2016 Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs: Round 1 Matchup Breakdowns

Let's Dance

The second annual CRN Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs is back, pitting some of the channel's best-known executives against each other in head-to-head battles where CRN readers vote to determine the victors. Last year, after five rounds of voting and over 125,000 ballots cast, Sophos's Mike Valentine bested Verizon's Adam Famularo to take the first-ever CRN Channel Madness Tournament crown.

Both Valentine and Famularo are back, as well as many of channel stalwarts from last year's tournament, including IBM's Marc Dupaquier, Dell's Frank Vitagliano, and Amazon's Terry Wise. We also have a handful of new competitors this year, with Cisco's Wendy Bahr, Lenovo's Sammy Kinlaw, and HPE's Scott Dunsire all punching their ticket to the big dance.

Here we present the definitive Round 1 breakdown of the 2016 Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs. Voting for Round 1 begins Thursday, March 17 at 10:00 AM ET.

As part of this year's tournament CRN readers will be able to pick and submit their own CRN Channel Madness brackets. Readers will be able to submit their bracket right up until Round 1 voting starts on March 17 at 9 am ET. The five top scorers will win a limited edition Channel Madness tee shirt.

Infrastructure – Round 1

Cheryl Cook, Dell vs. Bob Gault, Extreme

Both Cheryl CooK, VP, global channels at Dell, and Bob Gault, executive VP, worldwide sales, services, channels at Extreme, are back and ready to avenge tournament disappointment from last year.

Cook returns to the Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs with her company poised to pull off the largest buyout in IT history, in Dell's proposed acquisition of EMC. Following a loss to Ruckus Wireless' Ron Gill in the second round of the 2015 tournament, Cook will look to the support of partners in this year's tournament with Dell's channel program now accounting for more than 40 percent of the company's overall revenue.

Gault failed to get out of the first round of the tournament last year, suffering a narrow loss to Hewlett-Packard's Sue Barsamian. To avoid the same fate this year, Gault will have to lean on the support of Extreme Networks more than 2,700 global partners.

Infrastructure – Round 1

George Hope, SimpliVity vs. Scott Dunsire, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Things get interesting quickly in the Infrastructure region with HPE's VP, GM, Americas Channels, OEM, Inside Sales, Scott Dunsire, squaring off with SimpliVity's VP, Global Channels, George Hope. It's a fitting matchup, with HPE earlier this month announcing plans to get into the hyper-converged game, a market currently dominated by startups SimpliVity and Nutanix.

Dunsire and HPE are making their first appearance in Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs with the HP split in two Fortune 50 companies now complete. During 2015, Dunsire's team was responsible for creating a cohesive co-selling program that was highly-favorable with both HP and HPE and by partners.

Hope is making his second appearance in the tournament. Despite a quick exit last year at the hands of Eaton's Herve Tardy, Hope should see a nice boost in support this year with SimpliVity's partner community recently seeing a rapid expansion to over 700 partners in 60 countries.

Infrastructure – Round 1

Wendy Bahr, Cisco vs. Chris Morgan, Nutanix

Speaking of hyper-converged, Nutanix VP, Americas Channel, Distribution Chris Morgan is making his debut, facing off against another tournament rookie, Cisco SVP, Global Partner Organization Wendy Bahr.

There is a lot of hype surrounding the hyper-converged market these days and Morgan will need the buzz around Nutanix to get him out of the first round. The startup is a building a partner community that is narrow in numbers, but is deep in engagement, which will be the key for Morgan to drum up support.

Morgan's opponent, Bahr, may be a rookie in the tournament, but she's certainly a veteran in the channel. Bahr brings nearly a decade of indirect sales experience to the table and is riding the wave of some recent Cisco partner commitments, including combining its product and services channel program teams to improve alignment and drive simplification.

Infrastructure – Round 1

Gregg Ambulos, EMC vs. Kerry Bailey, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Round 1 in the Infrastructure Region closes with a bang, with Gregg Ambulos, EMC's SVP, Global Channel Sales, Operations, going toe-to-toe with Kerry Bailey, HPE's SVP, Worldwide Indirect Sales. 2016 is Bailey's first foray in Channel Madness, coming in hot after the successful launch of HPE's Cloud28+ initiative in EMEA. The project enabled more than 150 partners and service providers to serve enterprises and the public sector to adhere to European Union security and data privacy cloud services.

Bailey has a tough Round 1 draw in Ambulos, who despite failing to exit the first round last year, has some big-time momentum behind him in 2016. Ambulos is able to tout the fact that more than 60 percent of all EMC product sales in the first half of last year were derived through the partner community. With a continued emphasis to build out the program, Ambulos should have enough support from EMC partners to avoid a repeat of last year.

