Lenovo ThinkAgile MX

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure for Education

Deliver the digital experiences your students and staff rely on, with Lenovo ThinkAgile MX for Azure Stack HCI.

Data centres are struggling. The critical infrastructures that supports schools and universities around the country are working overtime, with the weight of STEM labs, cloud apps, media rich digital learning and an explosion of devices and endpoints on campus.

Amplified by the recent need to rapidly deploy remote learning, more than ever schools are looking to enhance the performance and flexibility of their data centre, while reducing complexity and ensuring their environment is secure – all while keeping costs under control.

Book a Lenovo ThinkAgile MX demonstration session with one of our specialists.


Simplify and modernise your data centre with hyper-converged infrastructure.

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) introduces cloud solutions into the data centre, allowing IT teams to dynamically transform infrastructure to fit their schools’ needs. HCI allows you to unlock cloud scalability and software-defined infrastructure while retaining on-premises management of legacy applications.

ThinkAgile MX Certified Node

The Infrastructure Wishlist

Do you find yourself searching for solutions to these common challenges?

  • A fast and affordable route to hybrid cloud, so that you can start your journey to Microsoft Azure and build your cloud skills?
  • Faster data centre performance? Are your server response times getting slower or are you experiencing timeouts when trying to access or manage your data?
  • A migration path off Windows Server 2008, which has reached end of support and is creating vulnerabilities in your environment?
  • A better way to manage network performance for hybrid home and school learning models?
  • Ways to reduce the complexity of server provisioning, and speed up deployments and upgrades?
  • A long term storage strategy to avoid reactively adding more and more gear to your racks to meet increased demand?
  • A solution where you can mix and match data storage options to find the perfect balance of spinning-disk and solid-state drives to maximize infrastructure performance?
  • How to use your existing Microsoft investments for better infrastructure performance?

What is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure?

Traditional data centres are made up of siloed servers and storage arrays, separating the data computing, storage and networking processes. Hyper-Converged Infrastructure consolidates software-defined infrastructure (SDI), storage, and networking into one cluster to provide high-performance, cost-effective, and easily scalable virtualisation. By virtualising part of the data centre, organisations can significantly reduce the amount of physical space needed for their infrastructure.

HCI is the simple, powerful way to modernise aging infrastructure and manage your virtualised workloads on-premises, as well as integrating with the public cloud using Azure cloud services.


Traditional Infrastructure Vs Software-Defined

Daily ManagementSeparate management of servers, hypervisor and storage – highly skilled technical team required.Integrated management of servers, hypervisor and storage – less skills required of the technical team and less time to resolve issues.
Lifecycle ManagementSeparate patching of servers, hypervisor and storage – lots of testing required.Lenovo tested ‘best recipe’ integrated patching of servers, hypervisors and storage.
Flexibility to upgradeComplex – e.g. will adding an extra server reduce total performance, unless storage is also upgraded?Easy – just add another Lenovo server to the cluster and overall performance will increase.

Azure Stack HCI is a solution that combines several products:

  • Validated hardware from Lenovo
  • Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition
  • Windows Admin Center
  • Azure services (optional)

There are three models of service to choose from:

  1. Entry: foundational solutions with the lowest cost point.
  2. Balanced: offering the best price-performance ratio.
  3. Performance: powerful integrated solutions for demanding workloads.

Azure Stack HCI Infographic

Lenovo ThinkAgile MX Servers

ThinkAgile MX Certified Nodes accelerate your adoption of Microsoft Azure Stack HCI solutions. With Lenovo ThinkAgile MX Certified Nodes you can run virtual machines on-premises and easily connect to Azure, eliminating the need for costly external storage. Starting with a simple, low-cost 2-node solution or a powerful 16-node cluster depending on your needs.

Endorsed and validated by Microsoft, the Lenovo ThinkAgile MX1021 is heralded by Cosmos Darwin, Program Manager at Microsoft to be “the future of edge computing”.

The Benefits

Manage your virtualised workloads and use Azure services like cloud-based backup and monitoring, site recovery, and more. Lenovo XClarity Integrator and Windows Admin Center combine for a single pane of glass experience.With Lenovo servers consistently ranked #1 for reliability1 and customer satisfaction2. For many users including ROBO, VDI consolidation, storage, high availability, cloud DR and SQL.

Get the best of both on-prem & cloud

Easy to deploy, manage and scale

Unbeatable reliability

Incredible performance at an affordable cost

A true hybrid experience, manage your virtualised workloads and use Azure services like cloud-based backup and monitoring, site recovery, and more. After a quick and hassle-free deployment, management is simple with Lenovo XClarity Integrator and Windows Admin Center joining forces for a single management platform. With Lenovo servers consistently ranked #1 for reliability1 and customer satisfaction2 you won’t be stressed over downtime or response times. HCI means schools don’t need to keep buying more servers as their infrastructure needs increase, nor will they have to invest in servers that sit unused in anticipation of future needs.

