2014 Annual Report Card: 22 Category Winners

Solution Providers Rate Their Vendor Partners

Every year CRN's Annual Report Card recognizes the achievements of IT vendors. This year there were 22 product categories, and solution providers graded their IT vendors in a CRN survey based on 18 points in three subcategories: product innovation, support and partnership. Take a look and see which vendors won good grades from solution providers -- and which ones have some work to do.

Backup & Recovery Software: EMC

CEO: Joe Tucci

EMC has dominated this category in recent years and this year was no different. The vendor swept all three criteria (product innovation, support and partnership) and finished with an overall score of 83.3, nearly 10 full points ahead of IBM and more than 17 points ahead of Symantec.

Business Analytics: Microsoft

CEO: Satya Nadella

Microsoft improved its overall score in this product category to 78.4 (up more than 11 points from last year) to beat IBM (last year's winner) and Oracle. While Microsoft improved its product innovation score to 86.2 (up almost three points), it made big gains in support (up almost 10 points to 74.2) and partnership (up more than 7 points to 74.6)

But this wasn't a runaway. IBM (overall score 76.3) outscored Microsoft in several specific criteria, including richness of product features/functionality, marketing support, communication, training and revenue and profit potential.

Client Security Software (Firewall, Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus): Sophos

CEO: Kris Hagerman

Sophos is this year's winner in client security software, a product category where Kaspersky Lab has come out on top the last two years. Sophos won with an overall score of 86.7 -- up from 83.8 last year -- over Kaspersky's 84.1. Competitors McAfee (76.8), Trend Micro (76.3) and Symantec (67.6) have some catching up to do.

Sophos garnered the highest scores for product innovation (91.6), support (83.4) and partnership (84.8). Kaspersky Lab did score higher in a few specific criteria, including marketability, marketing support, revenue and profit potential and ease of doing business.

Collaboration Software: Microsoft

CEO: Satya Nadella

Microsoft continued to dominate in collaboration software, a product category it's won for several years running. Perhaps more significant, Microsoft's overall score this year was 76.3, a marked improvement from last year's 67.7 and higher than its 71.4 score in 2012. This year's gain resulted from higher scores in product innovation (85.2 versus 74.7 last year), support (69.3 versus 61.8) and partnership (73.6 versus 65.8).

Microsoft decisively beat competitors IBM (overall score 67.0), although IBM scored better in revenue and profit potential. Citrix was third with an overall score of 64.3.

Converged Infrastructure: Dell

CEO: Michael Dell

Converged infrastructure is one of the hottest segments of the IT industry right now and, according to this year's Annual Report Card Scores, Dell is doing a better job with partners in this critical technology category. Dell scored 85.0 overall, an impressive gain from its 72.7 score last year (the first year this product category was included in the ARC survey).

Dell beat Cisco (overall score 79.7), last year's winner, as well as Hewlett-Packard (81.8) and IBM (58.6). Dell also had the highest scores in product innovation (93.1), support (80.3) and partnership (81.4). But HP did take top scores in a few specific criteria, including product technical innovation and pre-/post-sales support. Partners gave Cisco higher scores for managing channel conflict and ease of doing business.

Data & Information Management: Microsoft

CEO: Satya Nadella

This product category has been a seesaw battle between Microsoft, IBM and Oracle for years. Microsoft was on top this year with an overall score of 73.8, defeating IBM (overall score 71.3) and last year's winner Oracle (overall score of 69.2 this year).

Microsoft's overall score was up from 67.3 last year when it came in second. The company outscored its rivals in support (67.0) and partnership (69.4). But IBM narrowly won in product innovation (84.9 to Microsoft's 84.6). Oracle was outscored by Microsoft and/or IBM in every ARC criteria this year.

Desktop & Server Virtualization: Microsoft

CEO: Satya Nadella

Microsoft was the winner of this crucial technology category this year, beating VMware with an overall score of 75.7 to VMware's 74.2. That marked a significant upset over VMware, which has dominated the virtualization arena and was last year's winner. Citrix was third with an overall score of 71.6.

