The Top 25 Disrupters Of 2015

The Disrupters

There is no doubt that the IT industry faces disruptive pressures to change.

And disruption can come from anywhere, as CRN's list of the Top 25 Disrupters of 2015 shows. Here are the executives -- spanning a number of technology segments -- who shook up the market this year.

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

25. Jim Akerhielm



Leading the charge to make IT a disruptive competitive force that delivers game-changing competitive advantage for clients, Jim Akerhielm has put TekLinks into the cloud fast lane with the acquisition of Claris Networks. The deal has given TekLinks yet another strategic weapon as it moves to deliver ever-more-compelling IT solutions in a market moving at blinding speed.

24. David Grimes



David Grimes' mission in life appears to be to disrupt business' data center operations by replacing them with a full range of services, including cloud, hosting and application services, via NaviSite, a Time Warner Cable company.

23. David Wright

Founder, CEO


David Wright has the power to rattle the flash storage array industry but hasn't pressed the "start" button yet. The SolidFire Element X software from his company, SolidFire, can turn an industry-standard server into an all-flash storage array. While the software is qualified with Dell and Cisco servers, mass release has not yet happened.

22. Moshe Yanai

Founder, CEO


Moshe Yanai has plenty of experience disrupting storage starting with his development in the 1980s of EMC's Symmetrix line. So when his latest venture, Infinidat, came out of stealth this year with $230 million in funding, it's a good bet his new unified block, file, object and mainframe storage platform will be disruptive.

21. Biswas Sanjit and John Bicket



Biswas Sanjit and John Bicket just couldn't wait to try to disrupt the IT business. Less than three years after selling Meraki to Cisco for $1.2 billion, and less than one year after leaving Cisco, the two have already come out of stealth with Samsara, a developer of Internet of Things technology.

20. Bipul Sinha

Co-Founder, CEO


Bipul Sinha is looking to disrupt the way customers protect data with startup Rubrik. Rubrik, which in a few months since coming out of stealth disclosed $41 million in funding and its first appliance, claims to offer the first solution that scales to any size but installs in 15 minutes.

19. Luis Benavides

Founder, CEO

Day1 Solutions

Luis Benavides in the past eight months has placed four huge bets on the power of the cloud. His company, Amazon Web Services channel partner Day1 Solutions, has since November acquired four fellow solution providers, including a government VAR, a big data consultant, an MSP and a cloud services business.

18. Robb Allen

Founder, CEO


Robb Allen's Datapipe, a global MSP, knows that Amazon Web Services is a key disrupter of traditional IT, and so has hitched his company to the AWS star as its largest channel partner. He also knows to not place his bets on a single cloud, and so has recently signed on with Microsoft Azure.

17. Anders Gustafsson


Zebra Technologies

Anders Gustafsson made a huge bet on the next wave of industry disruption with last year's acquisition of Motorola Solutions' enterprise business. That acquisition overnight gave the provider of mobile scanners, barcode readers and printers the glue to potentially become one of the key drivers of the Internet of Things.

16. Mont Phelps

President, CEO


Disrupting telecom giants is just another day on the job for Mont Phelps. Under his leadership, NWN has become one of the top cloud solution providers in the country with its NCloud hosted VoIP service giving fits to telecom behemoths. The Cisco powered service -- with more than 80,000 connected devices -- has three consecutive years of 100 percent sales growth.

15. Mike DeCesare


ForeScout Technologies

Mike DeCesare left Intel Security this year to take over ForeScout Technologies and make a run at disrupting the biggest disrupter of IT: cyberattacks. The company's CounterACT agentless technology automatically finds and uses company policies to non-disruptively manage security on PCs and mobile devices, including physical and virtual devices.

14. Rehan Jalil

President, CEO


Elastica and Rehan Jalil want to upend the whole idea of cloud security by building compliance and regulatory requirements into cloud-based services. The company's CloudSOC platform enables transaction-level security for cloud apps and services with a combination of data science, machine learning, real-time traffic processing, and visualization.

13. Stefan Dyckerhoff


Skyport Systems

It is not often someone can shake up the ubiquitous server business, but startup Skyport Systems is doing just that. Stefan Dyckerhoff and his team of Cisco and Juniper veterans are developing enterprise servers with advanced security features built into the architecture rather than forcing midmarket and small customers to rely on bolt-on security options.

12. Shahin Pirooz



Shahin Pirooz wants to disrupt the cloud business with RiverMeadow's technology for easily migrating workloads. That technology, Secure Direct Migration, automates the process of moving workloads from physical machines to cloud environments, and from one cloud to another, including AWS, VMware, Oracle, Cisco, HP Helion, and other OpenStack-based clouds.