Hardware – Round 1

Rob McKernan, APC vs. Maurits Tichelman, Intel

The Hardware region kicks off with Rob McKernan, SVP, Global IT Channels at APC by Schneider Electric and Maurits Tichelman, VP, GM, Sales at Intel, going at it. Tichelman returns to the tournament this year to avenge last year's early exit at the hands of the eventual tournament winner, Sophos' Mike Valentine. Tichelman has the support of Intel's nearly 150,000 partners worldwide, a program that saw its Platinum-level membership rise by 12 percent in 2015.

McKernan makes his first appearance in the tournament, taking the place of his colleague, Shannon Sbar, who made it all the way to last year's Field of Four. APC has placed an increasing focus on enabling partner growth and it has paid off, with the number of partners in the APC Channel Partner Program increasing by 18 percent in North America.

Hardware – Round 1

Sammy Kinlaw, Lenovo vs. Stephanie Dismore, HP Inc.

HP Inc. gets its first entry in the tournament with VP, GM, U.S. channels Stephanie Dismore meeting Sammy Kinlaw, executive director, North America channel chief at Lenovo in the Round 1. More than 80 percent of HP Inc.'s U.S. printer and personal systems revenue flows through partners, which is the kind of channel-friendly model that could win a chief a lot of support in a tournament like this.

But Dismore has some tough competition in Kinlaw, whose company brought in $256 million in incremental revenue through the channel year-over-year.

Hardware – Round 1

Sandra Glaser Cheek, Ruckus vs. Curtiz Gangi, Eaton

Both Curtiz Gangi, sales VP, U.S. channels, data center segment at Eaton, and Sandra Glaser Cheek, VP, worldwide partner sales at Ruckus Wireless, are making their tournament debuts. Gangi helped Eaton expand its certified partner network in 2015, launching validated solutions for converged and integrated infrastructure, data center services and new capabilities around virtualization.

Ruckus, meanwhile, expanded its channel leadership with several key hires, including Cheek as the new global channel vice president. With the channel remaining as Ruckus primary route to market, Cheek is in a prime position to drum up partner support in the Channel Madness Tournament.

Hardware – Round 1

Frank Vitagliano, Dell vs. Jos Brenkel, HP Inc.

HP Inc. gets its second entry of the tournament with Jos Brenkel, SVP, PPS worldwide sales, duking it out with channel stalwart Frank Vitagliano.

The new HP Inc. launched its Partner First channel program in 2015, offering expanded product tracks and a new integration track for a broad range of partners.

Brenkel has a tough draw in Vitagliano, who despite an early exit in last year's tournament, touts the kind of experience that lends itself to long-term partner support. To pad his stats, Dell financed more than $5 billion with 2,000 partners and thousands of North American and European customers in 2015.

Cloud – Round 1

Jessica Couto, Carbonite vs. Adam Famularo, Verizon

The Cloud region kicks off with the return of last year's Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs breakout star, Verizon VP, Global Channels Adam Famularo. Despite falling in the championship, Famularo impressed throughout and was the top vote getter in the tournament heading into the final round. The Verizon channel push continued in the last 12 months with the telecom giant seeing significant growth in channel sales since it opened up enterprise and corporate accounts to partners.

If Famularo wants to make another deep run he'll need to start by getting through a tough Round 1 opponent in Jessica Couto. Carbonite's VP, U.S. channel sales, marketing has a large pool from which to draw support, as the backup and disaster recovery company has grown its 5,800 active reseller-base to more than 7,700 since the third quarter of 2015.

Cloud – Round 1

Rob Rae, Datto vs. Terry Wise, Amazon

The Cloud Region wouldn't be complete without an Amazon Web Services entry and Terry Wise, VP, Worldwide Partner Ecosystem, is back to avenge his Round 1 loss last year. It won't be easy though, as Wise is pitted against Datto VP, Business Development Rob Rae. The provider of business continuity and disaster recovery products won 85 channel-focused industry awards in 2015 and grew its partner community grew by 29 percent.

But AWS hasn't exactly been sitting on the channel sidelines, with the AWS Partner Network growing by more than 50 percent during the past 12 months. Wise will need the support of those partners to get past Rae and punch a ticket to Round Two.

Cloud – Round 1

Craig West, NetSuite vs. Frank Rauch, VMware

For Craig West, it's his second year in the tournament and his second straight tough first round draw. West, VP, channel sales at NetSuite, pushed Verizon's Adam Famularo to the brink in Round 1 last year, but ultimately fell the Channel Madness finalist. West will need all of the support he can get from the more than 375 worldwide VARs and systems integrators building NetSuite Cloud ERP practices to avoid the same fate this year.