This year the best VMware could do for an overall score was 74.2. But while Microsoft scored highest in support (69.6) and partnership (74.0), VMware did outscore Microsoft in product innovation (88.4 to Microsoft's 82.9.

Enterprise Network Storage: EMC

CEO: Joe Tucci

EMC has dominated this product category for several years and this year was no exception. It's overall score of 84.0 easily beat competitors IBM (78.4), NetApp (75.5) and Dell (71.4).

But is EMC slipping? Its overall score was down from 85.2 last year, as were its scores for product innovation (93.3 this year versus 94.5 last year) and partnership (79.4 versus 81.9 last year). The vendor did improve its support score to 79.4 from last year's 78.6. IBM, however, outscored EMC this year for solution provider program (81.4 versus 80.5), perhaps a reflection of the fact that EMC's partner program is undergoing a significant overhaul.

Enterprise Networking Infrastructure: Cisco

CEO: John Chambers

Cisco has dominated this product category for years and 2014 was no exception. The vendor won with an overall score of 84.1, soundly beating Juniper Networks (74.6) and Dell (68.8). Last year those scores were much closer and Juniper even beat Cisco for partnership.

This year Cisco improved its scores for product innovation (93.9), support (78.2) and partnership (80.0). The only that kept this from being a complete sweep was the fact that Juniper managed a tie with Cisco (both at 84.2) for ease of doing business.

Flat Panel Displays: ViewSonic

CEO: James Chu

ViewSonic ran away with this product category this year, defeating NEC with an overall score of 83.0 to 79.5. ViewSonic outscored the competition with overall scores of 87.6 for product innovation, 75.4 for support and 84.3 for partnership.

ViewSonic came in third the last two years behind Samsung (which did not participate this year) and NEC.

Managed Services Software: N-Able Technologies

General Manager: JP Jauvin

Managed services are a growing part of many solution providers' offerings, which is why the managed services software product category was added to the Annual Report Card survey this year.

N-Able was this year's winner with an overall score of 74.6, edging out Connectwise, Labtech and Kaseya. N-Able also scored highest in product innovation (82.2), support (67.7) and partnership (72.1.) But Connectwise outscored the competition in partner education and enablement and communication, while Labtech garnered top scores for richness of product features/functionality and for services opportunity.

Multifunction Printers: Xerox

CEO: Ursula Burns

Xerox has come out on top in this product category for the last couple of years. But while the competition has been stiffer in past years (Hewlett-Packard scored highest in product innovation last year, for example), Xerox made a clean sweep this year.

Xerox scored 79.8 overall, beating HP (73.0), Oki Data (65.4) and Dell (60.1). Xerox racked up scores of 84.4 in product innovation, 75.9 in support and 78.7 in partnership.

Network Security Appliances: Sophos

CEO: Kris Hagerman

Sophos, which came in third in this product category last year (but did get the top score for product innovation) and fourth in 2012, has been steadily improving its scores. It paid off this year when the company won with an overall score of 88.8, beating a raft of competitors including Fortinet (last year's winner), Cisco, McAfee, Dell, Trend Micro and Juniper.

Sophos scored 95.8 for product innovation, up from 91.0 last year. And its 84.8 score for support represented a gain of more than six points while its 85.7 partnership score was up more than two points.

Network Security Software: Kaspersky Lab

CEO: Eugene Kaspersky

Kaspersky Lab is the winner of this product category for the second year in a row, although it did so with lower scores than last year. The vendor's overall score of 84.9 was good enough to beat rivals Trend Micro (81.2), Dell (80.6) and RSA (73.4).

Kaspersky's overall score was down from 88.5 last year. This year's 89.6 score for product innovation was down from 92.9 last year (and tied with Dell this year). And its scores for support (81.5) and partnership (83.3) were down two and five points, respectively.

