The 25 Most Influential Executives of 20094:00 PM EST Fri. Nov. 20, 2009
CRN's 25 Most Influential Executives of 2009 changed the computing landscape with aggressive channel sales expansions, blockbuster acquisitions, breakthrough cloud computing initiatives and strong sales even in the midst of the biggest downturn in the economy since the Great Depression. Find out who made the grade and held their own, despite the great IT downturn of 2009.
You don't need to be a technologist to love HP CEO Mark Hurd. He's the closest thing the IT industry has to Warren Buffet. He's all about sales, sales, sales. No CEO in this business has a better understanding of the art of selling.
So what's he done at HP? Only displaced IBM at the top of the computer product and services sales pyramid. And now he's taking direct aim at Cisco Systems' networking business with his ProCurve line and a planned $2.7 billion acquisition of 3Com. Of course, it helps that he has the biggest and baddest product and services portfolio in the world.
While other vendors pulled the rug out from under their partners this year, HP invested more in developing a bigger sales footprint, including a re-energized SMB sales effort. "[Company co-founder David] Packard used to say, 'If we build great products, customers will find them,'" said Hurd at a recent industry event. "We actually want to sell them too." Selling more products with channel partners: sounds like a great strategy.
No one has more vision with a capital 'V' than Cisco's John Chambers. He has seen and then navigated the networking giant through every major twist and turn in this crazy business over nearly two decades. Now he's looking to take a bite out of HP's hide with what he calls the Unified Computing System (a networking device with an integrated blade server). That's not all. He aims to make Cisco a major player in the cloud with a full panoply of software, much of it garnered through acquisitions. And he's a big believer in the channel. How do you bet against a guy with a track record like this?
There's a reason Larry Ellison is into Japanese culture. He is the ultimate samurai. He has survived as founder and CEO of Oracle for 32 years and vanquished countless competitors. He likes to pay his salespeople well and give them the room they need to succeed. He might not have as high a channel quotient as Hurd or Chambers. But he gets the sales and the channel thing. The Sun acquisition, his latest blockbuster move, is a winner. Mess with Larry and you'll lose your head.
Alright, we know there are more than a few Ben Bernanke bashers out there. But let's get this straight. This whole world economic crisis could have been a lot worse without Bernanke's steady hand and careful moves at the helm of the Federal Reserve to nurse the economy back to health and pull us out of the recession. And, yes, we are out of the recession. Now if companies would start taking some calculated risks and do some hiring, we might actually see some solid economic growth.
No other company can match the big gains Symantec has made this year in both sales and operations. That's due in large part to Symantec President and CEO Enrique Salem. If Symantec Chairman John W. Thompson had the chutzpah to build a bigger Symantec, then Salem had the management hand to pull it all together. He's the right executive for the right time. With only eight months under his belt as CEO, look for Salem to lead Symantec to even greater heights in 2010.
Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has performed admirably in what, in our opinion, is by a long shot the toughest job in the technology business. Ballmer has walked a management tight rope driving Microsoft's healthy Windows and Office revenue, while at the same time pushing Microsoft into the cloud with products like Windows Azure and Microsoft's Office Web Apps. At the same time, he is has kept the pressure on in the exploding virtualization business with Hyper-V and upped the ante in the search engine war against Google with Bing. Anyway, what we love about Ballmer is he's still crazy after all these years. What we're waiting for from Microsoft: the Steve Ballmer Energy Bar. Give us a year's supply.
When it comes to power and cooling, there is no one that has more power or is as cool as APC North America President Rob McKernan. McKernan has been at the forefront of the movement to give solution providers all the tools and muscle they need to get data center power and cooling costs under control, which is no small matter in an age when customers are reengineering their data centers at a record clip. Experience counts in the complex data center world. Given his 16-year track record at APC, McKernan has put more power and cooling cash into solution provider coffers than any executive in the business.
You can't argue with success. It's hard to find a CEO who has done a better job providing a return on investment for shareholders in a tough year. IBM's shares started the year at $86.04 and were hovering around the $120 mark in November. He's the brains that made IBM a services power. And his SmarterPlanet bet is paying off big-time. Not only that, he gets high channel marks for updating IBM's Business Partner Charter. He's got one of the best minds in the business. We just wish he were more visible in the channel trenches.
