Best Of The Best: 2015 Channel Champions

All Hail The Champions

Solution providers and vendors gathered in Dallas recently for XChange Solution Provider 2015, hosted by CRN publisher The Channel Company. XChange was the venue for CRN's 25th annual Channel Champions awards. The winning vendors were chosen according to the scores provided by solution providers across a wide range of technologies, based on criteria crucial to a successful partnership. Here are the victors in each technology category.



When it comes to backup and recovery software, EMC keeps stepping up its game. For the second year in a row, the stor­age giant came out on top in the Channel Champions' Backup & Recovery Software category with an overall score of 73.5. Symantec, which had been on top in 2013 and fell to fourth last year, moved back up to second, coming in with an overall score of 73.3. IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Dell rounded out the competition with overall scores of 73.1, 71.4, 71.3 and 69.1, respectively.



Under new management since early 2014 behind CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has been transforming itself into a provider of productivity and platform technology for the new mobile-first and cloud-first world, Nadella has said. Microsoft has led the Business Analystics category in recent years and 2015 was no different, taking the top honors with an overall score of 77.0. Oracle came in 1 point below Microsoft in its overall score at 76.0, while IBM was slightly behind with an overall Channel Champions ranking of 75.2.



Symantec is in the process of dividing into two publicly held companies, focusing on storage management and security tech­nologies. The company has led the Client Security Software category for several years running and once again it comes out ahead of the competition, with an overall Channel Champions score of 73.7. Symantec took top scores in Technical Satisfac­tion, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction for a clean sweep of the category. Trend Micro, AVG, McAfee (Intel Security), Kaspersky Lab and Microsoft rounded out the competition with overall scores of 72.2, 71.4, 71.0, 69.8 and 69.6, respectively.


Barracuda Networks

Cloud backup and recovery services are one of the fastest-growing segments in the market, and one of the most competitive. Bar­racuda Networks took overall honors in the Cloud Backup & Recovery category this year, making a clean sweep of the Tech­nical Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories. Barracuda Networks' overall Channel Champions score of 78.4 beat out Microsoft's overall score of 77.0 and Car­bonite's 75.4 this year.


Cisco Systems

Cisco took the top spot in Collaboration, a new technology category in the Channel Champions survey this year. While the company led second-place Microsoft by just a few points in overall scores, Cisco's technology prowess was obvious with its 5-point lead in the Technical Satisfaction subcategory. That could be due to the slew of new collaboration products Cisco launched in 2014, ranging from the Project Squared mobile collaboration application, to improved Telepresence systems, to new versions of the vendor's flagship Business Edition collaboration platform.


Cisco Systems

Converged infrastructure has been one of the hottest and most competitive segments of the IT industry in recent years. That makes the Channel Champions scores in this technology category one to keep an eye on as numerous vendors jockey for position. Cisco, however, took overall honors this year with a score of 79.4, topping HP's 77.9, Dell's 68.3 and IBM's 66.9. The company also swept the Technical Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories.



Oracle competes in a number of hardware and software seg­ments of the IT industry. And the company garnered a big win in the CRM Software category this year, perhaps a reflection of its next-generation Fusion applications winning channel accep­tance. The race was close, however, with Oracle's overall Channel Champions score of 82.2 beating Microsoft's 81.8 -- only .04 of a point. Sage rounded out the competition, coming in third place with an overall score of 68.5.



IBM has been a major force in the channel for years, across many areas of hardware and software technology. The Data & Information Management technology category, meanwhile, has been a three-way battle with IBM, Oracle and Microsoft trading the lead for years. There's lots of good news for IBM here with its win this year: Not only is this the second year in a row IBM has come out on top, it did it by improving its overall Channel Champions rating by 6.2 points from 2014. IBM's overall 77.5 score topped Oracle's 75.6 and Microsoft's 74.9.



