2013 Best Companies: By Technology

Tops In Technology

For the third in a row, CRN's Best Companies To Partner With survey queried VARs to learn what IT vendors are their must-have partners. A portion of the survey looked specifically at technology criteria, including how vendors stacked up with best-of-breed technology and breadth of product line.

Which vendor scored highest for its security products? For business intelligence software? For client devices? Some of the winners might surprise you.

Office Productivity Software: Microsoft

CEO: Steve Ballmer

Microsoft is facing increased competition in this market from cloud application vendors Google and Zoho, as well as open-source alternatives such as Open Office. But channel partners ranked Microsoft far-and-away the leader on the technology front in this space.

Microsoft's Office 2013, the most recent release of the software, has been out for more than a year. And the company is gaining market traction with Office 365, the cloud version of the product. While CEO Steve Ballmer has said Microsoft is developing a version of Office for Apple's iPad, no date for its release has been disclosed.

Client Devices: Hewlett-Packard

CEO: Meg Whitman

The client devices market is crowded with big-name vendors including Apple, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung. So it's all the more impressive that Hewlett-Packard came out on top, narrowly beating Dell and handily outscoring others.

In the third quarter, HP shipped more than 13.7 million PCs, up 1.5 percent in a market that's been shrinking overall. Last month, the company teamed up with Google to launch two HP-branded Chromebooks targeting business and education markets.

Networking: Cisco

CEO: John Chambers

Cisco was judged by survey respondents to have the best networking technology, hands down, beating out a crowded market with nearly two-dozen players, including rivals Juniper Networks and Hewlett-Packard.

Cisco has aggressively moved into new technology areas such as cloud computing, software-defined networking (SDN), converged infrastructure and the Internet of Everything. Earlier this month, the company made headlines when it announced plans to acquire Insieme Networks in a move that's expected to boost the vendor's competitive position in SDN.

Applications: Microsoft

CEO: Steve Ballmer

Microsoft was judged the best company to partner with for applications, outscoring a long list of competitors ranging from such giants as Oracle and SAP to more specialized application vendors like Adobe and Autodesk.

Microsoft, of course, is well known for its Office desktop productivity applications (see slide No. 2). But the company also competes against vendors such as SAP and Salesforce.com in the enterprise ERP and CRM application markets.

Virtualization: VMware

CEO: Pat Gelsinger

The market for virtualization technology has become increasingly competitive in the last couple of years. But partners said VMware remains the best company to partner with for virtualization technology, beating a long list of competitors including Microsoft, Red Hat and Cisco.

This year, VMware continued expanding beyond its core server virtualization space into such areas as network virtualization with its much-touted NSX product, software-defined storage with VMware Virtual SAN, cloud infrastructure-as-a-service with vCloud Hybrid Service and virtual desktop technology.

Data Center: Hewlett-Packard

CEO: Meg Whitman

Hewlett-Packard was up against some heavy-hitters in this category, including IBM, Oracle and Dell. And yet solution providers scored it the best company to partner with for data center technologies.

HP has been making waves this year with its Moonshot servers, which the vendor said mark a radical departure in how servers are architected. And the company demonstrated its seriousness to lead the converged infrastructure market with leading-edge technologies like its new OneView converged infrastructure management system.

Components: Intel

CEO: Brian Krzanich

Intel has been under competitive pressure this year from rival chip makers, particularly in the realm of components for mobile devices and smartphones. But partners chose Intel as the best company to partner with in components, giving the microprocessor giant higher scores than AMD and Nvidia

This year, Intel launched its 64-bit Atom C200 line of processors the company said offered a six-fold increase in energy efficiency and seven times the performance compared to earlier generation processors. Also new was an update to the Xeon family of microprocessors with higher performance and improved energy efficiency for cloud, database and supercomputing workloads.

Business Intelligence: Microsoft

CEO: Steve Ballmer

Business intelligence has been one of the hottest technology areas in recent years. While the market includes such heavyweights as IBM (which owns Cognos), SAP (which acquired Business Objects) and Oracle, solution providers gave Microsoft the highest grades in this fast-growing technology category.

Perhaps the biggest news from Microsoft this year on the business analytics front was the launch of Power BI, a suite of self-service business intelligence and data mining tools that work with the vendor's Office 365 cloud applications. That product combines elements of the vendor's Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query and Power Maps products into one package for cloud and mobile computing.

Storage: Hewlett-Packard

CEO: Meg Whitman

This is another market crowded with some three-dozen vendors, including such channel stalwarts as Cisco, Dell, EMC, IBM and NetApp. But partners gave Hewlett-Packard the highest scores in this technology category.

HP has been building momentum with the 3PAR storage line it acquired in 2010. In June, HP unveiled a flash-optimized 3PAR storage array at the vendor's HP Discover 2013 conference. The company also launched a virtual version of the HP StoreOnce deduplication appliance.

Earlier in the year, HP expanded its push into the SMB storage market with updates to the MSA midrange storage array and HP StoreEasy NAS appliance lines.

Security: Cisco

CEO: John Chambers

This is another IT area with more than 30 vendors, some of them big names in security such as Kaspersky Labs, McAfee and Symantec. But solution providers gave the highest grades in this category to Cisco.

Cisco offers a broad line of products for network and data center security, compliance, access control, and security technologies developed around Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure.

In July, Cisco disclosed a deal to buy Sourcefire, a developer of intrusion detection and prevention systems, for $2.7 billion. Cisco said the acquisition, which it completed in October, significantly expanded its portfolio of threat protection products.

Cloud Computing: Microsoft

CEO: Steve Ballmer

The cloud computing arena includes such industry heavyweights as Amazon Web Services and Google, telecom service providers like Verizon and Terremark, and IT stalwarts such as Hewlett-Packard and CA Technologies. But solution providers gave the highest scores in this technology category to Microsoft.

Microsoft is working to evolve from a software company into a devices and services supplier. And its cloud offerings are a big part of that, including its Windows Azure cloud platform, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online cloud applications, and Windows Intune cloud management software.

Last month, Microsoft unveiled a series of updates to its Windows Azure public cloud, including new data backup and recovery services and expanded cloud development tools.