The Top 25 Innovators Of 2016

The Innovators

With every challenge comes an opportunity. And in enterprise IT, the companies that are separating themselves from the pack are looking beyond the existing issues to provide customers with solutions that alleviate pain points while also providing a strategic advantage.

This type of innovative thinking is what has pushed cloud, big data and mobile technologies from trends to must-haves in just a few short years.

So which tech executives have pushed the innovation envelope to reduce costs and complexities for solution providers while enabling them to put their customer's in the best position to thrive?

As part of CRN's Top 100 Executives Of 2016 list, we're highlighting the 25 Most Innovative Executives, those who recognize today's biggest business challenges and find the most creative ways to solve them.

25. Ziv Kedem

Co-Founder, CEO


If the VC community votes with its pocketbook, then it is showing a ton of confidence in Ziv Kedem's seven-year-old startup, Zerto. The company, which provides business continuity and disaster recovery for virtualized infrastructure and cloud, has raised $130 million in venture funding so far. Kedem seems to have the right touch when it comes to technology innovation. Along with his brother, CTO Oded Kedem, he has already successfully started and sold an earlier startup – Kayesha -- in 2006 to EMC for more than $150 million.

24. Dan Serpico



Serpico has transformed FusionStorm into a fast-moving technology innovator that is winning over customers anxious to gain a competitive advantage, as well as vendors looking to drive emerging technology sales growth. The company, which has taken a leadership position in hyper-converged infrastructure, OpenStack and a new wave of software-defined data center offerings, was recently named Juniper's Innovation Partner of the Year. That comes on top of national awards from Dell, EMC and Cisco. What's more, its world-class integration center is being used by customers to pilot innovative, new customized cloud solutions. Serpico, who took over as CEO four years ago, has also won plaudits for driving a high-integrity, customer-focused culture that is drawing some of the best and brightest new talent in the business.

23. David Grimes

Chief Technology Officer

Time Warner Cable/NaviSite

David Grimes joined global channel-friendly cloud service provider NaviSite in 2002 through the acquisition of Clear Blue, and then Time Warner Cable once the cable company acquired NaviSite in 2012. A cloud expert and disrupter in his own right, Grimes has been leading NaviSite's strategic direction and was instrumental in the development of the NaviCloud platform.

22. Bob Cagnazzi



Bob Cagnazzi has been moving Presidio at a breakneck pace, acquiring solution providers Netech and Sequoia within the past 12 months while growing revenue by nearly 20 percent annually over the past four years. Ranked No. 22 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, Cagnazzi is successfully leading the $3 billion Cisco enterprise channel powerhouse through the cloud revolution by building up the company's own unique offerings such as its Presidio Managed Cloud Solution, while also dedicating resources to high-growth areas such as security and the Internet of Things.

21. Art Gilliland


Skyport Systems

After previous stints in senior executive positions at Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Symantec, Art Gilliland was tapped a year ago to serve as CEO of security startup Skyport. Since then, he has been working to deepen the startup's relationship with the channel.

Skyport Systems, which offers a cloud-managed security appliance for enterprise customers, recently landed $30 million in Series C funding under Gilliand's leadership, bringing Skyport's total financing to $67 million.

20. Jed Ayres



Jed Ayres, a 20-year technology veteran with strong channel ties, is pushing the thin-client technology envelope as the new U.S. CEO of IGEL. With Ayres at the helm, IGEL is releasing a new line of innovative thin-client solutions backed up by an aggressive new channel model and marketing offensive. One sign of the new IGEL-- a partnership with Samsung, which is leveraging IGEL software in new thin-client cloud displays. Partners say they see the difference and are ready to disrupt the thin-client market working hand in hand with IGEL.

19. Chris Pyle

Presdient, CEO

Champion Solutions Group

Channel visionary Chris Pyle has pulled together a stockpile of cutting-edge intellectual property that puts Champion Solutions Group and its MessageOps cloud business unit at the vanguard of the cloud application modernization revolution. Disrupting the status quo with a slew of unique Microsoft products has won Champion multiple awards, as well as raves from customers and partners looking for an immediate return on their IT investments. Among the biggest breakthroughs: SharePoint Productivity Suite, which unleashes the business value of Office 365, and CSP (Cloud Service Provider) Boss – an Azure-based service that enables AutoTask MSPs to more quickly qualify as a tier one Microsoft CSP – boosting their Microsoft cloud margins by as much as 50 percent. At the same time, Champion continues to push the IBM technology envelope, recently acquiring Midrange Support & Service, one of the top IBM iSeries partners.

18. Arnie Bellini



Arnie Bellini is unifying the framework and interface for all four products in ConnectWise's business suite to offer partners a complete, end-to-end IT services management offering. Bellini has also spearheaded the company's launch of CloudConsole -- a management, monitoring and billing offering for Microsoft Office 365 -- as well as the acquisition of remote support champion ScreenConnect.

17. Jeff Jacobson


Xerox Technology

As the incoming head of Xerox’s soon-to-be independent printer business, Jeff Jacobson seems to be hitting all the right notes. And that’s important because it provides some continuity and predictability for a firm that is undergoing radical change. Partners say they’ve been pleased with the company’s focus on R&D and its commitment to develop more advanced technology. Jacobson has been with Xerox for a couple of years, and has spent the better part of his career at the top of several printing and graphics firms.

16. Rowan Trollope

SVP and GM, Internet of Things and Collaboration Technology Group


Rowan Trollope made his mark on Cisco during the three years he spent birthing Cisco’s innovative Spark communications platform, earning him credit for reinventing the company's collaboration business. Now Cisco's IoT business is under his purview as well, where he's tasked with the care and feeding of one of Cisco's biggest technology bets for the future.

