Interview

The huge cloud opportunity

David Grant, CEO, Westcon-Comstor, talks to Comms Business about the distributor’s growth strategy and the opportunities available to its partner community.

Westcon-Comstor’s CEO has three decades of experience in channel business leadership and distribution. Over his career, he has held roles relating to sales, marketing, and investment.

David Grant was named CEO in 2021 and he explained to Comms Business that his appointment was a natural next step for the organisation. He said, “I had been COO and president for three years, so taking over as CEO was really more of a continuation of a journey rather than a complete reset of a strategy.”

In late January, Westcon-Comstor announced it had acquired Rebura, an AWS (Amazon Web Services) advanced service partner and solution provider. Rebura will be maintained as a separate standalone organisation and will form the foundation of Westcon-Comstor’s AWS line of business. The deal represented a new pillar in Westcon-Comstor’s growth strategy around strategic acquisitions, so we might expect more activity in the future.

Grant explained that the company had previously “made a conscious decision to focus on restoring profitable growth, driving engagement with our vendors and our partners, and organic growth”.

He added, “My experience of acquisitions is that they are very consuming and they can be a distraction. That can be difficult if you need to make sure that every other aspect of your business is firing on all cylinders.”

Joint success

Having executed that initial strategy, Grant explained, the timing was right for the business to begin to make acquisitions that could help to accelerate growth. He said, “We had reached a level of profitability, and maturity in our business that allows us to bring other organisations into our business in a way that allows us to focus on making them successful. But also, the market dynamics means that now is a good time to be buying.”

Rebura also represented a significant opportunity, Grant said, because “the growth for us around AWS is clear”. He explained his view that AWS is “becoming much more channel centric” with the development of “a partner-led and distribution-inclusive go to market”.

When asked how AWS is becoming more channel-firnedly, Grant said, “My personal engagement with the executive team at AWS just underscores the fact that they are aware of our strategy and are supportive of that. The approach we’re taking can fit into their own growth and their own plans.”

Generating scale

The Channel is emerging as a vital route to profitability for a number of technology companies. Grant said, “The observation I would make is something that is happening across a number of technology vendors.

“A lot of them have been downsizing their own sales teams. So, at a time when vendors have fewer people, or are focusing on their existing customers, the obvious route to go is distribution.”

Grant discussed why distributors can have a starring role here. He said, “Distribution gives you the reach into the market to touch partners, it gives you access to highly skilled technical capability, and it gives you that scale that you can’t continue to generate through your own resources.

“If you look at those macro dynamics, I think there is greater emphasis from the vendor community on distribution as a route to continue to maintain their growth. They all want to continue to grow, but with less resource.”

Grant emphasised the proven capabilities of distributors to underscore how they can support vendor strategies for joint success. He said, “The most economic and viable model is to therefore leverage distribution, particularly through an organisation like Westcon-Comstor.

“That’s because we have a high degree of specialisation, a proven track record of growing and recruiting partners for vendors, and making channel successful.”

Skill and capability

Looking to the future, Grant is excited about the immediate opportunities the cloud offers for channel companies and their customers. He said, “When you look at the statistics about the amount of available market that could be transitioned to a public cloud environment, it’s very clear that our partners have a huge opportunity. But there are two big barriers to embracing AWS.”

Those barriers, Grant explained, are how to manage the migration to the cloud, and how to maintain the security of the organisation’s data and operations.

He said, “All but the largest partners have very little skill or capability in how to move workloads into AWS. Acquiring a migration consultancy business [in Rebura] was a clear way for us to capitalise on the market, but also help our partners be able to access those skills and capabilities.

“Once you’ve moved your workloads, how do you make sure that it continues to be secure? We are one of the one of the largest security distributors in the market, so we’re very well positioned to help our partners and therefore their end users secure those workloads.”

To help partners convert these opportunities, the distributor will ensure its partner community has the resources it needs. Grant said, “We will make sure we are aligned to our vendors priorities and able to give our partners great value in terms of helping them continue to be successful.

“The support and engagement we give with depend on the partner. Some of them will leverage our capability to deploy and deliver solutions globally. Some will opt for our services, some will focus on our financing capability, and some partners will make use of the breadth, depth and skill of our people across our whole portfolio.”

This interview appeared in our April 2024 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.