Westcon 'LEAP's To Help Its Partners

Standing for Learn, Experience, Architect and Plan, Weston Group's LEAP center features an actual data center and lets the company's network of partners touch the technology, run real-world scenarios, get training and educate themselves on products.

November 7, 2011

4 Min Read
Westcon 'LEAP's To Help Its Partners

By Josh Long

Josh Long**Editor’s Note: This is part one of a three-part series on Westcon Group and its partner, Avaya. Part two explains how Avaya’s networking business is trying to re-energize the channel. Also, click here for our image gallery that takes you inside the new LEAP Center.**

It began as a conversation between fellow New Yorkers.

Westcon Group Chief Technology Officer Bill Hurley was describing his progress in moving to new technology under a project that ultimately would save his company more than $1 million. At the same time, Hurley and Westcons chief executive, Dean Douglas, were discussing the challenges of virtualization” and training staff to migrate to new technology. As Hurley recalls, he and Douglas realized few resellers would have the wherewithal and access” to the technology that was needed to develop the kind of solution that Westcon was implementing internally.

Thus was born the concept of the LEAP Center. Standing for Learn, Experience, Architect and Plan, the center is a facility that features an actual data center and lets Westcons vast network of partners touch the technology, run real-world scenarios, receive training and educate themselves on products designed by tech titans like Avaya and Cisco Systems. 

But perhaps we are “leaping” ahead of ourselves. To grasp LEAP, one must understand the company behind the initiative. Founded in 1985, Westcon Group is a value-added distributor of unified communications, infrastructure, security and data center solutions. Granted, that doesnt sound all that sexy but Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Weston isnt just any old distributor. Owned by a holding company in South Africa, Westcon has operations on six continents and deep relationships with some of the most storied communications vendors on the planet. Revenues have surged from around $200 million in 1999 to nearly $4 billion based on Westcons 2012 internal fiscal target.

When you are a global organization like Westcon, technology tends to be a significant part of your overhead. Two years ago, Hurley found a way to cut that expense by spearheading a virtualization” project.

In a nutshell, virtualization enables a company to run multiple servers virtually on one physical server. Bottom line: Hurley managed to consolidate from 325 servers to 22. That produced immediate tangible benefits, including $40,000 a month in savings on heating and cooling costs and the ability to redeploy or reduce 10 percent of IT staff. Hurley contends he saved his company more than $1 million in the first year with $250,000 to $500,000 in annual savings on an ongoing basis.

In hindsight, the project was a no-brainer. But a CTO like Hurley naturally had reservations about doing something that was fairly risky to the business. 

The challenge was has anyone else done this?” Hurley explained. Youre risking the business on doing this because you are putting the AP application, the CRM application and the ERP application all on one box. What are you doing to make sure that one box doesnt fail? Now, Im three times as worried about that one box as I was before.”

Hurley said an organization needs to learn about a technology and plan for it, running real-world scenarios, before diving into the type of project that he spearheaded.

We should take this experience we have and just try and eliminate the pain for others going forward and really help our resellers be successful,” Hurley said, explaining the thinking behind LEAP.

Opened last year in Lafayette, Colo. just east of Boulder with a view of the famous Rocky Mountains, the facility features a fully functional data center with a diverse combination of vendors such as Avaya, Brocade and Cisco. Westcons partners and their end-user customers can visit the facility to see and test the technology, and partners also have the option to remotely access LEAP.

In September, Westcon announced the integration of Avayas data networking solutions into the center, including the companys Ethernet switching solutions: the Avaya Virtual Services Platform 7000 and 9000. Lee Panosian, Avaya’s chief of staff, networking, said the facility helps Avaya  the enterprise-focused communications vendor  get the word out about its networking business.

Probably one of the biggest challenges we have faced is letting the world kind of know that Avaya is in fact in the networking business, committed to the networking business, that we have very strong products and services and solutions that many, most network infrastructure providers cannot claim,” he said.

Lynn Smurthwaite-Murphy, Westcons senior vice president of the U.S. and Canada, indicated the center is important because resellers need to test a concept before introducing an offering like virtualization or cloud services.

Outside the United States, Westcon also manages a LEAP facility in Brussels, which opened about a year ago. The distributor may open another center in Sydney, Australia or Singapore toward the end of next year, Hurley said.

This is for our resellers,” he said. This isnt for us.”

Looking for more?

Click here for our image gallery that takes you inside the new LEAP Center.

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