HPE Partners: Neri's Technology Vision, Proven Channel Track Record Make Him 'Perfect Choice' For Next CEO

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."

[Related: Whitman On Her Future Plans, Her HPE Board Role, Neri's Channel Commitment, The 'Seamless Transition' And Why She Will Not Run For Public Office Again]

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.

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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."

Dan Molina, chief technology officer at San Diego-based Nth Generation Computing, one of HPE's top enterprise partners and No. 359 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said Neri's vision in developing a next-generation software-defined portfolio with R&D breakthroughs like Synergy composable infrastructure and smart technology acquisitons have been key to driving partner sales growth.

"He has both the technology and channel track record to lead HPE," said Molina. "We are extremely happy. It's a great choice to lead an innovative company like HPE. Antonio has made sure that HPE continues to lead the industry in its three pillars -- hybrid IT, intelligent edge and the services to bring it all together."

Molina said he has experienced firsthand Neri's deep technology knowledge and that "rare attribute" of being able to drill down on specific technologies that makes a difference for customers. "I admire that," he said. "I see him continuing to leverage his technical background to make strong decisions around acquisitions like SimpliVity and Nimble."

The digital transformation that is reshaping every customer's business demands an executive with Neri's technology expertise, said Molina. "The technology is moving at the speed of light; you need to be able to move very fast," he said. "To do that you need to make wise technology decisions as Antonio has done. Having a leader with that knowledge across the hybrid IT world is very important. That gives HPE a competitive edge."

With Neri taking the helm, Molina said he expects Nth Generation's HPE sales to continue grow at double digits next year. "We are very optimistic," he said. "I see strong growth this year with Antonio leading the charge. We have an amazing opportunity to take the newest components of the portfolio to market. We are already seeing important synergy with Synergy and we are executing sales with the platform. That is a great example of HPE innovation."

Steve Tepedino, CEO of IT Partners, a Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider and one of HPE's top enterprise partners, said partners are "grateful" for Whitman's leadership that led to an HPE turnaround and are now looking forward to working with Neri to drive sales growth.

"It's pretty cool that HPE has groomed a successor who has held many different jobs inside Hewlett Packard," said Tepedino. "The channel got to know Antonio when he ran services and the many jobs he has had since then. Antonio is no stranger to us as channel partners. There is a great degree of comfort in that. He has been a real friend to the channel. I got to know him as a channel partner and former distributor executive. It is a very positive move. I am very excited about it. And it's a good time to make the CEO change with the inflection point of the reorganization put in place toward the end of the last fiscal year "

The major restructuring along with the acquisitions of SimpliVity and Nimble are poised to drive sales growth, said Tepedino. One of the keys to the new fiscal year is going to be making sure the employees from those two acquisitions are pumped up to help lead the channel charge in the new HPE, he said.

"There was a lot of uncertainty in the field at the end of this year," said Tepedino. "Some very good people came to HPE with the acquisitions. My ask of HPE is to make sure it continues to be the company that those excellent people want to be a part of. With all of the changes and unknowns from the restructuring, there has been some discomfort that we have felt as partners that our brethren at HPE have also felt. My message to the HPE team is there is nothing but opportunity in front of us. Let's get out there and capture that opportunity."