Synnex Takes Mobile Cloud High Ground With SMB Smartphone/Tablet App Dev Services

One year ago, Synnex CEO Kevin Murai made a costly bet to break into the SMB mobile cloud market with a smartphone/tablet application development team that could provide customized applications for solution providers and IT vendors.

Today, that big bet is paying off for Synnex partners. It is one several risky services ventures initiated by Murai that has changed the character of the Greenville, S.C. IT product distributor from a pick, pack and ship, low-priced player to a high-margin mobility and cloud innovator. Synnex's mobile application development group is now 15 developers strong and the fruits of its labor are starting to pay off for VARs like Compar Inc. of Minnetonka, Minn.

Compar teamed with Synnex to develop an asset tag/service delivery application that allows customers like the state of Minnesota to instantly send a picture via smartphone of asset-tagged hardware devices that need to be repaired. That smartphone-based service has reduced the time it takes Compar to respond to a customer services call on a warranty repair from two to four hours to just minutes. Not only that it has shaved a full day off time to repair or replacement.

Compar is one of dozens of solution providers and vendors that the Synnex mobility app development team is working with to create customized mobile cloud solutions. The Compar asset tag/service delivery application was put into beta in January and was formally released last week.

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"I've worked with all the distributors over the years and Synnex is the only one that could do this," said Jeffrey Bohlig, COO and principal of Compar, a 48-year-old IT company that was founded by Bohlig's Dad. "Synnex is the only distributor doing value-add, custom app mobile development. A tool like this is a game changer."

The Synnex mobility application development group is one of several game changing bets that Murai has made to take Synnex to higher ground since he took the helm two years ago.

"We are changing the whole landscape of what you think of a traditional IT distributor doing," said Murai in an interview with CRN. "We want to be the go to partner for cloud and mobility. For years now a lot of companies have used that phrase. But it is all about solutions -- not products. We are probably the only distributor putting the meat on that bone."

"We help our customers get into net new businesses that would be difficult for them to get into on their own," says Murai. "We are an enabler. We are technologists at heart allowing our customers to realize the dream of how technology changes lives and business."

"Years ago the distribution model brought a lot of value to the industry by financing deals and being in stock, driving supply chain efficiency," said Murai. "That core value proposition will continue to exist but it has become a very commoditized service. Those that can figure out how to enable new models and make the investment to do so are the ones that are going to rise head and shoulder above everybody else. That is why we are making the investments we are."

Next: Synnex Adds Windows Phone 7 To Its Mobility Cloud App Development Portfolio

This week, Murai and his team are showing off some of those investments for a record number of VARs and vendors attending its VARnex show in Boston. The distributor, for example, announced Monday that it has added the capability to develop mobile applications on the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 platform adding to its support of iPhone, Android, HP Palm Web OS and Blackberry platforms.

Synnex recently hired Rob Moyer, a former top Microsoft distribution executive, as vice president of cloud computing programs to drive the cloud mobility business to new heights. "Our feeling is mobility is the next big disruptive wave in computing," Moyer said."This is the early days. We are helping our vendors and partners take advantage of the disruption that mobile apps are bringing to the marketplace. You are going to see a lot more of these mobile apps coming out from us over the next six months."

Bohlig, for his part, is already looking to the next phase of development with Synnex on the mobile app front with a solution that will allow Compar to sell service upgrades, warranty replacement and software licenses via smartphone. "We are ahead of the curve and learning everyday," he said of his company's new-found smartphone applications prowess.

Mobile application development is just one piece of Synnex's high margin services assault. The $10 billion distributor this week also announced the launch of its OnDemand IT group's managed services portfolio aimed at allowing solution providers and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to leverage a fully managed set of comprehensive tools to manage customers networks.

The new Synnex platform, which is comprised of Level Platforms remote network management environment, includes unified Web dashboard, managed e-mail security, data backup recovery services, power management and end point security protection from Symantec. Synnex aims to provide a free version of the Level Platforms remote network management service to its top solution providers.

The managed services suite is part of something Synnex refers to as OneIT -- integrating a wide variety of far flung services offerings for its partners into one comprehensive end to end platform.

"They are doing a lot of cool things," said Paul Whalley, vice president of Whalley Computer Associates, a Southwick, Mass. solution provider. "Synnex is really doing the two most important things a distributor can do to help a solution provider: generate more revenue and lower costs."

Whalley said the smartphone development functionality is allowing his sales reps to get all the sales, order and services information they need via smartphone. He sees Synnex dramatically reducing the cost of ownership for VARs looking to integrate all aspects of their business in a single integrated IT environment under the OneIT platform. "That is going to be a tremendous time saver for VARs," he said.

Solution providers attending VARnex said in only three years Synnex has put together a community of 250 solution provider members driving fast into high-margin businesses.

Lester Keizer, the chairman for Business Continuity Technologies, a Las Vegas, Nev. solution provider, said VARnex is succeeding because of an aggressive drive to become the number one distributor in the cloud-mobility era. "They go deep and they have vision and enthusiasm," he said.