The Data#3 Approach

As the 2019 Lenovo Reseller of the Year Platinum Partner in the Data Centre Group category, Data#3 will listen carefully to your objectives and provide you with the ideal infrastructure solution to best suit your business. Data#3 was successful in achieving this award due to its continued investment in technical resources, business growth exceeding 200%, and for delivering innovative data centre solutions to customers.

Data#3 is also Microsoft’s largest Australian partner and most experienced cloud partner, accredited as a Gold Cloud and Data Centre Partner and a certified Azure Expert Managed Services Provider, with the largest team of specialists trained in Azure Fundamentals in the country.

The combined Data#3, Microsoft and Lenovo partnership offers customers the assurance that they will be working with a qualified team, who deliver first-class technical solutions and support. This long-standing partnership ensures that our customers maximise the value from their investments.


What is the cost of the Azure Stack HCI license?
There is no Azure Stack HCI license. If you have Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition, you have all the components and all the licensing you need to use Azure Stack HCI. Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition contains Storage Spaces Direct, software-defined networking and Hyper-V within the included feature set. Also, Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition includes licensing for unlimited virtual machines.

Is Azure Stack HCI the most cost effective HCI solution?
Azure Stack HCI runs on industry standard hardware and is included with Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition. Software-defined storage and networking and the other components of HCI are built into the OS. Unlimited VMs are included along with Windows Admin Center for Azure Stack HCI management, making it extremely cost effective.

What’s the cost of Windows Admin Center?
Windows Admin Center is a no-cost management tool from Microsoft, available to download directly from Microsoft here. Azure Stack HCI does not need to be running to use Windows Admin Center. Windows Admin Center can connect to and manage your existing Window Server environments immediately.

Are Azure cloud services included with Azure Stack HCI?
There’s a cost calculator in the Azure portal that makes it easy to determine what you need and how much it will cost. Costs are calculated based on the amount of consumption over a certain period of time. Visit the cost calculator here.

Right-sizing your Azure workloads is critical and can be difficult, even with calculators and advice. In fact, we’ve learned through approximately one hundred customer Azure Health Checks that 75% of businesses are paying too much for Azure- of those, some are overspending by as much as 70%. Ask us about Azure Foundation Services so you can move to the cloud with confidence. Already in Azure? We can still help you with ongoing Cost Optimisation.

Why is Azure Stack HCI with Lenovo such a high performing platform?
Azure Stack HCI gives benchmark-leading performance of 13.7 million IOPS1. Lenovo recently achieved 902,952 Batch requests/sec running SQL Server 2019 database workloads on Azure Stack HCI2. Storage Spaces Direct, the storage component built into Azure Stack HCI, has a high-performance scale-out nature. Unlike other solutions, every node in the system is involved in reading and writing data. This creates a direct linear performance improvement as you scale out: the more nodes you add, the more your throughput increases.

Is Azure Stack HCI meant for specific industries?
No, Azure Stack HCI is suitable across multiple industries including K12 Schools and Universities. Azure Stack HCI is software-defined, highly available storage, networking and virtualization. Because it scales from two to 16 nodes, it can be built to deliver whatever capability you require, making it ideal for organisations small and large to begin building their cloud skills and migrating workloads.

How does Azure Stack HCI perform vs. the competition?
Azure Stack HCI provides benchmark-leading performance on Lenovo hardware and recently set an HCI industry record of 13.7 million IOPS1. Azure Stack HCI is also simple to deploy, use and manage. All Azure Stack HCI features are included natively in Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition. Azure Stack HCI is inherently less complicated than a system requiring additional software and hardware to manage and deploy. From a dollars spent on performance perspective Azure Stack HCI also holds a leadership position as competitive offerings require additional licensing and hardware costs to deploy, run and manage.

How is Azure Stack HCI licensed?
Azure Stack HCI is part of Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition. There’s no additional license. If you have Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition and are licensed to use it, you have all the components you need to run Azure Stack HCI.

Can I purchase Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition with a Lenovo server?
Yes. Purchasing Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition, CALs, and even Microsoft SQL Server with your Lenovo server is one of the easiest most cost-effective ways of sourcing these products. Visit the LenovoSalesPortal.com for more info and part numbers.

What are the virtualisation rights for Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition?
Windows Server Datacenter edition provides rights for unlimited virtual machine, OSEs and Hyper-V containers.

How does Windows Server 2019 licensing work?
Windows Server 2019 is licensed based on the number of processor cores in the physical server. All physical cores in the server must be licensed. A minimum of 8 core licenses are required for each physical processor and a minimum of 16 core licenses are required for each server. Visit the Lenovo core licensing calculator for more info and part numbers.

Do I still need CALs?
Yes. Customers will need new 2019 CALs for Windows Server 2019. Visit the Lenovo core licensing calculator for more info and part numbers.

What’s the difference between Azure, Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack HCI, and Azure Stack Edge?
Azure is the name for all public cloud services offered by Microsoft. Azure uses a distributed set of data centres around the globe. Azure Stack is a family of solutions that easily integrate with Azure. The solutions include: Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack HCI and Azure Stack Edge.

Azure Stack Hub is a turnkey integrated system that allows you to run on-premises Azure services. Azure Stack Hub is ideal for applications that are dependent on Azure cloud services but have limited cloud access, or if you’re deploying Azure-consistent solutions within your own data centre.

