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Ingram Micro CEO reveals business outlook for 2010

Ingram Micro CEO Greg Spierkel highlights some key areas where the distributor will be making investments in this year

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. – Ingram Micro (NYSE: IM) announced the availability of three new initiatives to help fuel channel enablement and opportunities at its VentureTech Network (VTN) spring invitational conference this week.

First announced at Ingram’s VTN fall invitational last year and now available to partners, they include VTN Connect, VTN Incentive Support Program and the VTN Business Intelligence Portal.

The resources are designed to help businesses better collaborate with each other via peer-to-peer advisory groups, better known as Mastermind groups, utilize business intelligence data to pinpoint customer refresh cycles and other opportunities, as well as helping partners get the most out of vendor programs and incentives.

CDN had the chance to sit down with Greg Spierkel, CEO of Ingram, where he discussed the current state of the market, company initiatives this year and also Ingram’s Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) business.

Below is an edited transcript.

CDN: Give me a quick update on your business so far?

Greg Spierkel: We’ve seen a significant improvement in the overall marketplace. Virtually all of our operations and countries are showing some degree of growth, which is a completely different story from where we were this time last year. Clearly, Q1 and Q2 last year were the toughest quarters in the IT sector. We’re encouraged because there’s been very positive news on vendors’ sales results, depending on which vendor you’re talking to and because we’re involved with most of those vendors. Our numbers are mostly positive. The momentum seems to be real and it looks like it’ll be sustained and people are getting more comfortable and are saying they need to be buying technology again. It’s back to business in a normal context.

CDN: What are some solution and services areas that are doing well for Ingram right now, and which ones would you like to see more traction in?

G.S.: Virtualization is really taking off. It slowed down last year, but now we’re very encouraged in the data centre space. We’re also encouraged with the growth rates that we’re seeing involving pretty much everything associated with Microsoft and the refresh with Windows 7. We’re also seeing traction with mobility with mobile devices and the networking infrastructure to support those devices. Another area that’s growing is as-a-service, which includes software-as-a-service (SaaS) and managed services. These are areas that are getting a lot of attention and emphasis from us. The areas that are slower that we’d like to get more traction in are on data capture point of sale. We’d also like to build out our capabilities with logistics. We’re strong in Canada and the U.S. but we’re trying to build this out more in Europe and Asia.

CDN: How’s your Cisco business working out so far?

G.S.: Cisco is a great relationship for us on a global basis and they’re one of our biggest partners, although Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ) is a larger player for us. We’re happy with the products they’re putting out. More people are getting into video conferencing and Cisco is really relevant with networking and video conferencing, and their entry into the data centre is an interesting play. It’s still very early days, but we have the rights to most of those products around the world. It’s still too early to tell how the exact traction on that will be because Cisco has really been getting products out to the market over the past few weeks. We’ll try to support our Cisco business just as we would with anyone else.

CDN: How are you positioning your Cisco business and what are you doing to win new business, considering other major players in the market and Comstor coming to Canada last year?

G.S.: The best thing we can do and have been doing is that we’re Cisco’s largest partner in distribution. Cisco has three global partners with their strategy which is us, Tech Data which is in Europe and Asia and Westcon, which is starting to become more global and they’ve just come to Canada recently. What’s important for us is that we have a strong technical capability so that we can understand all of the stacks of solutions that Cisco provides. Our objective is to be the best in providing technical support and building-out configurations and solutions capabilities and staying on top of the new technologies they bring out so we can understand and position it better. Anytime someone new comes in, you’ll lose a bit of (market) share, so we’ll have to remain vigilant and will continue to offer best of breed solutions, just as we’ve been doing for Cisco so far.

CDN: What are your key plans for the company and the VTN community this year?

G.S.: There are three major things. We want to grow at a rate faster than market rates in all geographies around the world, we also want to place an emphasis on areas that are important for us long-term which includes data capture point of sale, logistics capabilities and the data centre around Cisco. We’ll also be placing an emphasis around SaaS and hardware-as-a-service (HaaS) offerings.

We’re also trying to be more outwardly focused at the company to make us more aggressive and more risk-taking as a company. For our VTN plans, we hold two major events a year – spring and fall. This one’s focused on getting our (VTN) community more comfortable in helping each other and understanding which applications are doing really well so they have a better chance at being more successful in those areas.

We also have a new tool around business intelligence that we’re announcing here. What’s exciting about that is there’s a rich database of information that we’ve been collecting on behalf of our resellers and us over the last five or six years and we can dissect which products are sitting with which customers, and we can see what vertical markets are showing interest in certain products and solutions and we can go back to the partner and say, ‘hey, did you know this is getting close to end-of-life?, or there’s another opportunity that you have have missed here?’ We expect our VTN community to see this as a real differentiator and enable for them and this is exclusive to our VTN members to start.