The ability to come up with cohesive cloud offering has eluded Lenovo for years, but the company is taking steps to offer more services that it can wrap around its mobile devices and enterprise products.
Lenovo subsidiary Stoneware is planning to offer hosted application services that will build on existing secure cloud and virtual desktop services. Lenovo opened its first public cloud service just a year ago, building it around technology acquired from Stoneware in September 2012.
Stoneware's current WebNetwork virtual desktop offering is more like a cloud desktop, with a browser-like interface providing access to remote applications, storage services and other Web application services. The tiled user interface provides access to applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, which are hosted in data centers and don't need to be downloaded and installed locally on mobile devices and PCs. The cloud desktop also provides secure and server-defined access to Web-based software such as Salesforce applications.
The Stoneware unit's offerings are aimed at the enterprise, and can be used on mobile devices and PCs across operating systems. The unit now plans to directly offer hosted applications for those who don't have data centers or don't want to make major investments in buying applications. Companies will be able to buy hosted applications as and when needed, and don't need their own servers in a data center.
"It's going to be a combination. At the enterprise level we assume they have a data center that we can't offer. But as we go down into [small- and medium-business] it's more likely... they will say they want to go without a data center and purchase certain applications," said Rick German, CEO of Lenovo's Stoneware unit.
Lenovo has not however provided a timeframe for the new Stoneware hosted services.
The goal is to aggregate on-premise applications, software-as-a-service and storage services in just one user interface, German said.
Lenovo promised an aggressive push into the cloud two years ago in an effort to sell more devices, but the move has been slow. The company announced its public cloud service called Reach under a year ago, but is still bundling the third-party SugarSync storage and file synchronizing service with its devices. Lenovo hopes Stoneware will provide the infrastructure and middleware through which devices can access and exchange data over public and private clouds.
Lenovo is the world's top PC maker, and is increasing its share of tablet and smartphone shipments. Lenovo has agreed to buy IBM's x86 for US$2.3 billion, which should put it among the world's top five server makers.
While Stoneware's underlying technology is being used in Reach, aimed at consumers, the WebNetwork offering is targeted at the enterprise. Much like traditional virtual desktops, Stoneware's cloud desktop -- by using Citrix and VMware software -- can also stream Windows applications, or let users download an application package that can be run locally on mobile devices or PCs.
"The [Web model] has its places where it sits well, but it's not the model in which we deliver all services to users," German said. "There's no good browser based option when you have a high graphics option, that doesn't mean you can invoke a VDI or remote desktop option."
It's possible to access services like Salesforce through just a browser, without the need for the cloud desktop provided by Stoneware. But WebNetwork adds an additional layer of security by ensuring authorized users access the Web service by rerouting a connection through a data center holding user information. That is handy to ensure IT remains centralized and the right users and devices are validated to access the service.
Right now the cloud service works across devices and operating systems, but "there's no doubt" about further integration to provide an experience unique to Lenovo devices, German said. For example, some applications may be accessible only from Lenovo-approved devices, which will involve authenticating a user and the device trying to access the hosted service.
Stoneware is increasingly being integrated into Lenovo's operations, and the company's increasing reach into the enterprise will help expand usage of its cloud offerings, German said.
"It's certainly a benefit that they're growing in the server market," German said.