Avnet bolsters IBM services with Ascendant buy

Jeff Bawol, president of Avnet Technology Solutions Americas

Jeff Bawol, president of Avnet Technology Solutions Americas

Distributor Avnet Technology Solutions turned some heads this week with its purchase of $90 million IBM partner Ascendant Technology. But Jeff Bawol, president of ATS Americas, said it’s not a deal that’s about a distributor buying a VAR. Instead, it’s about a distributor buying services capabilities to extend the reach of its own VARs.

Bawol described Ascendant’s own solution resale business as minimal, and noted that the company has already been working with many of Avnet’s solution providers to roll out solutions. By bringing Ascendant into the Avnet house, the distributor is aiming to accelerate that business.

“This gets us in the game from an IBM services perspective,” Bawol said. “They’ve helped our partners grow for a long time already, and they’re very highly regarded both by IBM and by our partners, in terms of their service delivery capabilities.”

And what a time to get in the game. With IBM’s push of a “Blue on Blue” program that offers solution providers enhanced margins when they sell IBM hardware and software together, Bawol said there’s a tremendous opportunity to help its partners add depth to their IBM-related services depth.

Bawol said that of Ascendant’s 500-plus employees, more than 300 are technical services-related resources. “The good news is that from a hardware perspective, there’s no conflict there,” Bawol said.

Ascendant has operations in North America, Europe, Brazil and India, including a Canadian organization that currently numbers in the single digits.

The move follows less than two months after the distributor announced plans to purchase Atlanta-based Canvas Systems, a solution provider noted for its business in the IT lifecycle management space. Like the Ascendant purchase, that deal was done in large part to boost the services Avnet was able to drive to its solution provider customers.

Canvas has been integrated under Avnet’s services buinsess, run by Rick Alvarez, and Ascendant will follow. The company will be branded as “an Avnet company” for between six and 12 months, at which time the Ascendant brand will likely disappear, Bawol said.

While the purchase extends Avnet’s services reach, Bawol said that the capital resources of the distributor will help the Ascendant services business grow faster than it would have been able to manage on its own. Of course, building Avnet’s services business – and the recognition of the same in the channel – has been a top priority for the distributor for some time, and is a key ingredient to continuing its solutions distribution approach.

While the deal was no doubt financially attractive to the distributor, Bawol described the finances of a deal as the third factor it looks at in making an acquisition – behind culture and strategy.

“We’re a big believer that no matter how good their financials are, if the culture and strategy don’t align, you’re just going to frustrate yourself if you try to put them together,” he said.

That’s not a concern with Ascendant, and organization that “we’ve had the luxury of knowing for a long time,” and whose strategy (a largely vertical approach) lines up nicely with Avnet’s own SolutionsPath approach of building out VAR skills in key vertical markets.