Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs: Round 1 Matchup Breakdowns

The First Dance

CRN's first-ever Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs kicks off Thursday, with Round 1 pitting a handful of channel stalwarts against the top channel execs at some of the industry's hottest young companies.

Voting for the inaugural CRN Channel Madness Tournament opens with 16 matchups, featuring 32 channel executives from CRN's 2015 Most Influential Channel Chiefs list. The tournament features four technology "regions:" Cloud, Hardware, Infrastructure and Software.

Will a channel vet like Dell's Frank Vitagliano take the hardware in Hardware? Does hot startup SimpliVity have enough of a channel following to will George Hope to Round 2 in the Infrastructure region?

Here we present the definitive Round 1 breakdown of the 2015 Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs.

Infrastructure – Round 1

Bruce Klein, Cisco vs. Jim Ritchings, F5 Networks

Bruce Klein, senior vice president of Cisco's worldwide partner organization, brings 10 years of channel experience to the table in his role supporting Cisco's roughly 68,000 partners worldwide. In 2014, Cisco continued to build out its partner ecosystem, launched its Intercloud public cloud strategy, and rolled out new incentives and partner enablement tools.

Klein's opponent in Round 1 is a familiar one in Jim Ritchings, senior vice president of worldwide channels at F5. The company closed its 2014 fiscal year at $1.7 billion, up $300 million from the previous year, and according to Ritchings, the ultimate goal for F5 is to triple its channel partners in 2015.

Will F5's existing partner base provide enough support to power Ritchings past the networking giant's Klein?

Infrastructure – Round 1

Herve Tardy, Eaton vs. George Hope, SimpliVity

Hyper-converged infrastructure startup SimpliVity is getting a lot of attention these days and received a $175 million series D funding round last week. While SimpliVity might be new on the block, George Hope, its vice president of global channels, is not. Hope was previously the director of global channels at EMC's Isilon division and is leaning on that experience to drive SimpliVity's 100 percent indirect go-to-market strategy.

This isn't exactly a first rodeo for Hope's Round 1 opponent, though, as Herve Tardy, vice president, general manager at Eaton, knows a thing or two about the channel himself. With almost three decades in the channel, Tardy and Eaton have seen great success as of late with its average revenue per partner growing by 30 percent in 2014.

Infrastructure – Round 1

Bob Gault, Extreme vs. Sue Barsamian, Hewlett-Packard

Extreme Networks celebrated the holidays last December by bringing in Cisco vet Bob Gault as its new channel chief. In Gault, the high-performance networking company gets 28 years of channel experience as he aims to transform Extreme's partner program into the core area of its overall business.

Gault has a tough opponent in HP's Sue Barsamian, who was tapped in 2013 as senior vice president of worldwide indirect sales and has helped HP expand its PartnerOne program, which by all counts is going strong. In that time, the average revenue by HP channel partner has increased.

Infrastructure – Round 1

Shannon Sbar, APC by Schneider Electric vs. Edison Peres, Cisco

The second Cisco entry in the Infrastructure region, Edison Peres touts over 30 years of channel experience and has been around long enough to recognize the importance of reacting to market transitions. That's why Peres was tapped to head Cisco's new partner-focused cloud organization. While partners were fuzzy on how they would fit in the Intercloud model, Peres' appointment helped quell their concerns.

Peres' opponent, APC By Schneider Electric Vice President, Channels Shannon Sbar, has some serious experience herself driving revenue, strategy and profitability within the company's North American Channels organization. APC By Schneider Electric is expanding relationships with strategic accounts and offering more diverse benefits to larger partners, such as more customized marketing initiatives and unique support for project execution.

Hardware – Round 1

Frank Vitagliano, Dell vs. Thomas Stanley, NetApp

The channel focus at Dell has sharpened as of late. Helping drive that charge is industry veteran Frank Vitagliano, who left Juniper in 2013 to become the vice president, global partner strategy and programs, at Dell. Vitagliano has been at the forefront of some major partner wins. Dell now boasts more than 167,000 channel partners globally.

The first matchup in the Hardware region pits Vitagliano against Thomas Stanley, senior vice president of global partner sales and alliances at NetApp. Despite an increased focus on large enterprise sales, Stanley is busy maintaining NetApp's historically high channel sales focus. NetApp partners will be looking to Stanley's experience in the channel as the key to ensuring they get their share of big NetApp deals as direct reps knock on enterprise doors.

