2013 Best Companies To Partner With

Best Of The Best

For the third year in a row, CRN presents the results of our exclusive research called the Best Companies To Partner With.

As the IT industry rapidly evolves, solution providers' needs -- and those of their customers -- are constantly changing. And that means channel partners are continually evaluating their relationships with IT vendors. This research is designed to help solution providers select their strategic vendors based on such criteria as a vendor's brand, the breadth of its product line and the profit potential for partners.

Here are the top 25 winners.

25. Kaspersky Lab

CEO: Eugene Kaspersky

Kaspersky, which sells 100 percent through indirect channels, retooled its channel program early in the year and added to its channel and sales teams in an effort to improve partner support. Kaspersky has invested in a new U.S. channel initiative to help partners expand sales in government and education sectors.

24. McAfee

President: Michael DeCesare

McAfee fine-tuned its channel program this year, adding support and incentives to encourage channel partners to sell the vendor's networking, data center and endpoint security products. The company also signaled plans to rely more on distributors to expand into the midmarket. McAfee's acquisition of Stonesoft in May boosted the company's next-generation firewall capabilities.

23. Trend Micro

CEO: Eva Chen

Trend Micro continued to expand its security offerings through the cloud, including security services designed for customers using Amazon Web Services. The company also enhanced its channel program to help partners boost sales of the company's cloud and data center security products to mid-market customers.

22. Seagate

CEO: Stephen Luczo

Disk drive and storage solutions vendor Seagate this year launched its Seagate Kinetic Open Storage Platform targeting cloud storage Infrastructure tasks. In October the company promoted Executive Vice President Dave Mosley to president, operations and technology to oversee R&D and manufacturing operations.

21. Google

CEO: Larry Page

While most of Google's revenue still comes from ads around its search business, this year the company signaled that it was stepping up investment in its enterprise products, including productivity apps like Google Docs, the Google Search Appliance, and the Google Cloud Platform. And bucking the PC slump, sales of Google Chromebooks grew to represent 25 percent of the U.S. market for laptops under $300.

20. Western Digital

CEO: Stephen Milligan

Hard drive and solid-state disk manufacturer Western Digital expanded the scope of its business through a series of strategic acquisitions in 2012. Those included sTec, an early leader in the SSD market, and Arkeia Software, a developer of data protection software.

The acquisitions continued in the third quarter with a deal to buy flash storage developer Virident for $685 million, giving the company a strong flash storage portfolio.

19. Juniper Networks

CEO: Kevin Johnson

Juniper earlier this month named former Verizon Communications CTO Shaygan Kheradpir its new CEO, effective Jan. 1, replacing Kevin who announced in July that he would retire. The company has been focused on evolving its data center strategy, rolling out a new MetaFabric architecture and switch series in October.

18. Samsung

CEO: Kwon Oh-hyun

Samsung has continued to make gains in the smartphone and tablet computer arenas, solidifying its position as Apple's chief competitor in those markets. But the company is proving it's more than just a device manufacturer with such efforts as its development of enterprise-grade security technology for the Android operating system.

17. Apple

CEO: Tim Cook

During the year, Apple unveiled the next generations of its key products, the iPhone 5C and 5S, and the iPad Air. Apple is facing increased competition from Android-based devices. But partners see iOS 7, the new release of Apple's mobile operating system, providing more opportunities for expansion into commercial markets.

16. NetApp

CEO: Tom Georgens

NetApp made some key technology moves this year including unveiling its cloud strategy focused on its Data Ontap storage operating system and debuting a new release of Clustered Data Ontap with storage virtual machines for software-defined storage architectures.

On the channel side, the company named Regina Kunkle to be its new vice president of North America channel sales.

15. Oracle

CEO: Larry Ellison

Oracle has continued to grow sales of its hardware-software Engineered Systems products and stepped up its presence in cloud computing. Channel chief Judson Althoff departed in March to take a key sales and marketing post with Microsoft. In October, Oracle hired former Hewlett-Packard executive Rich Geraffo to be the company's new channel chief, joining a growing number of former HP execs at the company.

14. IBM

CEO: Virginia Rometty

IBM made a series of acquisitions this year that have created opportunities for partners. Two recent buys: SoftLayer Technologies for cloud computing infrastructure and Fiberlink Communications for mobile device management. IBM has also continued to grow its software and services businesses.