15. Jeremy Burton

President, Products and Marketing


Jeremy Burton’s resume reads like a who’s who of top software and hardware firms. Perhaps the most visible exec at EMC, he’s often pegged to walk customers and partners through the nuts and bolts of new products. Burton was president and CEO of Serena Software, and also had executive positions at Veritas, Symantec and Oracle. Soon, he’ll take on another new role as chief marketing officer of Dell Technologies.

14. Antonio Neri

Executive Vice President and General Manager

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

A 20-plus-year HP veteran, Antonio Neri now oversees HPE’s $28 billion Enterprise Group business, where he is on a mission to double down on the channel. In the last year, Neri has made significant moves in security and hyper-converged while ushering his division through the spinoff of its Enterprise Services division.

13. Andre Durand


Ping Identity

Serial entrepreneur Andre Durand says Ping Identity's acquisition by Vista Equity Partners opens the door for him to invest in acquisitions and accelerate the company's product development to grab a piece of the fast-growing identity and access management security space.

12. Dick Williams



Dick Williams has built Webroot into one of the largest next-generation endpoint and threat intelligence security vendors, offering mobile protection for SMB firms and a security intelligence platform. Williams has also extended Webroot's portfolio to include securing Internet of Things-connected systems with embedded micro-agents, threat intelligence and web-based secure cloud gateway services.

11. Geeman Yip

Founder, CEO


Geeman Yip has made BitTitan an essential part of the Microsoft Office365 and Azure migration process, doubling headcount over the past two years. Yip has also released a platform for MSPs to manage the entire life cycle of selling to, on-boarding and servicing cloud customers, and brought in an outside investor so that it can grow even faster.

10. Ken Xie



Over the past year, Ken Xie has worked to double down on investments in Fortinet’s sales and marketing structure by reorganizing the company’s sales force. The CEO hopes these changes will provide growth for Fortinet’s partners, as well as drive better operating margins for the company by increasing sales productivity and creating a return on marketing investment. Xie has also worked to continue investments in the channel, for example by building a lead generation engine to help partners drive additional leads and business.

9. Cheryl Cook

Vice President, Global Channels and Alliances


Cheryl Cook gets a lot of the credit for driving Dell’s successful transformation into a channel company. Most recently, Cook doubled incentives designed to make hunting for new business as profitable as possible for partners, and made financing as smooth as possible for customers, a move that quickly topped the $1 billion mark. She's primed to have a prominent role in the combined Dell-EMC.

8. David Farajun



David Farajun led the company in 2015 to expand its Asigra Cloud Backup with a focus on converged data protection for physical, virtual, cloud and mobile computing environments – and he has continued to develop that data protection software solution in the past year with a single integrated approach including virtual machine replication to protect all sources and types of corporate data.

7. Kevin Mandia



Kevin Mandia took the helm at FireEye in June, replacing former CEO Dave DeWalt and effectively helping the company take a new perspective on its security strategy. Mandia, who partners say has a strong reputation for technology development, is focusing on developing the FireEye platform as well as continuing to innovate and push profitability.

6. Judson Althoff

EVP, Worldwide Commercial Business


Channel veteran Judson Althoff just stepped into his new role at Microsoft but he's already made his priorities clear: bringing cloud products to market faster and swaying more developers to jump on the Microsoft's cloud bandwagon, all the while working in concert with solution providers to push digital transformation to companies of all sizes around the world.

5. Paul Hooper



Paul Hooper has been acting on a vision to offer solutions to enable customers’ migration to ’next-generation business infrastructure,’ through security, data center and visibility to traffic-in-motion. Under Hooper’s leadership, Gigamon’s GigaSecure security delivery platform offers partners a new approach to security for both small and large businesses.

4. Doron Kempel



As legacy IT vendors turn their attention to hyper-converged infrastructure, upstarts like SimpliVity have had to up their ante, and Kempel is a real master of the game. SimpliVity this year has introduced the first hyper-converged infrastructure cloud service provider program. It also enabled Lenovo to enter the fray via a technology partnership similar to the SimpliVity-Cisco relationship.

3. Chris Young

General Manager, Intel Security Group


Over the past year, Intel Security has been rolling out a new strategy to reposition the company around the threat defense life cycle, and Chris Young has been at the helm of this new transition. Young has made moves to shift the company’s focus toward cloud, data center and connectivity, particularly around the emerging Internet of Things market. As part of this change, Young said he wants to invest more in Intel Security’s channel by bringing new reference architectures to partners.

2. Dheeraj Pandey



Pandey could have been satisfied with founding a company that defined the concept of hyper-converged infrastructure, but has instead ensured Nutanix's leadership by redefining it. Nutanix under Pandey has in the last year or so added a homegrown hypervisor, containers, block storage, and flash storage to the Nutanix technology, and signed a potentially huge OEM deal with Lenovo.

1. Matthew Medeiros


StorageCraft Technology

The biggest investment in an IT vendor so far in 2016 did not go to some brash new startup, but instead to an old-school data protection software vendor with some new-school plans. Medeiros in January took over StorageCraft when the investment firm he worked for invested $187 million in StorageCraft, and has since been on a tear to expand the company's reach into the modern storage business.

StorageCraft is not only a powerhouse channel-friendly storage vendor in its own right. The company also has a huge OEM business supplying data protection technology to several leading vendors who work closely with VARs and especially MSPs to develop services around backup and recovery. Under Medeiros' leadership, StorageCraft has moved to rapidly adopt new ways of selling its technology, particularly via cloud and services providers. He presided over the introduction of socket-based licensing and subscription licensing, as well as the launch of the company's first cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery platform. Medeiros also moved quickly to expand StorageCraft's sales and channel executive roster with a new vice president of worldwide sales and vice president of Americas sales, both of whom worked with him when he was at Dell SonicWall.