The Top 25 IT Innovators Of 2023

The ability to drive innovation for technology products, solutions and services is the hallmark of CRN’s Top 25 Innovators of 2023 list.

The ability to drive innovation for products, solutions and services in a challenging and ever-changing environment is the hallmark of our Top 25 Innovators of 2023 list.

Most tech companies claim to have differentiated offerings, of course. But which vendors actually deliver on their promise of innovation? And deliver in a way that creates major opportunities for partners?

For our top innovators list, we’ve selected executives that have been bringing true channel-friendly innovation to the market --- accelerating digital transformation, enabling new growth opportunities for partners and producing one customer success story after another.

What follows is our list of the Top 25 IT Innovators of 2023.

Be sure to also check out the complete list of CRN’s Top 100 Executives Of 2023.

25. Ali Ghodsi

Co-Founder, CEO


Ghodsi has led data lakehouse pioneer Databricks to become one of the fastest- growing IT companies with its platform for real-time analytics, data engineering and data warehouse tasks. Databricks is also a major player in the exploding AI space, a position cemented by its deal to acquire generative AI startup MosaicML.

24. Bill Andrews

President, CEO


In a world where data protection means software, ExaGrid under Andrews continues to spearhead the development of data protection hardware appliances the company says provide the performance and capacity needed to scale backup and long-term data retention to multi-petabyte environments.

23. Gary Smith

President, CEO


A Ciena veteran for over 26 years and CEO for the past 22, Smith’s impressive tenure and people-first focus is a winning combination. Under his leadership, Ciena has grown into a recognized global leader in helping customers build adaptive networks with optical and software automation offerings.

22. Eva Chen

Co-Founder, CEO

Trend Micro

Chen has overseen Trend Micro’s move into emerging security segments such as XDR. The new Trend Vision One platform correlates data from multiple tools and environments to help with prioritizing major threats, with data feeds coming from native Trend Micro products and third-party tools.

21. Ed Meyercord

President, CEO

Extreme Networks

Meyercord has led Extreme Networks onto the net- working battlefield and has scored a number of key wins. Extreme today has more than 50,000 customers globally, including some of the biggest sports franchises, that trust the company’s cloud-driven networking solutions.

20. David Friend


Wasabi Technologies

Friend has been on a virtual crusade to show businesses there is an alternative to hyperscale public cloud providers when it comes to storing and protecting data. That has led to Wasabi becoming the low- cost and secure back-end capacity to a majority of top data protection technology developers.

19. Kristin Russell

President, Global Enterprise Computing Solutions

Arrow Electronics

Russell presides over the $2.5 billion Arrow business unit, where she leads a team that works with the top hardware, software, services and cloud vendors to craft and integrate fully customized and integrated answers to the needs of solution providers.

18. Vishal Lall

SVP, GM, GreenLake Cloud Services Solutions

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Call him Mr. Fix-It. First he got Aruba on track working his magic as COO. Now he has done it again, getting HPE’s GreenLake cloud solutions and software business going full steam ahead. Sales are up 30 percent year over year thanks to his vision.

17. John Chen



Chen has spearheaded BlackBerry’s continued focus on cybersecurity and embedded systems. Recent moves have included the overhaul of Blackberry’s Cylance platform, with the introduction of speedier incident response capabilities, enhanced cloud defense and a massive reduction in false alerts.

16. Phil Mottram

EVP, GM, HPE Intelligent Edge

HPE Aruba Networking

Mottram has one of HPE’s crown jewels, the HPE Aruba intelligent edge business, firing on all cylinders. In the most recent quarter, the business was up 50 percent to $1.3 billion and has grown every quarter—now making up 20 percent of HPE’s annual revenue.

15. Prakash Panjwani


WatchGuard Technologies

Panjwani has overseen WatchGuard’s transformation from a vendor focused on network security to a provider of a unified security platform. The WatchGuard platform now spans identity and endpoint protection as well as secure wireless access points, in addition to its core network security capabilities.

14. Patrick Pulvermueller



Pulvermueller, who joined Acronis as CEO in July 2021, has been busy bringing his message about the importance of securing data to a wider MSP audience. Acronis was an early proponent of securing data from security attacks from the storage side, and he wants to make sure MSPs are on board with that idea.

