**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 Westcon’s 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 Westcon’s 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 doesn’t sound all that sexy but Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Weston isn’t 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 Westcon’s 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.