Scale Computing’s Scott Mann Repeats In Channel Madness Nail-Biter

Are we witnessing the birth of a channel dynasty? Scale Computing’s Scott Mann returns to championship form, taking on the biggest channel names in technology to once again emerge with the top prize in the Channel Madness Tournament of Chiefs.


Scott Mann of Scale Computing claimed the championship in CRN’s 2023 Channel Madness Tournament of Chiefs with a buzzer-beater to cement his spot as the first-ever repeat winner in the contest’s nine-year history.

“The channel to us is the beating heart of our organization, everything from the board down. Our entire plan is built around success with the channel,” a jubilant Mann told CRN. “It’s been that way forever. You look back on the history of Scale Computing, we’ve always had a strong channel presence. It’s an honor to be the first repeating champ, but the credit goes to all the Scalers out there.”

In CRN’s 2023 Channel Madness tournament , Mann was able to outmaneuver VMware’s Ricky Cooper in the championship round for what shaped up as the closest final-round finish the contest has ever seen. With votes pouring in on both sides as the clock wound down, Mann held on to win with 50.1 percent of the votes compared with Cooper’s 49.9 percent.

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Ten-year Scale Computing partner Rodd Ahrenstorff, partner at KT Connections, a Rapid City, S.D.-based solution provider, said after Scale Computing’s most recent partner conference in February, he knew Mann had a strong chance to repeat last year’s success.

“It does not come as a surprise. It lends itself to how they run the program,” Ahrenstorff said. “I was on a panel with three other partners. We were speaking to all the Scale employees about the good, the bad, the ugly. All three of the panelists agreed that we have never had a conflict, which is a key thing.”

[Related: Scale Computing CEO Takes On VMware]

VMware’s Ricky Cooper, who enjoyed a triumphant rise to the Channel Madness finals in his first year as channel chief with the Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtualization all-star, said he sees the channel as VMware’s “lifeblood.”

“My whole philosophy has been making it channel-first and making it easy to do business with VMware, and hopefully that’s coming through with the launch of Partner Connect 2.0,” Cooper said “But the main thing here is that for us, the channel at VMware, I see it as the lifeblood, helping us solve our customers’ largest IT requirements and develop the solutions, the offerings, the services and to take our customers’ business to new heights.”

Cooper said the contest was a treat regardless of the outcome.

“I’ve been watching this from the outside for many years,” he said. “What [Channel Madness] does for the industry, bringing everyone together, is absolutely fantastic. It’s a bit of fun. You see some great names up there like [NetApp’s] Jenni Flinders and old friends like [Cato Networks’] Frank Rauch. Great companies like IBM and Microsoft. And the folks we’re up against now: Veeam and Scale. So seeing those names up there, it’s an honor to be involved. To make it through to the final has been a real team effort here.”

The Path To Glory

Even for a returning champion, Mann’s scrappy road to the victory was arduous and wound through the some of the biggest names in the channel, including Dell Technologies’ Rola Dagher, HP Inc.’s Scott Lannum, Dynabook Americas’ James Robbins, Nutanix’s Christian Goffi and then VMware’s Cooper.

Facing down competitors from large companies, including four publicly traded tech powerhouses with a combined market capitalization of $117.2 billion, not to mention hundreds of thousands of customers, would be enough to rattle any competitor.

But giving up wasn’t in the cards, and Mann is no novice.

Mann first appeared in the Channel Madness tournament in 2021, making it into the third round. Then he won the whole shebang in 2022, a feat he has now repeated.

“I believe this is validation from our partner community that they believe in us and see us as a leader in this space,” Mann said.

Scale Computing partner Mark Essayian, president and CEO of Lake Forrest, Calif.-based KME Systems, said the care and attention from Mann and his team create raving fans in the channel.

“Scott understands the channel. He knows our challenges. He’s our advocate. There are some great folks who work at other vendors, but can they effect change? The answer is no. Scott can,” said Essayian.

Essayian—who also sits on Indianapolis-based Scale Computing’s Advisory Board—said every conversation with Mann or other channel executives at Scale Computing begins the same way.

“He always asks, ‘What do you need? How do we succeed with you?’” Essayian said. “They’re not competing with us—ever. They actually bring us business. They’re a big differentiator.”

Cooper Turns In Best Channel Madness Performance For VMware

Cooper, who took over the channel chief role in June, notched VMware’s first appearance in the final round.

Cooper handily passed IBM’s Kate Woolley, following that with a victory over Nina Harding from Microsoft. Cooper then had to face down Veeam’s Kevin Rooney, the 2020 Channel Madness Champion, before earning the finals berth against Mann.

Jamison Nack, vice president of sales for VMware partner Ahead, said Cooper has revamped VMware’s partner-first strategy, which is helping drive more customer opportunities.

“Based on my engagement with Ricky, he has demonstrated a renewed focus on a ‘partner-first’ mindset,” Nack said. The Chicago-based solution provider’s partnership with VMware has never been better thanks, in part, to Cooper’s channel drive, he said.

“Our VMware partnership is stronger than ever, and we share the same passion of innovation and driving client success,” Nack said.

For Mann, today he celebrates but as soon as the applause dies down, it is back to work.

“I get the privilege of being the face of Scale Computing [in the tournament], but a win in Channel Madness is a win for Scale Computing. It’s a win for our partner community. I say congratulations to our partner community out there, everyone we have that was on our side,” he said. “Congratulations, and thank you.”

Mark Haranas contributed to this story.