Applications & OS News

Splunk Hires Microsoft Exec Gretchen O’Hara As Its New Channel Chief

Rick Whiting

O’Hara, who starts today after holding multiple channel and marketing posts during an 18-year career at Microsoft, replaces Bill Hustad who left in July for a channel management position at Okta.


Splunk has named Gretchen O’Hara, a long-time Microsoft marketing and channel executive, to be Splunk’s new channel chief, the unified security and observability platform developer will announce later today.

O’Hara starts at Splunk today with the title vice president, worldwide channels and alliances. She will oversee the company’s channel operations and manage the company’s relationships with its more than 2,400 partners around the world.

O’Hara (pictured) replaces Bill Hustad, previously Splunk’s vice president of alliances and channel ecosystems, who left the company in July to become senior vice president of global partners and alliances at Okta, a leading provider of identity and access management technology.

[Related: Splunk CEO Gary Steele On Channel Opportunities, Management Stability And Introducing Himself At .Conf22]

“For a very long time, when I was building ISV and developer channels at Microsoft, I have really seen Splunk as an incredible company,” O’Hara said in an interview with CRN, specifically citing the “fierce loyalty” of Splunk’s customers and the critical role the company’s technology plays in managing data in business transformation initiatives.

“When I look at Splunk I see this really rare, exceptional combination of mission-critical products, the people and the culture, and the market potential,” she continued. “That combination and the opportunity to really be part of that next wave of transformation that’s required for our customers to succeed in this distributed hybrid, multi-cloud world was an opportunity for me that I just couldn’t refuse. So I’m incredibly excited to lead the channel here.”

O’Hara will report to Christian Smith, Splunk senior vice president and chief revenue officer.

“Partners really are critical to our business. So what we really wanted to do was find a leader who was proven and understood the broad ecosystem of partners and alliances that are necessary to successfully bring our solutions to our customers, to bring them to life,” Smith said in an interview with CRN.

“Oftentimes organizations have leaders that learn on the job and grow into roles. But at this size and stage of [Splunk], we really wanted somebody who had been there and done that, someone who was deeply rooted in channels and alliances with a proven track record,” Smith said.

O’Hara joins Splunk after working at software giant Microsoft for more than 18 years, most recently as vice president of U.S. AI & Sustainability Strategy, a post she has held since March 2020, according to her LinkedIn page.

Throughout her lengthy tenure at Microsoft she has held a number of marketing and channel management positions including vice president of go-to-market strategy, One Commercial Partner; general manager of enterprise marketing, U.S. subsidiary; senior director of worldwide cloud partner strategy; director of worldwide emerging channels; and director of worldwide channel competitive strategy, her LinkedIn page says.

O’Hara’s appointment follows a number of changes in Splunk’s executive ranks over the last year or so, including the resignation of president and CEO Doug Merritt in November and the hiring of Proofpoint founder and CEO Gary Steele in March as the company’s new president and CEO. (Just last week Splunk disclosed that Jason Child, the company’s CFO since 2019, will leave the company in November to take a job with “a leading pre-IPO semiconductor company.”)

Splunk has also undergone significant changes to its business. The company has doubled down on marketing its machine data platform for observability and security tasks. And it has been transitioning its product line to cloud-based software and its pricing to a subscription model and annual recurring revenue.

On the financial front Splunk, a publicly traded company, received a $1 billion investment from private equity giant Silver Lake in June 2021 in a move to strengthen its balance sheet after the company experienced slower sales in 2020. And in March of this year private equity firm Hellman & Friedman acquired a 7.5 percent stake in the company.

Splunk, meanwhile, has continued to expand its channel efforts. In June 2021 the company launched a significant revamp of its partner program and rebranded it the “Splunk Partnerverse.”

In June of this year the company added to that with a new funded partner training benefit to help partners build solution competencies and drive enablement, a new online solutions catalog where partners can showcase their expertise and Splunk-based offerings, and partner access to the Splunk Cloud Sandbox for building and testing Splunk-based solutions.