In only 16 months on the job, he has taken VMware literally into the clouds. VMware is a stronger company thanks to his vision to make VMware a cloud computing powerhouse. Besides that, he has managed to bring together storage giant parent EMC and networking giant Cisco into a partnership with VMware that could forever change the computing landscape. He has technology and business smarts. That spells big trouble for his one-time employer, Microsoft.
There's a reason they call it "Kasperskonality." This Moscow antivirus whiz has rewritten the rules of the computer security game and created a security superpower with his company's take-no-prisoners approach to the market. Kaspersky's hands-on approach to the business has translated into countless awards for the company's products. Kaspersky's passion and drive assure that the company has not lost its technical edge even as he has grown it into one of largest privately held security companies in the world.
Murai took his nearly 20 years of hard-nosed distribution experience at Ingram Micro and used it to put Synnex into the fast lane. That's good news for Synnex and bad news for Ingram Micro. Murai has leveraged Synnex's low-cost model and fleet-footed sales force to capture market share in a treacherous market. He is also stepping up Synnex's push into higher margin areas like managed print services and health care.
You've got to give it to Intel CEO Paul Otellini. He's managed to navigate the world's largest chip maker through an unprecedented PC/server market downturn. How did he do it? By going where the money is into the netbook space with Intel's amazing Atom processor and even setting the foundation for an Atom applications revolution with the new Atom Developer Program. There is no other CEO who has both the technology acumen and business vision of Otellini. And he gets the channel big time. Now if he could come up with a whitebox mobile platform the world would be a better place.
A lot of distributors have talked about services, but no distributor has done more to help its partners cross the chasm into the managed services marketplace than Ingram Micro. That is in no small part due to CEO Greg Spierkel's 21st century distribution vision. Look for more of that vision as Ingram helps its solution provider customers break into the cloud.
We like to think of these two as the distribution market's equivalent to the NFL's Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli. There is simply not a bigger one-two punch in the distribution business. Give Dan (left) and Michael a big Super Bowl cheer for raising D&H's distribution game by investing more in what it calls its family members -- D&H employees and D&H solution provider partners. The two brothers upped the 401k investment for employees, added new SMB rebates for partners, extended more credit for VARs and even rolled out a program to help VARs take advantage of the federal stimulus opportunity. D&H is the undisputed leader in serving small business solution providers. Look for more touchdowns from the two distribution quarterbacks in 2010.
Tally Liu is the kind of executive that makes this industry so much fun. Few have done more to give solution providers and their customers the best deals on technology products of all kinds. In an era where it is all about services, Newegg is a new-age distributor. Liu, a certified public accountant who joined Newegg three years ago, has provided the steady hand Newegg needed to get its initial public offering documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At the same time, he has kept the Newegg sales engine firing on all cylinders. Through the first six months of this year, Newegg's earnings were up 25 percent to $11.9 million on a 7 percent increase in sales to $1.1 billion.
There's a reason that Lenovo tapped Rory Read for the COO job last February after a disastrous fourth quarter. Read is, by any measure, one of the best operational executives in the business. He took hold of Lenovo's far flung operations in February and helped turn what was a $97 million quarterly loss into a $43 million operating profit for its second fiscal quarter. He is Mr. Fixit. Before coming to Lenovo, he had a successful 23-year career at IBM, where he was frequently called on to deliver in difficult situations. That's because of his razor-sharp focus on executing in the sales trenches. That, of course, includes giving channel partners what they need to make the sale.
It didn't take new Xerox CEO Ursula Burns long to put her stamp on the company. Burns took the helm of the legendary copy machine and printer company in July as the first African-American woman to head up a Fortune 500 company. And then only two months later, she pulled the trigger on a blockbuster $6.4 billion acquisition of business process outsourcing solution provider Affiliated Computer Services. The deal overnight changed the character of Xerox from a product company to a services giant. Burns sees the future in services and wants to make sure Xerox is a leader, not a follower. As a result of the deal, the revenue Xerox generates from services will nearly triple from $3.5 billion in 2008 to $10 billion in 2010. The big challenge: making sure the company's solution providers continue to thrive. That's going to take a lot of attention to alleviate channel conflict and making sure partners don't get mixed signals in the sales trenches.