Azure Stack HCI is an on-premises, hyperconverged computing solution included in Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition that runs on Lenovo ThinkAgile MX servers. You can use Azure Stack HCI alongside Azure cloud services in a flexible, hybrid cloud model based on your requirements.

Azure Stack Edge is a cloud-managed appliance solution from Microsoft designed to make your data processing system as efficient as possible. Queries and reports occur close to their data sources without the added delay of going round-trip to the cloud. Data or query results that need further processing or storage go to the cloud on an as-needed basis.

Will Azure Stack HCI run on my existing SAN?
Azure Stack HCI is a software-defined platform built on Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition and runs on industry standard validated servers, like Lenovo ThinkAgile MX. It cannot run on storage area network solutions. However, because it supports all the common industry standard protocols, it’s easy to exchange data and coexist with your existing SAN platform, regardless of your current vendor.

Can I use my existing hardware to deploy Azure Stack HCI?
Most likely, no. To correctly use Azure Stack HCI a specific combination of drivers, firmware, hard disks, RAM and network cards with specific configurations are required. Due to these precise variables, we strongly recommend using new hardware. Lenovo ThinkAgile MX solutions guarantee that your configurations are validated according to Azure Stack HCI standards so that you get the best configuration for your performance and storage needs. There is a broad portfolio of options within ThinkAgile MX that allow you to customise Azure Stack HCI while maintaining a configuration that will ensure Microsoft validation standards are met.

Are there any tools within Azure Stack HCI to assist with migration from other platforms?
There are a number of migration tools available from third-party vendors and Microsoft announced a new tool at Ignite 2019. The new migration tool built into Windows Admin Center helps take the complexity out of many deployment tasks.

Can I use non-validated hardware solutions?
It’s not recommended. Components like hard disks or network cards are very important to the stability of systems running Azure Stack HCI. If they don’t have the correct settings, drivers or firmware, data loss or instability can occur. This is not unique to Microsoft Azure Stack HCI. Other vendors also have highly prescriptive and defined hardware solutions and file data packages to maintain the integrity and validity of their systems. We strongly recommend using validated hardware like ThinkAgile MX.

Why is validated hardware so important?
There is deep integration between the physical components, the firmware and drivers used to run Azure Stack HCI. Failure to use pre-tested, validated hardware can result in data loss and severe performance degradation. Using validated hardware, like Lenovo ThinkAgile MX, is highly recommended if you want to run Azure Stack HCI solutions in production.

Can I use third-party software in conjunction with this solution?
Azure Stack HCI is built on Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition. Software certified to run on Windows Server 2019 will coexist with Azure Stack HCI in most cases, including backup products, antivirus products and other middleware solutions.

Does XClarity integrate with Azure Stack HCI?
XClarity is a hardware management and monitoring tool provided by Lenovo. XClarity can be used to monitor the health of the hardware and the hard disks within your Azure Stack HCI nodes. You can also access XClarity directly in Windows Admin Center dashboard via the Windows Admin Center Plugin.

How do we size Azure Stack HCI?
First, you’ll need to determine how much storage and how many virtual machines you need. This will help you figure out how many usable cores, how much RAM, and how much capacity you need. Use this information to determine a suitable hardware configuration and the number of nodes required to deliver your solution. If you need help there are third-party tools and solution providers that can help facilitate this process. Contact your Lenovo representative to assist you.

How is tiering done in Storage Spaces Direct?
Azure Stack HCI tiering is transparent. It has two components: cache acceleration and performance storage. Cache acceleration allows all incoming data to move through high-performance cache, which delivers fantastic data ingest speeds. Then data is transparently moved onto lower performance storage over time. This works in parallel with mirror acceleration across volumes to improve data efficiency.

Does Storage Replica require Azure Stack HCI?
No, Storage Replica is included in Windows Server 2019. However, it doesn’t have dependency on Azure Stack HCI. Storage Replica is a block level solution that works with any volume Windows Server 2019 can see. If Windows Server 2019 is running on a traditional SAN, it can do storage replication between that SAN and another SAN to the Cloud, or to a single server. This makes Storage Replica a flexible tool for simplifying data migration from existing systems to Azure Stack HCI.

Contact an Education Infrastructure Specialist


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1 TBR 2H (December, 2018). Lenovo Outperforms its Competitors in x86-based Server Customer Satisfaction 2H18. [Online] Available at: https://en.resources.lenovo.com/analyst-reports/tbr-lenovo-outperforms-its-competitors-in-x86-based-server-customer-satisfaction-2h18
2 ITIC (August, 2018). ITIC 2018 Server Reliability Mid-Year Update: IBM Z, IBM Power, Lenovo System x, HPE Integrity Superdome & Huawei KunLun Deliver Highest Uptime. [Online] Available at: https://itic-corp.com/blog/2018/08/itic-2018-server-reliability-mid-year-update-ibm-z-ibm-power-lenovo-system-x-hpe-integrity-superdome-huawei-kunlun-deliver-highest-uptime/