All the changes at Splunk, including how it works with partners, are to be expected for a company that’s on-track to grow to more than $3 billion in its current fiscal year, said Jim Kinney, president and CEO of Kinney Group, a Splunk ISV and services partner based in Indianapolis, in an interview with CRN.

“The tech is still the best of its kind,” Kinney said of Splunk’s product portfolio. As the company matures, it’s helping its partners go beyond reselling to emphasize “really understanding the technology and knowing how to deliver business outcomes using the technology,” he said. “They are really addressing that.”

Kinney also said the moves taken by president and CEO Steele, including balancing profitability with growth, “are the rights ones for the times” given Splunk’s growth stage and the current uncertain economy.

“Splunk is genuinely leaning into their Partnerverse partner program transformation to more effectively capture and measure partner value,” said Drew Gibson, senior director of the Global Splunk Alliance at cybersecurity provider BlueVoyant, a premier MSP Splunk partner that integrates the Splunk Cloud Platform with its managed detection and response offering.

Gibson, in an email response to CRN, said BlueVoyant is a launch partner around a number of Splunk initiatives such as the monthly Tech Talk series that provide technical deep dives for Splunk practitioners. “Splunk‘s willingness to include and promote thought leadership from outcome-based partners like BlueVoyant demonstrates their commitment to enriching partner experiences,” Gibson said.

“Splunk is proactively soliciting feedback from partners like BlueVoyant to aid in their program development, which is what a real partnership looks and feels like,” Gibson added. “We are keen to continue to collaborate on transformational initiatives with Splunk’s partner leadership under Gretchen O’Hara.”

O’Hara acknowledges that leaving Microsoft after so many years is a big move.

“I really wanted to be able to go and lead a company through next level of transformation and next level of growth,” she said. A particular attraction was how Splunk partners “are mission critical to the business outcomes of our customers,” and “the diversity and scale of the Splunk ecosystem.”

“I think that I‘m coming home to what I love most, which is leading and driving challenging ecosystems. I’m definitely a deep seasoned channel leader, leading and developing one of the largest channel ecosystems in the technology industry today,” she said. “So I certainly bring that expertise. But I am also a business builder. I think about how and what is required for the future. And what‘s next. And really having that entrepreneurial spirit. Making the right moves at the right time to help our partners and the ecosystem continue to thrive and grow.”

Both O’Hara and Smith noted that Splunk works with a broad range of partner types including global and regional systems integrators, solution providers and resellers, managed service providers and managed security service providers, cloud hyperscalers and technology partners.

“What I did at Microsoft was manage all partner types across all segments, large and small. So I have an extensive background in building out and driving transition to both cloud industry and solution capability,” O’Hara said of her experience.

“Gretchen has worked with all those different partner types and understands that you have to have different programs, different engagement, different enablement and different education,” Smith said. O’Hara, he said, understands the need for “alignment with the rest of the Splunk organization, not just the field organization, but the technical organization and our customer success organization in order to bring all that value to the customer.”

O’Hara said her initial focus as she starts in the channel chief job is to be “an active listener.”

“I want to meet as many partners as I can to understand the partner voice and, quite frankly, as many customers to connect the opportunity for our partners and our customers. And be a learner, really trying to understand what is working, how do we build on that success and how do we continue to accelerate that growth, if you will, at scale,” she said. “Continuing to build a culture of talent and a partner organization that becomes a growth lever for the company.”

O’Hara also said she wants to help Splunk partners better tap into the company’s direct sales organization and its expertise and to make it easier for partners to engage with the company.

“End of the day, it’s really about building more profitable businesses together,” she said. “And when our channel is successful, we‘re successful and that is the flywheel that I want to build up at Splunk.”


Rick Whiting

Rick Whiting has been with CRN since 2006 and is currently a feature/special projects editor. Whiting manages a number of CRN’s signature annual editorial projects including Channel Chiefs, Partner Program Guide, Big Data 100, Emerging Vendors, Tech Innovators and Products of the Year. He also covers the Big Data beat for CRN. He can be reached at

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