The Top 25 Innovators Of 2015

The Innovators

Technology is changing at a breakneck pace, and it isn't easy to find an innovative leader who can not only help a company be ahead of the game today but also position it for the many transformations to come. This year's list of top channel innovators is an inspirational collection of executives from vendors and solution providers alike who pioneered new technology and dove business transformations that have set their companies ahead of the pack.

Take a look at this year's top 25 innovative IT movers and shakers.

Be sure to visit the complete list of CRN's Top 100 Executives Of 2015.

25. Arnie Bellini



Touting a theme of "reinvention," ConnectWise has been making big strides to help position the IT management company to stay ahead of a rapidly changing MSP market. Under the leadership of CEO Arnie Bellini, ConnectWise has been investing big over the past year in building a stronger user experience, though both R&D and key acquisitions.

24. Kelly Ireland


CB Technologies

One of the top entrepreneurs in the IT business, Kelly Ireland is a role model for next-generation business leaders. She has built CB Technologies -- the recipient of HP’s Solution Partner of the Year Cloud award -- into one of the most innovative and respected solution providers in the country. CB Technologies is driving business transformation around cloud, infrastructure management, big data and high-performance computing for some of the largest and most admired companies in the world. Among CB Technologies’ breakthroughs: HPC as a service for top oil/gas companies and SaaS ’connected vehicle’ tracking/information management for utility companies.

23. Arun Agarwal

Co-Founder, CEO


Infinio helps optimize virtualized data centers with content-based storage acceleration technology. Led by CEO and co-founder Arun Agarwal, the company has been driving its innovative technology full-force into the channel with the launch of its formal partner program and the addition of top Dell channel exec Bob Skelley in April.

22. Chris Ward



Chris Ward is GreenPages Transformation Services Group's secret weapon. One of the top cloud/virtualization technology strategists in the country, Ward is leading the charge to use the wide array of transformational technologies including NSX, VMware vRealize Automation and hyper-converged infrastructure to provide companies with next-generation private clouds. A fearless advocate for customers, Ward digs deeper and deeper into the latest and greatest technology to make sure customers are get the biggest transformational bang for their buck. If you hit a technology wall, he's your man.

21. Michael Leeper


Denali Advanced Integration

A onetime technology titan for Columbia Sportswear, Michael Leeper is leading the charge on a portfolio of next-generation IT services from Denali, including business transformation consulting and software-defined data center offerings. Combine his real-world experience running an IT operation for an industry leader with his technology know-how – including deep VMware and EMC expertise – and you have an unbeatable force. Credit him for making sure Denali remains a digital business transformation thought leader and services provider.

20. Paul Lidsky



CEO Paul Lidsky has been spearheading a major shift at Datalink, accelerating the solution provider's push into consulting, a move that has won the company both new clients and additional revenue streams. Between that and a growing portfolio with Cisco, Datalink hopes to grow two to three times faster than the channel overall.

19. James Comfort

General Manager, Cloud Services


While IBM has been pushing OpenStack for a while, the company has ramped up that approach in recent months, including its June acquisition of Blue Box. That push, plus a big investment by Big Blue into its Watson technology, has helped make IBM an innovator when it comes to the cloud under the leadership of James Comfort.

18. Godfrey Sullivan

Chairman, President, CEO


Godfrey Sullivan is at the head of one of the most innovative big data companies on the market. With a focus on what it calls "operational intelligence," Splunk has taken the market by storm with its cloud-based software to search, monitor and analyze machine-generated data as well as a growing set of security capabilities.

17. Sam Haffar


Computex Technology Solutions

Sam Haffar has built out a world-class enterprise engineering team to navigate the treacherous technology landscape. That commitment to investing in top technical talent has made Computex one of the most trusted names in IT. "We continue to hire the brightest minds to help grow our business," says Haffar.

16. Kevin Murai



Committed to growing market share for Synnex, one of the channel's largest distributors, CEO Kevin Murai has spearheaded a strategy focusing on value-added services and capabilities, rather than cutting prices. Recently, that has meant big investments from the distributor in mobility and cloud solutions and spearheading deeper relationships with big-name vendors like Dell and Lenovo.

15. C.J. Bruno

Vice President, Americas General Manager


Sales and marketing maven C.J. Bruno is leading the Intel innovation charge in the Americas with a partner commitment that is second to none. His leadership is driving a corporate client device refresh the likes of which the channel has never seen before. Look for his marketing muscle to help propel a Skylake Windows 10 sales explosion.

14. Urs Holzle

Senior Vice President, Technical Infrastructure


With some of the top engineers in the world, it can be hard to stand out as an innovator at Google. However, Urs Holzle has done just that, redefining how the company approaches data centers with containerization and automation. However, at this year's Interop, Holzle said these innovations are "just a start" for the company.