Network Storage (SMB): EMC

CEO: Joe Tucci

EMC, which had won this product category in earlier years, lost out to Buffalo Technology last year. EMC regained the top spot this year with an overall score of 88.1, defeating D-Link (85.9), Buffalo Technology (80.4) and Dell (71.7).

EMC won in the broad criteria categories: 94.8 in product innovation, 86.0 in support and 83.9 in partnership. But to D-Link's credit, that company outscored EMC in a number of specific criteria including pre- and post-sales support, communication, managing channel conflict, cloud program and opportunities, and ease of doing business.

Networking Hardware SMB: Ruckus Wireless

CEO: Selina Lo

Ruckus Wireless caught everyone's attention in 2012 when it came in second to Cisco by 0.1 points, then blew past the networking giant last year to take the top spot. This year Ruckus retained the No. 1 spot with an overall score of 81.8, less than a full point ahead of Cisco's 81.1 overall score. They were followed by D-Link (79.8), Emerson Network Power (75.6) and Dell (69.8).

And while Ruckus won for product innovation (scoring 90.1) and support (78.3), Cisco outscored Ruckus in partnership (77.6 to 77.2), as well as in some specific product innovation and support criteria (including services opportunity, marketing support and training). Expect this to remain a closely fought battle for a while.

Notebooks: Hewlett-Packard

CEO: Meg Whitman

Here's another close race. Hewlett-Packard, which won this product category in 2012 and lost it to Lenovo last year, was back on top with an overall score of 80.7 (to Lenovo's 79.9). Panasonic and Dell were third and fourth with overall scores of 70.9 and 70.7, respectively.

While HP received the top scores for product innovation (87.5) and support (74.7), Lenovo wasn't far behind in many of the criteria. And Lenovo outscored HP in partnership criteria by the tiniest of margins, 79.2 to 79.1. Here's another close race to keep an eye on.

Processors: Intel

CEO: Brian Krzanich

Intel received an overall score of 81.9 in this year's ARC survey. The processor manufacturer recorded a score of 86.2 for product innovation -- including an astounding 102.8 score for product quality and reliability -- as well as more down-to-Earth scores of 77.9 for support and 81.2 for partnership.

Tablets: Lenovo

CEO: Yang Yuanqing

Just as in notebooks, this product category is a tight race between Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. Only here Lenovo came out on top with an overall score of 76.7 to HP's 75.6. Dell was left in the dust with its overall score of 62.1.

Lenovo won for product innovation (82.7 to HP's 80.2) and in partnership (76.0 to 73.9). But HP won in support where it outscored Lenovo 72.6 to 70.7.

Unified Communications: Cisco

CEO: John Chambers

Cisco racked up an overall score of 82.0 in this product category. Channel partners gave the company scores of 91.6 for product innovation, 76.1 in support and 77.9 for partnership.

Volume Servers: Hewlett-Packard

CEO: Meg Whitman

Hewlett-Packard topped the scoring in this highly competitive product category, as it did in 2012 before losing the top spot to Dell last year. This year HP's overall score was 77.5 (up from last year's 70.9), ahead of Lenovo's 76.1, IBM's 74.0 and Dell's 72.4. Those scores were all up from last year, an indication of how much all four have stepped up their competitive game in this dog-eat-dog market.

This year HP was the clear winner in product innovation with its 88.3 score. But Lenovo narrowly beat HP in support (71.5 to 70.7) and in partnership (73.7 to 73.0). With Lenovo set to acquire IBM's x86 server business, expect the HP-Lenovo battle to only get hotter.

Workgroup Color Printers: Xerox

CEO: Ursula Burns

Xerox has ruled this product category for years and 2014 is no exception. The company scored 78.6 for its overall score, easily defeating Hewlett-Packard (70.0), Oki Data (70.0) and Dell (61.6).

Xerox, in fact, swept the scoring for all criteria in this year's survey, getting grades of 84.9 for product innovation, 72.8 for support and 77.3 for partnership. HP last year proved stiffer competition, scoring-wise, and even outscored Xerox in product innovation.