West's opponent, VMware VP, Americas Partner Organization Frank Rauch, had a nice run in last year's tournament, but ultimately also fell to Famularo in the Enterprise Eight. Rauch returns again in 2016 backed by the support of a new stable of partners who have turned away from competitors' solutions in favor of VMware.

Cloud – Round 1

Mike Kunz, StorageCraft vs. Brooks McCorcle, AT&T

The Cloud Region welcomes back Brooks McCorcle, President, AT&T partner solutions. McCorcle suffered a tough loss to VMware's Frank Rauch in Round 1 last year and things don't get any easier as she's paired up with Mike Kunz, VP, worldwide sales StorageCraft. In 2015, McCorcle and her team launched multiple portfolio and program additions to help resellers transform, innovate, and grow their businesses.

McCorcle will need favor in the form of partner support from these investments to get past StorageCraft's Kunz. StorageCraft experienced exponential growth in channel partners focused on managed services, both in the number of partners and average sales per partner. The company also added more sales engineers to the channel team and revised its cloud services pricing model, enabling partners to be more profitable.

Software – Round 1

Mike Valentine, Sophos vs. Bill Swales, Oracle

The champ is here! Sophos SVP, Worldwide Sales Mike Valentine, makes his triumphant return to the Channel Madness Tournament Of Chiefs to defend his 2015 crown. Last year's impressive title run saw Valentine knock off chiefs at Intel, NetApp, and Ruckus Wireless before taking out Verizon's Adam Famularo in the championship. Valentine has the opportunity to garner up even more support this as year Sophos has grown its base of partners in North America by 25 percent.

A trip to the finals, or even Round 2, won't exactly be a clear path for Valentine as he faces Oracle's Bill Swales to kick things off in the Software Region. Oracle's Group VP, North America Alliances, Channels Sales has been executing a number of initiatives aimed at transforming Oracle's channel. Swales has been focused on pivoting Oracle's partner community to the cloud and kicked off an innovative online partner sales enablement initiative in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Software – Round 1

Joe Sykora, Fortinet vs. Mark Enzweiler, Red Hat

The second Software region matchup pits Joe Sykora, VP, Americas channels, enhanced technologies at Fortinet against Mark Enzweiler, SVP, global channel sales, alliances at Red Hat. Enzweiler suffered a tough loss in Round 1 last year, falling to IBM's Marc Dupaquier by two percentage points. Red Hat worked hard in 2015 at providing partners with a deep bench of skills related to the OpenStack open-source cloud computing platforms and Enzweiler may they need those efforts to win more support from Red Hat partners to get him deeper in this year's tournament.

Sykora is making his first appearance in the Field of 32, hoping to lean on the support of a Fortinet partner community that saw the average revenue per partner and deal sizes increase significantly due to Fortinet's full suite of security software that allow partners to sell an end-to-end integrated solution.

Software – Round 1

Marc Dupaquier, IBM vs. Rodolpho Cardenuto, SAP

IBM GM, Global Business Partners Marc Dupaquier and his Twitter army are back for another go at Channel Madness glory. Dupaquier rode the support of this Twitter following all the way to the Field of Four last year, but ultimately he fell short to Verizon's Adam Famularo. Will the creation of IBM's One Channel Team, a unit focused on evolving IBM business partner capacity, drum up enough support to get Dupaquier in this year's championship?

Not if Rodolpho Cardenuto, president, global channels, general business at SAP, has anything to do with it. SAP now has more than 13,300 partners worldwide, up from 11,900 in 2014. Eighty percent of SAP's customers are SMEs, the majority of which are managed by SAP partners.

Software – Round 1

Phil Sorgen, Microsoft vs. Ron Myers, Palo Alto Networks

The final matchup of Round 1 pits Phil Sorgen, corporate VP, worldwide partner group at Microsoft against Ron Myers, VP, worldwide channel sales at Palo Alto Networks. Sorgen scored a Round 1 victory last year, but failed to get out of the second round. Myers squared off with Sorgen's former colleague Jenni Flinders, but was unable to advance.

Microsoft recently expanded its Cloud Solution Provider program to 131 markets and extended Surface channel distribution to almost 5,000 resellers. Both moves are sure to boost support for Sorgen with Microsoft partners.

Palo Alto Networks, meanwhile, created a new Inside Channel Business Managers team to boost support for its more than 12,000 partners. Myers will need Palo Alto partners to return the support to him in the form of votes if he wants to avoid another Microsoft channel chief defeat.