13. APC by Schneider Electric

CEO: Jean-Pascal Tricoire

Long-time channel favorite APC has benefited from growing demand for energy management technologies as businesses look to cut costs around data center cooling, space and power consumption. About 75 percent of APC Americas' business is concentrated in the data center.

12. Citrix

CEO: Mark Templeton

Citrix made a bold move in June when it moved its XenServer virtualization technology to the open-source community and said the company would focus its business on providing management and support services. The company also signaled its intention to focus on the hot mobile market with its XenMobile launch.

11. Dell/SonicWall

CEO: Michael Dell

With Dell now a privately held company, CEO Michael Dell is promising to bring together the company's acquisitions, including SonicWall, into one seamless solution that partners can offer customers. So look for Dell to more tightly integrate SonicWall security with Dell hardware, Quest software and other products.

10. EMC

CEO: Joseph Tucci

EMC this year organized its multiple businesses into three parts -- EMC Information Infrastructure, VMware and Pivotal -- in an effort to make it easier to manage those operations. The company also unveiled plans to overhaul its Velocity partner program to put greater emphasis on cloud computing and big data. And in November the company took a big technology leap when it debuted its first all-flash storage array.

9. Symantec

CEO: Steve Bennett

Symantec undertook a wide-ranging reorganization of its product portfolio and market strategy in 2013, an effort dubbed Symantec 4.0. The company is now moving two-thirds of its named accounts to the channel and readying a new channel program the company said will reward partners that sell a more integrated set of products.

8. Lenovo

CEO: Yang Yuanqing

The No. 1 PC manufacturer continued to move up the ranks of vendors solution providers want to partner with -- from No. 13 in 2011 to No. 10 last year and now No. 8. Part of that is undoubtedly due to the company's stream of innovative products such as the Helix Ultrabook Convertible with its reversible docking system and the funky Yoga Tablet with a price tag under $300.

7. Dell

CEO: Michael Dell

It's been a turbulent year for Dell, given the lengthy battle to take the company private and continuing turmoil in the PC and server markets. Through it all, CEO Michael Dell and the company professed their loyalty to the channel, and solution providers said they expect the private company to deliver more innovative products and services at a more rapid rate. Michael Dell told CRN the new channel structure creates growth opportunities for channel partners.

Last week Dell shook up its management ranks, naming Bill Rodrigues as president of Dell North America and Cheryl Cook vice president of global channels.

6. Adobe

CEO: Shantanu Narayen

Adobe's popularity with the channel grew this year (it was No. 8 in 2012), despite the vendor's controversial decision earlier this year to focus on its Adobe Creative Cloud application suite and cease development of the on-premise Adobe Creative Suite applications. Creative Cloud applications now make up about 50 percent of the company's channel sales.

5. Hewlett-Packard

CEO: Meg Whitman

After several tumultuous years, HP made headway this year in getting itself back on track. By late in the year, for example, the world's biggest IT company seemed to have regained momentum in the competitive server market.

More importantly, CEO Meg Whitman renewed channel partners' faith in the company with a revamped PartnerOne program and promises of increased channel sales.

4. Intel

CEO: Brian Krzanich

In May, Intel promoted COO Brian Krzanich to the CEO post, taking over from the retiring Paul Otellini. The challenge for Krzanich, as it was for Otellini, is guiding the chip manufacturer as it wrestles with changing demands for microprocessors for PCs and mobile devices. The company's chip sales for servers and embedded applications, meanwhile, have continued to grow.

3. VMware

CEO: Pat Gelsinger

VMware remains the company to beat in the virtualization arena, despite increased competition from Microsoft, Red Hat and others. This year, the company strove to expand into new technology areas, including virtual desktop infrastructure, software-defined storage and cloud management.

2. Cisco

CEO: John Chambers

Cisco has aggressively moved into new technology areas such as cloud computing, software-defined networking, converged infrastructure and the Internet of Everything. But with each move, Cisco has put in place the programs, resources and incentives needed to bring along its thousands of loyal channel partners.

1. Microsoft

CEO: Steve Ballmer

Microsoft came out on top this year, proving there are plenty of partner opportunities in the Microsoft universe such as in cloud computing with the Windows Azure platform and Office 365 cloud applications, and upgrading customers from Windows XP. The pending acquisition of Nokia, expected to be completed next year, should create opportunities in the fast-growing mobile arena.

Microsoft named Eric Martorano, a rising star in the company's channel organization, to be general manager of U.S. channel sales. And the search is on to find a replacement for the retiring CEO Steve Ballmer.