Solution providers are cheering the appointment of Hewlett Packard Enterprise President Antonio Neri – a 22-year HPE veteran known for his technology vision and channel commitment -- as the "perfect choice" by outgoing CEO Meg Whitman and the board of directors to be the next leader of HPE.
"Antonio has a strong technical background, which is going to help with what is going on in the industry,and he is a known quantity in the channel," said Kelly Ireland, founder and CEO of Orange, Calif.-based CB Technologies, an HPE Platinum partner and No. 245 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500. "Antonio is channel-strong. He always has been. He is the perfect choice. Meg would not pick a person to be CEO who does not share her channel vision. We had six years of of Meg doing a phenomenal job. I think Antonio will continue down that path."
HPE said Tuesday that Neri, who has been the driving force behind HPE's next-generation software-defined portfolio, will take the CEO job effective Feb.1, 2018. Whitman will become a member of HPE's board of directors.
Neri's technology background will be critical as the channel moves to deliver new software-defined services and products from key acquisitions including Aruba Networks, SimpliVity and Nimble Storage, said partners. "Antonio's technology vision is extremely important because of where we are at in the industry right now," said Ireland. "Meg did a phenomenal job coming up to speed on technology when she took over. It is a huge advantage for partners to have Antonio taking this job. "
Whitman, for her part, told CRN that Neri is "exactly the right person at the right time" to lead HPE into the future. "I think Antonio is super capable of taking this company to the next level," Whitman said. "Antonio is as committed, if not more so, than I am to the partners and the channel. He wants to do exactly what is right for the partners and our joint end customers.
"Antonio was right there at the beginning, encouraging that pivot back to the channel," said Whitman. "He has lots of deep relationships. He knows not only the VARs, but the distributors, the SIs [systems integrators], the ISVs. It was an important criteria. We would never have picked a CEO who was not committed to the channel."
Frank Vitagliano, CEO of Houston-based Computex Technology Solutions, No. 121 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said Neri has a proven channel and technology leadership track record that makes him an outstanding choice as the next CEO.
Neri's major role in the acquisitions of Aruba, SimpliVity and Nimble have been critical in establishing HPE's robust software-defined portfolio, said Vitagliano. "Antonio has really strengthened HPE's position as a technology company with great acquisitions," said Vitagliano. "He understands the technology business at a deep level. There is no doubt he has the technology chops to lead HPE."
Vitagliano praised Neri's leadership in integrating the acquistions, particularly Aruba, which has been a blockbuster mobile-first, cloud-first hit for HPE, giving the company the leading position in the growing intelligent edge market. "You have to give Antonio and HPE credit for maintaining the Aruba vision and commitment," said Vitagliano. "They have seamlessly integrated it and have taken advantage of the strength HPE brings to the table, which is unbelievable enterprise relationships. It has worked. Some other folks might have tried to force it. It is very clear Antonio has had a major role in that and is driving that."
Vitagliano said Neri's channel commitment is without question and is well known within the partner community. "There are some leaders that have a few channel buzzwords and think that is all they have to say and do," said Vitagliano. "Antonio absolutely gets the channel. It is not just the few catch phrases. HPE has had a strong commitment for years to the channel. Meg reinforced that and drove that hard. I think Antonio will maintain that. He is the right person to lead HPE going forward."