Abacus Counts On Employees Striving Be The Best

"We want to be the best."

That's an ambitious statement for any company to make, yet Abacus Solutions is not backing off. Abacus is a seven-year-old solutions provider with its foundation in refurbished equipment and its future in providing services. "We want to be recognized as being really, really good at what we do," says Patrick Hiller, Abacus CEO. "Our Number one value is integrity. We're not about quick sale. We always want to do the right thing. If we make a mistake we pay for it; there's accountability here. We're a 55-person company, so nobody can hide."

The strategy is paying off: Abacus' revenue grew $7 million last year, reaching $35 million. Hiller took some time recently to speak with CMP Channel on its place in the solutions market, the factors that contributed to Abacus' growth and trends that will fuel the VAR's growth in the near future.

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Abacus is in a unique segment of the VAR market. How did you get to offering services from starting as a refurbished equipment provider?

Hiller: In mid 2000, a lot of equipment was available after the high-tech bubble, and a lot of budgets were cut. There was a lot of enterprise equipment, from vendors such as Sun and IBM that could be resold. We found that after companies purchased, they needed services. We began to build our engineering staff. Originally, we needed engineers to support the equipment we sold, but we found there was need for architectural advice and design, a whole gamut of migration, integration issues. Fortune 500 companies were especially interested. As we grew, a lot of up and coming vendors made good partners, like Pillar Data, and Force10 networks (former Cisco employees). We are also partners with VMware and Symantec. We aim to provide a total turnkey solution.

We provide consolidation, virtualization, backup and recovery, high availability. Those are areas we've done a lot of work in. If we go in to do a refresh, we give the customer value for the existing equipment. We look at all the channels, as well as full-blown integration.

I'd imagine that refurbished equipment is enjoying a bit of a boost with all the attention now on being environmentally responsible. It's far "greener" to reuse equipment than to discard it.

Hiller: Green awareness is at a peak right now. For example, at Pillar, everything about their marketing is green. But much of what we do " for example, lowering power consumption " is environmentally forward thinking. Naturally, it's great when you are able to recycle equipment. We have not pushed that aspect as much as we could, actually.

Abacus experienced 25 percent revenue growth, to $35 million, in 2006. To what do you owe such impressive numbers?

Hiller: We added high-caliber people, and we executed well. We had more presales engineers. We began offering more to customers, and we added vendors. Most of the growth was because we were able to do more with current customers; one customer might look at us as great for refurbished product, another as great for SAN. It is our job to have customers understand everything we offer: From refurbished equipment to software tools that run the hardware and the integration services that put it altogether.

Is there one market you see taking off?

Hiller: Health care seems to really be making an investment, partially because of new regulations. That industry seems ready to invest more in technology, because they were just way behind the times. They are making investments. Health care is at a point where they have to make these upgrades, because their systems are older than other industries.

What about IT trends?

Hiller: Generally, we see a three-to-seven year refresh rate, with Fortune 500 companies generally refreshing every five years. Everyone's trying to stretch that investment. We are also seeing a movement from Solaris to Linux. Definitely, there's a feeling in the air to move to less expensive equipment from, say, HP9000 machines, or Solaris. But, as much as companies may want to migrate, some applications just won't work as well with Linux.