Avnet eyes cloud computing & managed services

Broomfield, Colo. – They say our biggest challenges are also our biggest opportunities. Asked to identify each for distributor Avnet Technology Solutions (ATS), Jeff Bawol said the answer for each is cloud computing. It’s been a busy year for Avnet. It acquired and is integrating Bell Micro and Tallard Technologies. After wanting them for years, it added Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) to their linecard. And one of its largest partners, Sun Microsystems, was acquired by Oracle Corp.

Still, Bawol, president for ATS Americas, told CDN Avnet’s biggest challenges are engaging and managing a workforce that spans age 20 to 60 with each decade wanting to work differently, and coming to terms with how cloud computing will evolve and what role Avnet’s vendor and VAR partners will need it to play around the cloud. But he added both are also Avnet’s biggest opportunities.

“Is it private cloud, is it public cloud, and where is it going to take us? We’re having a lot of conversations with customers and suppliers,” said Bawol.

In May, Avnet launched CloudReady, an initiative designed to help VARs learn how they need to restructure their business to capitalize on the cloud opportunity, with education and training, financing solutions, professional services, technical resources and integrated cloud computing solutions that partners can bring to market.

One popular aspect of the program, PayNow, sees partners paid –up front as they work to adjust to an annuity revenue model.

“We’re having many conversations with IBM, HP, Oracle and Microsoft to understand what their plays are.

We don’t want to get too far ahead or behind, our job is to stay close on behalf of our partners,” said Bawol. “It’s evolving.”Managed services may also be part of that evolution for Avnet. Bawol said Avnet has recently hired a former Insight executive to focus on services, look at all Avnet’s services plays, and ensure they’re doing the right things in line with the vendors and partners.

Avnet said it sees the cloud primarily as a delivering mechanism, an alternative way to deliver the technology and vertical solutions Avnet has developed with its VAR partners.

Tony Vottima, senior vice-president, solutions marketing and development, ATS Americas, added Avnet already has some managed services offerings available on its linecard, which can either be hosted by the partner, by Avnet, or by a third-party provider, depending on the route the customer and partner want to take. Some of the offerings include Exchange and SharePoint.

“We’re going at a conservative pace, because we want to see where the market grows. But a lot of the vendors we work with are developing cloud solutions,” said Vottima. “Cloud drives a lot of professional services, which is attractive to the channel.”

A busy year

Cisco is a company Avnet has been wanting to work with for some time, finally partnering with them late in 2009 as part of Avnet’s focus on networking and the data centre.And with the acquisition of Bell Micro and Tallard, Bawol said Avnet gained some great people and a real presence in Latin America, giving his Americas title a little more actual Americas business to manage.“It’s been great seeing some of the talent we have available to us,”said Bawol.

In North America, the deals also give a boost to Avnet’s embedded systems business, selling to OEMs, and Bawol said they now have a compelling integrated play from chip to computer, and a single selling entity for the entire supply chain.

“It’s going to be great for customers, and provide a lot of leverage for suppliers,” said Bawol.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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