While VMware has been expanding into new areas, such as hybrid cloud computing and software-defined storage, the company hasn't taken its eye off its core business. VMware has long domi­nated the Desktop & Server Virtualization technology category of the Channel Champions survey and 2015 was no different. VMware's overall score of 76.7 topped Microsoft's 73.1, Citrix Systems' 72.8, Red Hat's 70.8 and Oracle's 65.8 for the Desktop & Server Virtualization win. VMware made a clean sweep of the category, taking the top scores in Technical Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories.



Digital signage technology is advancing by leaps and bounds across a number of industry sectors. Electronics giant Samsung has retained the top spot in the Digital Signage category of the Channel Champions survey this year, clearly a vote of confidence from the company's solution provider partners for its Samsung Smart Signage Platform TV and platform technology. Panasonic, new to the Channel Champions survey in this category, came in at No. 2 with ViewSonic and NEC taking the third and fourth spots, respectively.



Data storage and management is one of the core segments of the IT industry, and of the IT channel. Long a dominant force in the data storage space, EMC continues to lead in the Enterprise Network Storage technology category based on votes from the company's channel partners. The company won the category in a crowded field, coming in with an overall Channel Champions score of 76.7, beating IBM's 75.4, HP's 73.4, NetApp's 73.1 Dell's 70.7 and Oracle's 69.0.


Cisco Systems

It's a crowded and competitive field, but Cisco continues to dominate the Enterprise Networking Infrastructure category in the Channel Champions survey. The networking giant took home top honors again this year in the Channel Champions survey of solution providers. Cisco's overall score of 78.6 topped Juniper Networks' 76.8, HP's 75.6 and Dell's 72.7.



Flat-panel displays may not be the sexiest technology, but it remains a key product line for the channel. Samsung, one of the biggest technology companies in the world, remained in the top for the third year running in this category, with an overall score of 75.6, beating out ViewSonic (71.0) and NEC Display Solutions (67.9). Samsung also made a clean sweep of the Techni­cal Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories.



Managed services are becoming a significant part of the channel and this year's Channel Champions survey included a number of players in this space. ConnectWise in the past year has been expanding the range of its business management platform with mobile applications, business intelligence tools, and remote con­trol and chat capabilities. Kaseya, which expanded its channel partner program in 2014, took the No. 2 spot.



With workers increasingly using mobile devices for business, the need for remote monitoring and management capabilities is becoming increasingly critical for IT. And that makes it an in­creasingly important offering for solution providers and worthy of inclusion in the Channel Champions survey. Microsoft scored highest in this category, coming out more than 3 points ahead of No. 2 LabTech in overall score.



HP's product portfolio is so extensive that it's taking on the huge task of splitting itself into two companies focusing on enter­prise computing, and personal systems and printing. For HP, the midrange server space is an important product category to its partners -- and one of the most competitive. HP took home the win in the Midrange Server category with an overall Channel Champions rating of 81.0. This beat competitors IBM (78.3), Cisco (74.6), Dell (70.5) and Oracle (63.6).



Multifunction printers do just that -- perform a variety of tasks for an organization. Solution providers voting in the Channel Champions survey gave HP top scores across the Technical Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories, leading to its overall win with a score of 76.7. That score topped competitors Dell (71.8), Epson (71.8), Xerox (70.2), Oki Data (67.1) and Samsung (65.2).



Services are becoming a bigger part of solution providers' of­ferings and network connectivity is a service that's in growing demand. So for the first time, the Channel Champions survey included this key industry segment. AT&T has been aggressively expanding its channel efforts, disclosing plans in February 2014 to invest $300 million into its channel program over the years. Those investments are apparently paying off as the company outscored competitors Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable Business Class across the board and took overall honors in Network Connectivity Services.


