Now about a year old, Avnet Inc.'s OEM Systems Group intends to make its presence better known among OEM customers.
The Phoenix-based group has always been a part of the Avnet organization, but under the company's July restructuring, the OEM Systems Group was established as its own Product Business Group (PBG) under Avnet Electronics Marketing.
Separately, Avnet established its Computer Marketing Group (CMG), which focuses primarily on VARs and end users.
Avnet began dedicating resources to servicing the storage and system-level product needs of OEM customers in December 1997 in recognition of the movement from "build" to "buy" in the systems arena.
Increasingly, the OEM embedded market is moving toward off-the-shelf solutions in the time-to-market race. Previously handled in discrete designs and applications, these off-the-shelf solutions now allow engineers to focus on software as a product differentiator.
"The real value-added is in the software," said Troy Blanchette, vice president of the OEM Systems Group. "As computer architecture has found its way into the embedded space and has become less expensive and [more] feature-rich, it has also hit a price point that makes sense from the OEM standpoint.
"Additionally, standard hardware is more readily available and pervasive than it was before. When you're using a standard platform, it can be found in a multitude of places. Now the OEM has the opportunity to differentiate itself through software development."
Targeting OEMs that want to embed a PC or PC functionality into their end equipment, the OEM Systems Group is branching out with added technical support and services, including its OEM Systems Lab, also in Phoenix.
Off-the-shelf products include platforms and servers, boards and modules, mass-storage solutions, peripherals, flat-panel displays, and real-time operating systems. The OEM Systems Group selects the "building blocks" from its product offerings to help the OEM configure the right solution for the end applications. The group's customers include manufacturers of medical equipment, wide-area networks, phone equipment, industrial controls, alarm systems, flight simulators, and games, according to Dave Kull, director of business development for the OEM Systems Group.
The OEM Systems Lab helps customers choose and design the correct solution for their applications; assists them with configuration, migration to newer technologies, and system upgrades; and interfaces directly with suppliers on technical issues. It also offers a "demo pool"-a selection of equipment for demonstration or loan, including new chipsets and processors as well as standard platforms and board-level products.
In addition, the lab can prototype a design for performance evaluation and development of manufacturing procedures. One customer, Kull said, had developed a product with a specific price in mind. When it came down to actually manufacturing the product to meet that price, the customer ended up turning to Avnet to develop an off-the-shelf embedded solution that met the customer's price expectations.
The OEM Systems Lab also works with suppliers to create reference designs and design kits, the latter being preconfigured solutions in which the engineering is already done. The lab currently has six engineers.
Among the areas in which the OEM Systems Group expects to expand is the use of flat-panel displays in the embedded space. "We really see that market exploding," Blanchette said. "We see FPDs becoming huge in the embedded space. We'll invest more in this area."
The group interfaces with the other Avnet EMG companies, on the semiconductor side or with Avnet IMS (Integrated Materials Services), as needed. The organization is structured to leverage the entire Avnet line card, while specific OEM-systems suppliers include Hewlett-Packard and Sony (CD technology); SanDisk (flash storage); Panasonic, Seagate, and IBM (drives); Intel and Motorola Computer (desktop servers, modules, and motherboards); ZF Microsystems (modules); and Hitachi and NEC (FPDs).
At the time the OEM Systems Group was spun off into a PBG, it was generating roughly $100 million in revenue. Including memory sales, that figure is expected to reach $185 million this year.