Hardware – Round 1

Maurits Tichelman, Intel vs. Mike Valentine, Sophos

Since coming to Sophos in 2013 as senior vice president of worldwide sales, Mike Valentine and his 30 years of channel experience have been key in sharpening the security vendor's focus on partners. Sophos launched a simplified partner program in North America in 2014, enabling channel partners to dramatically increase business with attractive discounts, deal registration protection, joint-lead generation and other programs.

Valentine squares off against Maurits Tichelman, the man charged with filling the shoes of longtime Intel channel chief Steve Dallman. Last year, the chip giant grew its Technology Provider program by 7 percent, as partners greatly benefited from the massive migration to get businesses off of the now-unsupported Microsoft Windows XP operating system.

Hardware – Round 1

Jos Brenkel, HP vs. Ron Gill, Ruckus

HP Senior Vice President of Printing and Personal Systems Jos Brenkel is navigating the PartnerOne waters as HP prepares to split into two Fortune 50 companies this November. HP redesigned its flagship PartnerOne program to make it simpler, more profitable and more predictable for partners. More than 70 percent of the U.S. Printing and Personal Systems revenue now flows through channel partners.

Brenkel goes up against Ron Gill, vice president, Americas, enterprise sales, and his 30 years of experience leading sales organizations in both the wired and wireless network solutions space. Ruckus is busy winning channel favor by adding a new top tier in its Ruckus Big Dog channel program and adding CAMs to increase partner support. The Ruckus Big Dog U.S. partner base grew by 25-plus percent in 2014.

Hardware – Round 1

Cheryl Cook, Dell vs. Gregg Ambulos, EMC

This matchup in the Hardware region pits channel chiefs at two big-name vendors against each other -- Dell's Cheryl Cook and EMC's Gregg Ambulos. Last year, Ambulos, senior vice president of global channel sales, took the wraps off a brand-new partner program to replace its 10-year-old Velocity channel program. By late 2014, EMC partners had brought in more than 6,500 new accounts. The number of EMC partners globally grew 10 percent.

2014 was also a busy year for Cook, vice president of global channel alliances at Dell. Following Dell's successful bid to go private, Cook hit the stage at Dell World 2014 to pledge $125 million in partner incentives for 2015. Dell said its channel revenue now represents more than 40 percent of its overall sales.

Cloud – Round 1

Brooks McCorcle, AT&T vs. Frank Rauch, VMware

Round 1 in the Cloud region features AT&T's Brooks McCorcle duking it out with VMware's Frank Rauch.

Last year, McCorcle, president of AT&T partner solutions, unveiled a three-year plan to invest $300 million into AT&T's Partner Exchange channel program. Since then, the number of partners in the AT&T Partner Exchange reseller program has doubled to more than 200 regional and national solution providers.

Rauch, vice president of VMware's Americas partner organization, brings 13 years of channel experience to his Round 1 matchup. Rauch hit the ground running at VMware after leaving HP in 2012, with the software vendor growing partner-led sales by helping existing partners broaden their portfolios and actively acquiring new partners. VMware also has been transitioning its partner base to recurring revenue.

Cloud – Round 1

Terry Wise, Amazon vs. Justin Moore, Axcient

Terry Wise, vice president of worldwide partner ecosystem at Amazon Web Services, is charged with dictating how the cloud giant works with the channel. The results, thus far, have been pretty impressive. AWS' APN program has grown 75-plus percent in the past year and includes thousands of consulting, systems integrator and ISV partners. AWS plans to more than double investments in partners this year.

Justin Moore is no easy Round 1 opponent, however, as Axcient has been doing some innovative things when it comes to compensating partners in the cloud space. Axcient recently announced its plans to roll out a new program that CEO Moore said will compensate channel partners up front for the sale of its services rather than force them to wait for their monthly recurring revenue checks.

Cloud – Round 1

Craig West, NetSuite vs. Adam Famularo, Verizon

Craig West, vice president of channel sales at NetSuite, brings 22 years of channel experience to this Round 1 matchup. Since taking over the channel helm at NetSuite, West has seen the number of VARs and systems integrators building NetSuite Cloud ERP practices grow to 300-plus worldwide, driving 40 percent of the company's new sales.