Cisco Systems

The competitive Netwok Security Appliances technology cat­egory is also one of the more volatile in the industry, reflected in our Channel Champions rankings each year. This year Cisco came out ahead of its competitors with an overall score of 76.3. This topped the field of rivals, which came in with scores of McAfee (Intel Security) at 73.5, Barracuda Networks at 73.1, Dell/SonicWall at 71.0, HP at 70.8 and Trend Micro at 67.9. Cisco also made a clean sweep of the Technical Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories.



Microsoft has stepped up its game in the Network Security Software technology category, with a solid win over the rest of the field. Microsoft's overall score of 79.3 topped Trend Micro (75.1), Kaspersky Lab (75.0), HP (74.5) and Dell/SonicWall (71.6). Microsoft also made a clean sweep of the Technical Satis­faction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfcation subcat­egories of the Channel Champions survey.



Big data isn't just for big companies, as evidenced by the exploding market for storage systems for small and midsize businesses. And some companies are doing a better job than others in meeting that demand through the channel. Hewlett-Packard took the top spot this year with an overall Channel Champions score of 75.6 and an across-the-board win in the Technical Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories.


Cisco Systems

Cisco has topped this category for several years and 2015 was no different. The company won the Networking Hardware (SMB) field against rivals HP, Dell/SonicWall, D-Link and Belkin with an overall Channel Champions score of 77.4. This compares with HP's 75.6, Dell/SonicWall's 70.4, D-Link's 68.8 and Belkin's 67.4.



After acquiring IBM's x86 server business in 2014, Lenovo became a rising star in the hotly competitive server market. But it already has been a major player in notebooks. Lenovo for the third year running came out on top in the Notebook computer category in the Channel Champions survey. The company made a clean sweep of the Technical Satisfaction, Support Satisfaction and Financial Satisfaction subcategories and came in with an overall rating of 81.7. That topped HP's 77.5, Dell's 73.7, Asus' 73.3, Panasonic's 71.7 and Samsung's 69.0.


APC by Schneider Electric

The need for power management tools for the massive amounts of energy-hungry systems continues to grow apace each year. And this year APC by Schneider Electric regained its throne in the Power Protection & Management technology category from Eaton, last year's winner. The company took top honors in each of the Technical Satisfaction, Support Satisfac­tion and Financial Satisfaction subcategories. APC by Schnei­der Electric's overall score of 77.9 beat rivals Eaton (74.4), Emerson Network Power (72.6), Tripp Lite (69.1) and Belkin (68.0).



Intel has long been one of the forces of innovation in the industry, as evidenced by the sheer amount of wow fac­tor demonstrated at this year's CES, where the company's microprocessor technology powered autonomous drones, self-aware computers and voice-and gesture-control led sys­tems. Intel has dominated the Processor Channel Champions category for years. The chip giant scored an 88.8 in Techni­cal Satisfaction, a 74.7 in Support Satisfaction and a 75.0 in Financial Satisfaction for an overall score of 79.5.



What do solution providers think about Samsung's recent moves in the the tablet computer arena? The answer is clear as the electronics giant remains where it's been for several years -- No. 1 in partner satisfaction in the Tablet category of the Chan­nel Champions survey. Samsung's 77.4 overall score topped competitors Lenovo (76.5), Dell (75.8), Microsoft (75.2), Asus (75.1), Acer (74.5), HP (73.9) and Panasonic (72.7).



Volume servers have always been one of the most competitive technology categories of the channel. With IBM selling its x86-based server business to Lenovo last year, the Volume Server category became largely a three-way race between HP, Lenovo and Dell. HP this year retained its No. 1 spot in the Channel Champions survey with a score of 75.1, topping Lenovo's score of 74.0 and Dell's 72.9.



Xerox has been a longtime ally of the channel and, in recent years has been working with thousands of solution provider partners to help them move into managed print services and generate recurring revenue streams. In this year's Channel Champions survey, Xerox retained the top spot it has held for several years in the Workgroup Color Printer technology category. The company's 77.0 overall score was ahead of HP's 74.9, Samsung's 66.3 and Oki Data's 64.3.