Channel conflict is not an issue for Panasonic's Toughbook solution providers. That's because Panasonic Computer Solutions President Rance Poehler is a passionate proponent of a 100 percent channel only model. Those companies that stick to that 100 percent model are few and far between. But Poehler has never waivered and it has paid off in robust profits and sales for Panasonic solution provider partners. What's more, Panasonic has upped the ante with a breakthrough Toughbook H1 product for the healthcare market. Like the Toughbook itself, Panasonic is proven and reliable when it comes to supporting partners.
For 21 years, Trend Micro co-founder and CEO Eva Chen has kept the company at the top of the security technology pyramid, covering the security waterfront with product muscle from consumers to SMBs to the Fortune 1000. Chen's genius is her ability to push the technology envelope to assure that the company is always one step ahead of threats and ready to leap on the next technology wave. Chen's latest focus: a no-holds-barred push to make sure Trend Micro is a leader in protecting the cloud. Aside from all of this technology talk, did we mention that she has made all the right channel moves?
Things change. Michael Dell used to be considered a channel-basher. Now he's a channel booster. And get this: In a bid to make up for the hit the company has taken in the hardware market, Dell even purchased a solution provider. In one of the biggest deals of the year, Dell is paying $3.9 billion for systems integration powerhouse Perot Systems, which will become Dell's services unit. Dell is known as the pioneer of the direct sales model. But he is doing his best to make sure that his company will soon be known as a channel power.
Joe Tucci is the acquisition king. No one in this business has done a better job at picking the best and brightest technology products and pulling them together to create a storage, virtualization and cloud computing power. The latest pieces Tucci has added to the puzzle including Data Domain, a deduplication software maker that EMC wrestled away from NetApp in a bidding war and FastScale Technology, a software provider with technology aimed at increasing the performance and scalability of cloud infrastructures.
William McCracken, a 36-year IBM veteran with an impressive channel track record, has worked behind the scenes to rebuild CA into a software power since joining the CA board four years ago. Now he has taken a hands-on role, stepping in as interim executive chairman in the wake of the retirement of CEO John Swainson this year. Don't be surprised if McCracken sticks around for awhile, given the board's statement that he will retain the interim title until a successor is named or "at the discretion of the board." From where we sit, it looks like the board is taking advantage of McCracken's managerial skills to take CA to the next level. That's nothing but good news for channel partners looking for the kind of channel consistency and product excellence that McCracken brought to IBM.
The word "genius" is thrown around lightly in this day and age. In our view there is only one genius in the technology business, and it's Apple's Steve Jobs. He knows what users want, and he delivers it time and again. What can you say about the driving force behind the Macintosh, the iPod and then the iPhone? Even the Apple retail stores have his inimitable touch. We just wish he'd handle the channel with the same passion as he does each and every Apple product.
There is no other CEO that has added more channel talent to his team this year than Dave DeWalt. The industry veteran, who built a big software business at EMC, is determined to get McAfee's channel house in order. To the cheers of channel partners, DeWalt brought in 10-year Cisco channel veteran Alex Thurber as McAfee's new worldwide channel chief. And before that, DeWalt tapped Fernando Quintero from Latin America to head up McAfee's American channel organization. DeWalt is driving a channel renaissance at McAfee. That's going to provide McAfee partners with big sales and profits gains, and lots of job security.
Taking the reins of the world's largest disk drive maker in the midst of the biggest downturn since the Great Depression is not our idea of fun. But Luczo, who took the CEO and president's post in January, 2009, sure seems like he is enjoying bringing Seagate back to the top of the disk drive mountain. By the end of the year, Luczo delivered $179 million profit on sales of $2.66 billion for the company's first fiscal quarter, with an impressive 25 percent gross margin. Look for Luczo to up Seagate's channel game in 2010 while pushing the company into the technology stratosphere with development underway of a new hybrid solid state-traditional drive with "instant on" functionality.