Frank Vitagliano, a highly respected channel executive, is leaving IBM after 33 years and is expected to take a top channel job at another major vendor.
As IBM's vice president of worldwide distribution channels, Vitagliano had strong ties with solution providers. He announced his retirement Tuesday morning but declined to comment on his plans.
However, sources said Vitagliano will remain in the industry and is considering a top channel post at a major vendor.
IBM announced in an internal conference call that Vitagliano would retire at the end of the month.
"I've had 33 years with a world-class company. We have great products, great tradition and a group of people who are passionate about winning in the marketplace,” Vitagliano said in an interview with CRN.
"Not only has IBM been a terrific company to work for, but there has been a legacy that has been established of IBM going to market through the channel and being totally commited to both [IBM] Business Partners and distributors," he added. "I am proud to have been part of that. I know that IBM channel commitment will continue in the future."
Solution providers characterized the Vitagliano move as a challenge for IBM and a huge win for the company that hires him.
"This is a big loss for IBM partners because he was the go-to guy," said Jay Tipton, vice president at Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Technology Specialists, a longtime IBM partner. "He was IBM to us. Vitagliano was a huge factor in us choosing IBM because you had someone who would actually listen to us and resolve channel issues."
Tipton said he will certainly look at adding whatever vendor brings Vitagliano on board. Vitalgiano's channel genius is his ability to establish deep personal ties with partners, he noted.
"It is the personal touch that makes Vitagliano such a great channel executive. He returns phone calls, e-mails and gets things done. Communciating with most other large vendors is like banging your head against a brick wall,” Tipton said.
"This explains why Frank has been incognito for the last several months," he added. "He has been somewhat unavailable for the last six weeks."
The 50-year-old Vitagliano, who joined IBM at 17 and worked the night shift in the mail room, worked his way up at IBM to what is the top channel distribution job. He was a champion for solution providers and the two-tier distribution model amid the direct-sales PC assault from Dell and others.
Solution providers said Vitagliano never waivered in his support for partners. Recently, he helped drive a remarkable market-share gain among Ingram Micro's VentureTech partners.
Vitagliano is protege of longtime IBM channel chief and CRN Hall Of Famer David Boucher, who also was known for his personal touch with partners. Vitagliano said among his greatest achievements at IBM was becoming a student of the channel and industry.
"I have tired to learn over the years what works for business partners and what doesn't," Vitagliano said. He added that he was able to maintain longstanding friendships and relationships despite not always being in full agreement on channel programs, offerings or strategy. "The relationships were cultivated because I remained honest, accessible and consistent," he said.