Behind The Buy: WWT, Asynchrony Execs Talk About Combining Infrastructure, Software Development

WWT's Joe Koenig

Intersecting needs -- one looking to get closer to customers, one looking to depend less on its existing customers -- drove an infrastructure solution provider and a software developer to become a single entity.

For St. Louis-based infrastructure solution provider World Wide Technology, adding an agile software practice was key to moving up the value ladder with customers.

And for Asynchrony, a St. Louis-based software developer, a larger organization was key to lessening its dependence on its previous corporate owner and its big focus on the defense industry as a way to grow.

[Related: WWT Adds Software Development To Infrastructure With Asynchrony Acquisition]

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Top executives of both companies met recently with CRN to discuss the acquisition early this month by World Wide Technology, commonly known as WWT, of Asynchrony for an undisclosed sum.

WWT, which has partnered with Asynchrony on a number of deals since 2013, found that an acquisition would help it drive new value for the IT infrastructures it was building for clients, said WWT President Joe Koenig.

"We've been a partner to many OEMs," Koenig told CRN. "But we've been looking for new areas to help us get closer to customers and move up the stack. That leads to a different conversation with customers while leveraging the infrastructure we have built for them."

With Asynchrony, those conversations can now include big data analytics, software development, mobile computing and more, Koenig said.

While WWT could have continued to partner with companies like Asynchrony to develop those opportunities, it preferred to maintain control of the customer relationships, Koenig said.

"And we wanted to make software more integrated in our business," he said. "If we combine the two, and we lead, we can go faster with them under the World Wide umbrella."

Bob Elfanbaum, co-founder and general manager of Asynchrony, told CRN that his company started partnering and doing joint marketing with WWT because of the latter's attractive customer base, one that offered new opportunities beyond its parent company's defense focus.

Asynchrony's Bob Elfanbaum

Asynchrony in 2010 was purchased by Schafer Corp., an Arlington, Va.-based IT solution provider that focuses 100 percent on the defense market. Asynchrony itself gets about 70 percent of its business from defense as well, Elfanbaum said.

"However, we became less and less aligned with Schafer's customer base," he said. "We looked at the lack of alignment and wondered if we could do something better -- something we were interested in, and World Wide was interested in. So collectively, we approached Shafer."

With the acquisition, World Wide Technology got both Asynchrony's defense and commercial business, and more, Elfanbaum said.

"Funny thing, we may have more opportunities to partner with Schafer in the defense business now that we are part of World Wide," he said. "It's because of OCI (Organizational Conflicts of Interest) rules. Under the rules, if you advise government on purchases, you can't contract with them. Schafer is mainly a consultant and adviser. So now we can contract with government businesses."

Asynchrony has a long history with developing general applications, but has in the past couple of years done more with consumer-oriented mobile applications and with the Internet of Things, Elfanbaum said.

One customer is Sensi, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Emerson Electric. Sensi competes with Google Nest in the development of home and office thermostats that can be managed remotely via mobile devices and integrated into smart homes and smart grids, he said.

"In the IoT world, each thermostat connects via Wi-Fi to the cloud," he said. "Users access the thermostat through mobile devices."

WWT, which is a major channel partner to Cisco, has had a lot of success in developing proofs of concept for customers, Elfanbaum said. "We can develop apps on top of the proofs of concept to show customers how they integrate with the infrastructure," he said.

Asynchrony is a proponent of agile software development under which developers show applications to customers as they are developed, giving customers a chance to make changes on an ongoing basis rather than waiting for the application to be finished, Elfanbaum said.

As a part of WWT's Advanced Technology Center, Asynchrony can apply its agile software development to develop cloud, virtualization and software-defined applications on top of WWT's lab equipment for customers, Elfanbaum said.

"We can quickly spin up an infrastructure and test it," Elfanbaum said. "We want our customers to be agile at both the application level and the infrastructure level."

Asynchrony has averaged 25 percent to 30 percent growth per year over the past five years, and anticipates continued significant growth as a subsidiary of WWT, Elfanbaum said.

The company brings about 250 people to WWT, of whom six are salespeople while 230 focus on design, development, quality assurance, training and delivery, Elfanbaum said. "With the acquisition, we get access to World Wide's sales organization," he said. "This opens the aperture for us to get new customers."