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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

“Clients are now realising the benefits of digital transformation,” says WWT CEO Jim Kavanagh

Back in 1990, Jim Kavanaugh and David Steward co-founded World Wide Technology (WWT) as a value added reseller (VAR) of servers and networking equipment. As the years went on the company realised that it needed to add more value to its clients, and so it developed a services side to the business, which initially focused on networking.

This culminated in the company creating an Advanced Technology Centre, a physical set of labs and buildings on campus which it has virtualised with $800m in technology products and software, to provide an innovation lab to its customers and partners.

“We’ve evolved over the years from reselling products to building infrastructure services around networking, compute and data centre, to building out our labs to create more of this ability to assess, evaluate and determine what integrated architecture actually works on behalf of our customers and help them asses that process in a more nimble, agile, efficient way,” says Kavanaugh, who is the CEO of the company.

He adds that the company has also incorporated software development, application development and agile and management consulting as further services the business provides.

Jim Kavanaugh

The company has grown from a start-up in Maryland Heights, Missouri, to a company that operates across the world, employing 6,500 staff, and bringing in revenues of over $12bn every year, for the last few years. Nearly 80 per cent of the company’s business is still in the US, but Kavanagh says that the company is seeing growth externally, including in the UK, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Japan and Brazil.

Managed services was not always on the agenda

A decade ago, Cisco, which was a large partner of WWT’s, was pushing a lot of organisations to go towards a managed services provider route rather than focusing on reselling hardware, software and services.

Kavanagh says at that time, WWT did not do it because he thought it was premature, particularly as he says resellers did not have the infrastructure necessary to be able to provide managed services to clients.

“I think a lot of smaller resellers and integrators tried to create their own MSP-type services and they failed in a lot of cases. Now, you have the next wave called cloud which creates additional opportunities that are different than what service providers and cloud providers are doing – sometimes they complement each other, and sometimes they’re competing with each other,” he says.

Kavanagh claims WWT takes a different approach to managed services than many MSPs; it has built its own managed services platform, and provides large service providers such as Vodafone or BT with the ability to evaluate the technology that their customers are going to consume, and help them deploy the managed services that they are extending out to their customers.

“So I’d call it an innovation platform and an implementation arm of the large service providers to help accelerate the deployment of their capabilities into their customers as they roll out 5G, edge and compute type capabilities, and IoT, among other technologies,” he says.

In addition, the company provides a similar service to large global banks and other large enterprises to help them to evaluate what type of hybrid infrastructure they’re building.

“We offer the management of their private networks and data centres and cloud infrastructure, along with potentially connecting to and building a hybrid platform for them, leveraging the public cloud providers – this is a different approach to how we work with some of our service provider customers,” he says.

In addition, the company provides SD-LAN to clients as an on-premise managed infrastructure that customers can either take responsibility for, or that WWT can help them to build out and manage on their behalf. The core platform is driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning, and it helps customers to monitor and manage their network in real-time, using analytics to help anticipate future network problems and then remediate or resolve them. 

Dealing with Covid-19

Kavanaugh says that the company has been able to continue with business as usual in its offices, as all of its office-based workers have easily transitioned to remote working.

The company has almost five million square feet of distribution, logistics, and rack and stack engineering facilities across the world, where it has a number of frontline employees.

“That area is a whole other approach in regards to learning in real-time as fast as possible in regards to things to the things we need to do to ensure our employees are as safe, protected and productive as possible,” he says.

Overall, Kavanaugh believes the company will be able to weather the storm of the pandemic from a financial perspective, particularly as existing and prospective customers are realising the benefits of new technologies required for remote working.