13. Justin Moore



After building a company with a leading cloud-based Recovery-as-a-Service, Justin Moore has taken his innovative skills toward the channel program, launching a fresh take on a recurring revenue program for Axcient partners this year. The SaaS:FLO program compensates partners up front, instead of making them wait for monthly recurring revenue checks.

12. Ratmir Timashev

President, CEO


As backup, disaster recovery and virtualization management software company Veeam marches toward a $1 billion valuation, President and CEO Ratmir Timashev is leading the charge. Veeam is backing up its innovative technologies with a 100 percent commitment to the channel to help partners capitalize on the move to the cloud.

11. Scott Guthrie

Executive Vice President


Partners cheered the move last March by Microsoft to have Scott Guthrie lead the company's Cloud and Enterprise unit, replacing now-CEO Satya Nadella. A 17-year veteran, Guthrie has proved instrumental in his time at Microsoft, most recently leading the company's push forward with its Azure organization, accelerating its growth and innovation.

10. Werner Vogels



As CTO, Werner Vogels is responsible for driving innovation at Amazon -- no easy task. Vogels has proven himself in that role time and time again, acting as the driving force behind architecting public cloud leader Amazon Web Services, a business that has now grown to well more than $1 billion.

9. Tom Reilly



Tom Reilly is leading the charge at Cloudera to establish the data analytics software vendor once and for all at the top of the pack for Hadoop-related software and services. As big data continues to grow in the market, Reilly is propelling the estimated $5 billion company forward, landing key executive additions from Google and top vendor partnerships.

8. Martin Fink

Executive Vice President, CTO


One of the great technology visionaries in the business, Martin Fink is a product of HP's cultural commitment to innovation that has produced one groundbreaking technology breakthrough after another. His ability to chart the next wave of computing may be Hewlett Packard Enterprise's biggest competitive advantage as it seeks to put its innovation engine into overdrive.

7. Scott Arnold



With a new channel program and a technology that is beginning to roll out with partner sales for Citrix VDI and VMware, Scott Arnold is leading AppSense to tremendous momentum for its virtualized desktop personalization and management offerings. The solution helps partners revolutionize their VDI deployments with lower operating expenses and higher customer satisfaction.

6. Ben Golub



Docker has revolutionized the way many companies run their applications, with its leading open-source container technology. This year, Ben Golub has his sights set on expanding its customer base, rolling out new support and technology initiatives that will take the company big steps closer to becoming ubiquitous in the enterprise.

5. Chuck Hollis

Chief Strategist, Storage and Availability Business


A well-known technology guru, Chuck Hollis has been key in pushing forward and evangelizing VMware's vision of a software-defined data center since joining the company in 2013. In particular, Hollis has been a vocal proponent of VMware's vSphere and hyper-converged technology offerings, defending the technology vigorously against competitors in the market.

4. Marius Haas

COO, President


There is no one that has made as much progress in building out a robust enterprise strategy and channel over the last several years than Marius Haas. How has he done it? By creating an enterprise dream team that is taking the market by storm including former Cisco vice president Paul Perez as CTO. Look for Haas – who is moving fast – to up the enterprise ante this year and next driving high-value, innovative enterprise solutions that put the heat on both Cisco and HP.

3. Doron Kempel



Doron Kempel has distinguished himself as a vocal evangelist of hyper-converged infrastructure and how the innovative technology can drive IT simplicity and easy management for both partners and clients. With Kempel at the helm, SimpliVity has continued to drive strong demand for its OmniCube offering, expanding industry partnerships and growing its partner reach.

2. Sanjay Mehrotra

Co-Founder, President, CEO


Under the leadership of Sanjay Mehrotra, SanDisk has established itself as an innovator in the flash storage market. Mehrotra has positioned the company to win over some of the biggest names in storage with key acquisitions over the past year and driving a technology that vertically integrates operation from chips to software to SSDs and PCIe solutions.

1. Dheeraj Pandey

President, CEO


Since co-founding the company in 2009, hyper-converged infrastructure company Nutanix has shot off like a rocket in the market under the leadership of President and CEO Dheeraj Pandey, going head to head with big-name vendors such as VMware. This year has been a busy one for the company, with rumors of a Cisco acquisition and questions raised from VMware on the company's customer support. Through it all, Pandey has held his ground, vigorously squashing rumors, defending his company and its partners, and even taking direct shots at the competition.

Coming from the traditional enterprise space with a background at Oracle, Pandey brings an innovative approach to leadership at Nutanix that challenges the vendor status quo and has a meticulous focus on sustainable growth. That leadership has driven the company to be the fastest-growing infrastructure company in the past decade, displacing market leaders, surpassing a $2 billion valuation and setting it on the path to an IPO. That growth isn't stopping any time soon, executives told CRN, and Nutanix is committed to continuing that momentum in 2015 and beyond.