13. Jason Magee



Magee recently unveiled ConnectWise’s AI Responsibility Use Statement and AI Oversight Committee, which outline its commitment to data protection, transparency, safety and compliance. Magee said ConnectWise wants to be at the forefront of AI to help MSPs use it effectively in their business.

12. Dave Shull

President, Workforce Services, Solutions

HP Inc.

Shull is making a bold move to unlock significant growth opportunities for partners by reorienting HP’s dozens of commercial services around a new toolbox called Workforce Central. Viewing the offering as a strategic tool, Shull wants to turn every partner into a virtual CIO for their customers.

11. Sanjay Poonen

President, CEO


Under Poonen, who became Cohesity’s CEO in 2022 , the company appears headed toward an IPO not as a storage vendor, but as a provider of technology to secure data against cybersecurity attacks while betting its future around the idea that storage and security is a “blended conversation.”

10. Brannon Lacey



Arcserve helped pioneer data protection and with Lacey as CEO since late 2021, Arcserve is going toe to toe with competitors. Lacey last year helped Arcserve get in front of issues related to its early 2021 acquisition of StorageCraft.

9. Michael Gold



Gold, an Intermedia veteran and the CEO for the past eight years, has propelled the partner-first provider of UCaaS, CCaaS and cloud business applications to its impressive scale today, supporting more than 135,000 SMB customers and 8,500 channel partners.

8. Ulrich Seibold

VP, Global GreenLake, Partner, Service Provider Sales

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Seibold has been like a bolt of lightning to the HPE GreenLake partner and service provider ecosystem. In short order, he has put together a no-nonsense plan to drive GreenLake partner sales to 70 percent of total sales for the edge-to-cloud service.

7. Jeff Ready


Scale Computing

Ready is always looking ahead to catch the next innovation wave—from edge computing to AI— and isn’t afraid to go head to head with larger competitors. His IT knowledge and dedication to customers is evidenced by his having a long 16-year tenure as CEO.

6. Fidelma Russo


Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Few CTOs have had as big an impact on improving the hybrid cloud computing experience as Russo. The GreenLake hybrid cloud, edge and AI experience has gotten better and better as she continues to put her mark on the HPE technology road map. Key was bringing the OpsRamp AI tool into the fold.

5. John Kalvin

VP, GM, Global Partners, Support


As part of his goal to drive “extreme partnership” at Intel, Kalvin has implemented several big changes in the Intel Partner Alliance program to help partners grow. These include more eligibility paths to gain Gold and Titanium tier status plus the ability for all partners to redeem points.

4. Jeff Clarke

Vice Chairman, Co-COO

Dell Technologies

Count longtime Dell engineer Clarke as one of those who sees the massive potential in generative AI. At Dell Technologies World, he introduced Dell’s Project Helix, an on-site generative AI computer that is powered with Dell’s Xe 9680 and eight of Nvidia’s Tensor Core H-100 GPUs.

3. Matt Hicks

President, CEO

Red Hat

“Focus” is the operative word for Hicks’ leadership style. In one year, the 17-plus-year Red Hat veteran has navigated a slowing economy and AI gold rush all while maintaining independence and pushing the boundaries of automation, developer tools and Linux.

2. Danny Jenkins

Co-Founder, CEO


With Jenkins leading the way, ThreatLocker has expanded well beyond its flagship “application allow- listing” functionality to offer capabilities in a number of related areas. The company also unveiled its first threat detection tool, Ops, in a move to help MSPs do even more to protect their customers.

1. Rajiv Ramaswami



When Ramaswami unveiled Nutanix’s latest North Star for data—Project Beacon—at its .NEXT show in Chicago earlier this year, he identified how customers will need to use data in the multi-cloud era.

“The ultimate vision is to say, ‘Company, you can build an app. You can use these services and you can run them anywhere and you can be easily ported.’ That’s the vision. That’s the next level up, and that’s the journey for us,” he told CRN.

It’s the latest announcement from a CEO who since 2020 has charted his own course, leaving a senior role at VMware and taking on the top job at its archrival.

As the pending acquisition of VMware by Broadcom draws out, Ramaswami said his job is to position Nutanix best for whatever outcome emerges.

“For us though, we continue to talk to our customers, saying, ‘We’re in here for the long term. We’re looking to help you guys. Let us know how we can help you,’” he said.