Vietnam businesses finding key to IT success in Volo-based Atom

NOTE: This posting first appeared in the April 29 edition of the Daily Herald Business Ledger

From its beginnings near the bogs of Volo, Atom AMPD is now finding its way into the rice paddies of Vietnam.
The Lake County-based developer of the AtomOS Kwick Key operating system has recently expanded into the Southeast Asian country, extending its global reach in that portion of the world, which already includes China and Singapore.
Atom AMPD CEO Daniel Field said Vietnam’s economic growth over the past 10 years — the country’s annual GDP growth rate has been 7.2 percent in that time — makes it a good market for AtomOS, as fast growing companies there are looking for a business-focused operating system that can be quickly set up and maintained. The Linux-based AtomOS system, which is contained on a 2 gigabyte USB ‘Kwick Key” flash drive, has drawn a lot of interest since their initial visits to the country.
“We started (meeting) with about 12 to 15 people and that grew to 35. Now it’s up to 75 to 80 people,” Field said. “It sounds like we found the pulse and the right buttons to hit with it. They appear to be really liking the product.”
And that interest is turning into potential dollars, as Field said he anticipates about $9.5 billion in combined revenues from businesses that have already signed agreements.
“Vietnam’s market is strong and its really growing well right now,” Field said. “But they’re making decisions pretty quick over there, so we’ve been pretty content with what we’ve been able to do.”
Field attributes the company’s success in Asia to having partners that know the region and its varied cultures. Through them, company representatives have been able to make initial contact with C-level executives at a number of Vietnamese businesses and government agencies.
“Part of it is knowing the culture and that’s why it’s good to have partners that help with that,” he said.
And while AtomOS was originally targeted for small to medium-sized businesses, Field notes even large companies in the region have become interested in the system for its capabilities and lower overall IT costs. Unlike systems from companies that Field refers to as “big boxes,” the AtomOS can be used without upgrading existing servers and hardware, and elements can be turned on or off to meet a specific business need.
“They’ve picked up on it right away,” he said. “They like the fact that — in a sense — they has a Swiss Army Knife where they can pull out a blade that they need. Here, they can pull out what networking piece they need without having a high price tag that goes along with it.”
Although they are still establishing themselves in Vietnam, Field noted the company already has its next step planned — Malaysia. He said the company has already been contacted by a Malaysian firm that has heard of what they’re doing in Vietnam.
“He’d be the first one in Malaysia, so we’re working on getting that deal finalized while (the team) is out there,” he said.


Elarasys continues to find a niche

NOTE: This first appeared in the April 1 issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger

More than a decade ago, Elarasys Inc. found its niche amid a bad economy and the dot-com bust, reselling and leasing IT equipment obtained from the closed dot-com companies at a large savings to its customers.
Fast forward to today, and Elgin-based Elarasys Worldwide — as it is now known — again finds itself in a changing IT world, where a recession has forced businesses to tighten their IT budgets. But the company is finding a new niche for itself, branching out from its core business of leasing refurbished IT hardware and components into providing IT products and services for what CEO Steve McCarthy calls “all ranges of the life cycle.”
Elarasys still sells refurbished equipment from IBM, Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, among others. But it has expanded into selling new equipment through a subsidiary company, IThardwareplus. In addition, the company offers post-warranty system maintenance services and a unique asset disposal service that goes beyond simple recycling.
The company’s current evolution was a result in the foresight of McCarthy and Elarasys President Tom Hansen. They purchased the company in 2008 and soon noticed that the leasing industry was declining as a result of several factors, including the slipping prices of new equipment closing the savings gap between new and refurbished.
“We have to be flexible. The business Steve and I bought in ‘08 relied 80 percent on equipment coming in from leasing companies. That’s not happening anymore,” Hansen said.
By providing products and services from sales through disposal, Elarasys’ niche helps businesses get the most value out of their equipment.
“We now can help customers make the right choice whether they’re buying it, choosing to maintain it or choosing to get rid of it,” McCarthy said. “We’re helping them to make smart choices in the ownership process.”
The uniqueness of Elarasys’ services is in the disposal of old equipment. Hansen said the company will take away old equipment, break it down to its components, then determine if the parts can be sold as refurbished or sold to a certified electronics recycler. The proceeds then are split 50/50 between Elarasys and the customer.
“We want to maximize value,” Hansen said. “We want (customers) to get more from it than had we just said ‘here’s 10 cents on the dollar.’”
Hansen notes that many companies don’t realize the value of old equipment when they upgrade IT systems. It often sits in the corner of a room while the company’s IT professionals are focused on making the new system work properly, he said, and they don’t realize they could get some of their investment back from the old equipment.
“They tend to forget that there is an asset that could be valuable to someone else,” he said. “Unfortunately, too many companies don’t know that asset disposition companies like ours are out there.”
Hansen also notes they work only with EPA R2-certified electronics recyclers to assure no potentially hazardous materials end up in landfills or are shipped to other countries. Elarasys also wipes all data off the hard drives and memories using software certified by the U.S. Department of Defense.
All parts destined to be sold as refurbished go through a thorough testing process by staff members who specialize in specific manufacturers. All are certified by the companies they specialize in.
“They are responsible for knowing the products and knowing the pricing of the markets,” Hansen said. “We are very fair and try to re-market (products) at the maximum value we can.”
One big issue in the refurbished market is counterfeit components, but Hansen said Elarasys’ techs are especially aware of what to look for and, if they discover counterfeit parts, they are quarantined so they do not go back out into the market.
“We watch it like a hawk,” he said. “We are very diligent on assuring that everything that comes in the door gets tested and, if not authentic, is quarantined.”
While the price of new equipment has dropped over the years, McCarthy and Hansen note there could still be value in buying refurbished equipment as a way to get more out of a company’s tight budget. And, he stresses, buying refurbished does not mean you’re buying someone else’s problems.
“We want to totally diffuse any thought that used computer are like used cars,” Hansen said. “In reality, it’s more that somebody’s just outgrown it and they decided to take on something new.”
Elarasys’ evolution has proved successful as McCarthy and Hansen foresee the trend in refurbished components, post-warranty maintenance and asset disposition continue. But hey note they’ll likely be ready for any changes down the road.
“We are a solid organization because we have watched and adjusted accordingly, and we will continue to do so,” Hansen said.