example. We are starting to create unique use cases in specific industries for specific customers as part of our service businesses – and we have a strong global focus in terms of expanding our service business,” said Sotolongo .

Interestingly, the Lenovo ISG SVP and CCO further disclosed that the company is also currently investing in the importance of developing their own algorithms, which he admits are largely unknown to many.

“We are now also investing in the development of algorithms. We are creating the base infrastructure layer, and we are adding components to AI frameworks that are industry standard. The algorithm work we are doing is not visible, it is behind the scenes -look, so it’s invisible. Very few people as a result know that we’re making algorithmic progress,” said Sotolongo.

He also added that Lenovo is currently evaluating driving the algorithm’s work in specific manufacturing use cases.

“We want to create algorithms to analyze production data and identify trends. We do this to improve the quality of our products, it’s for our own consumption, so we don’t know when to put do we have them as products in the market or not, but it is something that we are examining carefully,” said Sotolongo.

Last year, Lenovo opened its first home manufacturing facility in Hungary.

Sotolongo said the decision to open this facility was driven by a desire to have more control and autonomy in the production of their end-user products.

“Historically, Lenovo has adopted a hybrid model when it comes to manufacturing. Traditionally, half of our production is built in Lenovo factories, and the other half of our production is built in partner factories. However, most of our competitors have almost 90% of their production built in partner factories. In 2019, we made the decision to bring more of our manufacturing capacity in-house, so that we have better control and control and supply autonomy. We rely on one of the largest OEM manufacturers in Hungary, to build all our datacentre and workstation products, and they do a great job, but frankly we see a very good opportunity for us to increase our manufacturing capacity, while reducing our manufacturing overheads and cost,” said Sotolongo.

Lenovo announced plans to open this manufacturing facility in 2019, but the pandemic has made it a relatively long and sometimes painful process.

However, Sotolongo said that the factory has fulfilled its promises when it comes to output.

“It took us 3 years to get to where we are, so it was a bit of a painful process, but there was a pandemic in the middle of it, but the facility is now almost at full capacity. The factory manufactures all of our datacentres and products of workstations for all of EMEA, and sometimes we ship to the Americas, and that’s the great thing about having your own factory, because it gives you the flexibility to do things like that. factory in its promise, because we are now producing twice in terms of volume of what we can do in our partner factory. Now, at the moment the costs are very similar, but as we improve our manufacturing processes , we expect our costs to drop significantly,” said Sotolongo.

The Metaverse consumes many column inches, and was a hot topic at GITEX last October. Sotolongo explained that Lenovo is committed to providing the ‘building blocks’ needed to bring Metaverse use-cases to real life.

“In terms of Metaverse, we primarily provide the components needed for that world. I’m talking about subsets of the technology that you need to build these use cases. We provide the compute, the virtualization technology , and the end-point devices, and we essentially play the software technology that is needed, and that runs on our systems to do this. We work with companies like NVIDIA – providing them with the basic building blocks of construction needed to accelerate and bring the vision of Metaverse,” concluded Sotolongo.

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