West needs those kind of stats if he's going to get past Adam Famularo, vice president of global channels at Verizon. Solution providers cheered the arrival of Famularo, a 16-year channel veteran previously at CA, as a positive sign for Verizon's plans to expand its channel footprint. The company saw some success in 2014, growing its partner base by more than 100 new partners in 2014.

Cloud – Round 1

Craig Schlagbaum, Comcast vs. Dave O'Callaghan, VMware

The cloud bracket rounds out with yet another matchup of channel vets with Comcast's Craig Schlagbaum squaring off against VMware's Dave O'Callaghan. Schlagbaum touts 25 years of channel experience while O'Callaghan has 31 under his belt.

Schlagbaum, vice president of indirect channels, saw the number of partners producing new sales revenue on a monthly basis increase significantly in 2014. This is a positive sign for Schlagbaum's efforts to leverage distribution, such as its partnership with Synnex, to increase Comcast's reach in the IT channel.

After years in various Cisco channel roles, O'Callaghan joined VMware in 2013 as senior vice president of its global partner organization. O'Callaghan is focused on moving VMware forward in the software-defined data center, hybrid cloud and converged infrastructure with big investments in the VMware Partner Network.

Software – Round 1

Marc Dupaquier, IBM vs. Mark Enzweiler, Red Hat

Marc Dupaquier and his 20 years of experience earned him the role of general manager of global business partners at IBM in the beginning of 2014. IBM's channel business is growing faster than IBM overall, and now with a new One Channel Team organization in place for 2015, the goal is to grow channel revenue even faster, said Dupaquier.

This Round 1 matchup pits Dupaquier against Mark Enzweiler, senior vice president, global channel sales at Red Hat. Enzweiler has some serious channel chops himself, boosting over 30 years of experience, with stints at Lenovo and IBM before coming to Red Hat in 2008. As Red Hat aims to move beyond the data center and into the Internet of Things, the company won channel favor last year by picking up subscription renewal chores to allow partners to focus on their customers.

Software – Round 1

Steve Pataky, FireEye vs. Phil Sorgen, Microsoft

The second matchup in the Software region features a chief from a young company getting a ton of attention squaring off against a chief from an industry staple. Steve Pataky jumped ship from Juniper in 2013 to become vice president of worldwide channels and alliances at network security vendor FireEye. Amidst a high- profile IPO, Pataky quickly moved to recruit more FireEye partners. FireEye's partner ecosystem doubled in 2014, reaching 1,000 partners worldwide.

Sorgen took over as corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group in 2013 with the goal of making it easier for Microsoft partners to do business in social, mobility, big data and cloud. The Microsoft Partner Network continues to grow and now boasts nearly 250,000 partners authorized to sell Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud services.

Software – Round 1

Tom Flink, Citrix vs. Kevin Gilroy, SAP

Tom Flink, vice president of channels and market development at Citrix, brings 27 years of channel experience to this matchup. In January, Flink revealed major changes to Citrix's partner program, focused around introducing new specialties and restructuring its U.S. sales organization, including releasing back to its channel about half of its 1,000 direct accounts. The changes were well received by partners attending this year's Citrix Summit in Las Vegas.

Kevin Gilroy is as seasoned as they come in the channel, bringing nearly 25 years of experience at HP and several years in distribution with him when he joined SAP in 2010. With Gilroy as channel chief, SAP has doubled the number of partners in its Global VAR Program. In 2014, the company expanded its channel operations specifically related to cloud computing, growing indirect cloud revenue through broader partner coverage.

Software – Round 1

Jenni Flinders, Microsoft vs. Ron Myers, Palo Alto Networks

The final matchup in the Software region pits another one of Redmond's finest against a security darling, this time featuring Microsoft's Jenni Flinders squaring off against Palo Alto's Ron Myers.

Leveraging 25 years in the channel, Flinders, vice president, U.S. SMS&P, U.S. partner business, is leading Microsoft's tens of thousands of U.S. partners into mobility, cloud, social enterprise and big data, while recruiting new partners that are already mobile- and cloud-capable.

Myers hangs his channel hat on 17 years of experience. Since he left Polycom in late 2013 to become vice president, worldwide channels at Palo Alto, Myers has been working diligently to shape programs around distribution and build business for partners. Palo Alto has recruited channel and distribution leaders to more effectively manage the needs of distribution and partner relationships.