11. Kun Luo

Co-Founder, CTO


College Park, Md.-based security startup SecurityDo's flagship security appliance, Fluency, goes beyond traditional security incident and event management technology solutions. Kun Luo has made it a tool that uses big data analysis to combat sophisticated network attacks by analyzing flow data from network devices along with information about application-level protocols, URLs, user names, and more.

10. Rich Napolitano



Software-defined networking disrupting the network business is nothing new. But disrupting the SDN business is. Rich Napolitano's Plexxi is going one step further with technology to disrupt SDN by combining it with hardware that, like the software, adapts and reconfigures itself in response to requests from applications running on them.

9. Bethany Mayer

President, CEO


When Bethany Mayer last year left her position as Hewlett-Packard's networking head, she was not done rattling the networking world, especially rivals like Cisco. Instead, at Ixia, she is now keeping the networking world on its toes with technology to test and validate virtual and physical networks.

8. John "Coz" Colgrove

Founder, CTO

Pure Storage

Pure Storage has already disrupted the storage industry by pushing the development of all-flash storage arrays to the extreme. But it's not enough. John "Coz" Colgrove now wants to disrupt his fellow flash storage array startups with a new focus not just on developing software but also on developing optimized hardware.

7. Paul Maritz



Paul Maritz and his company, Pivotal, are key to plans by storage king's EMC, Pivotal's parent company, to be a major player in both data center infrastructure and software. Maritz is focused on shaking up not only software development and big data analytics, but also on shaking up EMC's focus on storage and cloud.

6. Tom Rutledge

President, CEO

Charter Communications

Tom Rutledge badly wants to disrupt the telecommunications business of front-runner Comcast. His company, Charter Communications, is in the process of acquiring No. 1 Time Warner Cable along with Bright House Networks. Rutledge is in such a hurry that he has already launched a $15.5 billion bond to finance the deals.

5. Ken Xie

Founder, Chairman, CEO


As the networking world is quickly disrupted by the growth of wireless, security has become paramount. Ken Xie signaled Fortnet's plan to disrupt the network security business, particularly that of rivals HP and Cisco, by acquiring Meru Networks.

4. Paul Perez



Up until March, Paul Perez led Cisco's wildly successful UCS server business. But starting in April, Perez became UCS' biggest detractor by taking over the Enterprise Group CTO spot at Dell from where he has been doing his best to disrupt his former group, particularly Cisco's lack of a hyper-converged infrastructure line.

3. Jayshree Ullal

President, CEO

Arista Networks

No one wants to rattle networking industry leader Cisco more than Jayshree Ullal. A former Cisco executive until she left that company eight years ago to take over Arista, Ullal is pushing hard against her former employer, most recently with a new partnership with Cisco rival HP.

2. Nick Earle

Senior Vice President, Global Cloud, Managed Services Sales

Cisco Systems

Cisco knows it needs to fully embrace the cloud to continue growing its business, and for this its point man is Nick Earle. He leads Cisco's cloud business where he has to walk a fine line between disrupting competitors who beat it to the cloud without disrupting its own industry-leading networking business.

1. Jesse Cohn, Senior Portfolio Manager, Head, U.S. Equity Activism

Elliott Management

Jesse Cohn has done more to disrupt the IT industry than any tech executive. And the young portfolio manager's reputation for forcing companies to to make big changes is only growing following his successful bid to get Citrix Systems to enter into a "cooperation" agreement with Elliott Management. As part of the agreement, Cohn will be appointed to the Citrix board of directors, longtime CEO Mark Templeton is retiring and Citrix is now considering a sale or spinoff of some products.

Cohn has been the spear point of New York-based Elliott Management in some of the most high-profile activist campaigns in the past couple of years, including moves to take Riverbed Technologies, BMC Software and Novell private, and add new members to Juniper Networks' board of directors.

In perhaps his most public case so far, Cohn has been heavily involved in Elliott Management's move to break up the EMC Federation by forcing the storage giant to sell off a part of itself, perhaps VMware, as a way to realize increased shareholder value. And given that Elliott Management has a 2-plus-percent stake in EMC, that would be a lot of value for Cohn's firm. EMC so far has resisted, and the two have a truce for now until September.

Now, according to Bloomberg, Cohn and Elliot Management are going a step further with the creation of a multibillion-dollar buyout fund run by Cohn that would in some instances actually purchase entire companies instead of minor stakes in them.

Fear him or welcome him, but when Cohn knocks on your door, get ready for the ride of your life.