2017 Annual Report Card Winners: Solution Providers Give Top Marks To Key Vendors

Making The Grade

For the 32nd year, CRN offered solution providers in North America a chance to take out their red pens and grade their vendor partners as part of CRN’s Annual Report Card.

Solution providers scored vendors in 22 technology categories based on their performance across three subcategories: product innovation, support and partnership.

Some product categories featured repeat winners from last year, while new winners rose to the top in others. Who's hot and who's not in the eyes of the channel? Read on to find out which vendors earned the highest marks this year.

Business Analytics: IBM

Channel Chief: John Teltsch, GM, Global Business Partners

With a strong lineup that includes the sophisticated Watson computer system, as well as its Cognos business intelligence and performance management software suite, IBM won the Business Analytics category with an overall score of 60.5, notching victories in the support and partnership subcategories.

Oracle came second in with an overall score of 58.2.

Collaboration: Cisco

Channel Chief: Wendy Bahr, SVP, Worldwide Partner Organization

Make it three consecutive Collaboration wins for Cisco, which dominated the category across all three subcategories with an overall score of 80.1, a sizable lead over competitors Polycom (69.2) and IBM (62.0).

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant achieved especially high marks in product innovation, scoring an 88.2 in that area, in part because of the cloud-based hosted collaboration services powered by Cisco's virtualized Unified Computing System.

CEO Chuck Robbins told CRN in June that his company remains very much committed to UCS, which has surpassed the 60,000-customer mark.

Converged/HyperConverged Infrastructure: Cisco

Channel Chief: Wendy Bahr, SVP, Worldwide Partner Organization

Cisco vaulted itself up the standings after finishing fourth in the Converged/Hyper-Converged category of the Annual Report Card last year.

The company scored a 79.1 overall, with category wins in support (75.6) and partnership (76.6). Dell EMC came in second with an overall score of 78.4, while HPE-SimpliVity finished third with an overall score of 70.9.

Data Protection Software: StorageCraft

Channel Chief: Lee Schor, VP, Americas Sales

A fast-rising software developer out of Draper, Utah, StorageCraft ended EMC's four-year category winning streak with a surprising data protection software sweep.

The company received outstanding grades for product innovation (94.6) and partnership (89.8) to highlight a strong overall score of 89.9. Dell EMC, which had an overall score of 81.8, was runner-up.

Storagecraft was acquired by Boston-based private equity firm TA Associates in January 2016, when it landed a $187 million investment deal aimed at further fueling the channel-focused company's impressive growth.

Desktop And Server Virtualization: VMware

Channel Chief: Frank Rauch, Vice President, Americas Partner Organization

VMware maintained its top spot in the category for a third straight year, beating out rival Citrix Systems with an overall score of 69.5 to Citrix’s overall score of 65.5.

VMware swept all of the subcategories, with a score of 82.3 in product innovation, 61.0 in support, and 63.9 in partnership.

Endpoint Security: Kaspersky Lab

Channel Chief: Jason Stein, Vice President, Channel

Kaspersky Lab swept the Endpoint Security category, with wins in product innovation, partnership and support, and coming in with an overall score of 91.6.

The endpoint security category remained competitive, with second-place finisher Sophos scoring 89.4 overall, followed by Cisco at 78.1 and RSA at 69.8.

Kaspersky named channel veteran Jason Stein as its new head of North American channels just last month, replacing Leslie Bois. Stein told CRN he believes his more than 19 years of technical sales experience and relationships bring a "unique vision" to the company.

Enterprise Network Storage: Dell EMC

Channel Chief: John Byrne, President, Global Channels

Dell EMC won the Enterprise Network Storage category with an overall score of 78.4 to IBM’s 78.2, NetApp’s 74.9 and HPE’s 70.1. Dell EMC also earned strong marks for product innovation (84.1) and support (75.3).

Dell EMC’s John Byrne told CRN in June that partners were firing on all cylinders, delivering more than 6,000 net new customers during the company's first fiscal quarter of the year, ended May 5.

Enterprise Networking Infrastructure: Cisco

Channel Chief: Wendy Bahr, SVP, Worldwide Partner Organization

Cisco swept this category, as it nearly did last year, and continued its long reign atop the Enterprise Networking Infrastructure category when it comes to channel partner satisfaction.

The vendor scored 89.6 in product innovation, 78.2 in support and 80.1 in partnership for an overall score of 82.9, beating competitors Dell EMC and Juniper Networks.

Cisco partners have expressed optimism about new recurring revenue opportunities opening up around network refreshes and security via the company's Network Intuitive platform, which launched in June.

Enterprise Wireless LANs: Cisco

Channel Chief: Wendy Bahr, SVP, Worldwide Partner Organization

Cisco cleaned up across the board in the Enterprise Wireless LAN category with an 81.8 overall score and top scores of 87.3 in product innovation, 78.2 in support and 79.2 in partnership.

HPE-Aruba Networks scored 78.6 overall, while Fortinet placed third with an overall score of 72.7.

Industry Standard Servers: Dell EMC

Channel Chief: John Byrne, President, Global Channels

Dell EMC, which finished third in the Industry-Standard Server category last year, swept the category this year with an overall score of 80.4 and convincingly beat runner-up HPE (70.9) and third-place vendor IBM (68.7).

Dell EMC’s win included an especially strong product innovation performance (86.2), support (76.6) and partnership (77.9).

Multifunction Printers: HP Inc.

Channel Chief: Stephanie Dismore, VP, GM, Americas Channels

HP Inc. is challenging the longtime top dog Xerox, which had finished No. 1 in this category from 2013-2016, and solution providers are taking notice.

HP swept the category this year with an overall score of 76.1, notching notable wins in product innovation (82.5), support (71.3), partnership (73.1) and managed print services (76.8), a fourth, specialty subcategory.

Network Connectivity: Comcast

Channel Chief: Craig Schlagbaum, VP, Indirect Channels

The cable giant won the Network Connectivity category again in 2017, with an overall score of 66.0 – improving on last year's score of 56.6 and its 2015 score of 51.2.

Comcast has recently beta-tested a turnkey SD-WAN offering, conducted in collaboration with Versa Networks, that will rely upon Comcast's high-speed connectivity capabilities. The company believes its channel partners could stand to reap "enormous" benefits in the SD-WAN market.

Network Security: Sophos

Channel Chief: Kendra Krause, VP, Global channels

Sophos dominated the Network Security category for the second straight year, claiming victories in all three subcriteria en route to an overall score of 88.9 despite facing stiff competition from SonicWall, which finished with an overall score of 86.9. Fortinet finished third with an overall score of 78.4, followed by Cisco with 78.0, RSA with 74.2 and Juniper Networks with 73.3.

The Abingdon, U.K.-based security firm has enjoyed double-digit growth across the board in 2017, compelling it to set a billings goal of $1 billion by 2020. Sophos is also betting big on innovation, the company told CRN, as it looks to incorporate machine-learning technology, orchestration, cloud infrastructure and other forward-thinking components into its security platform.

Notebooks/Mobile Computers: Dell EMC

Channel Chief: John Byrne, President, Global Channels

Dell EMC performed well on the channel partner front in the Notebooks/Mobile Computers category, winning all three subcategories – highlighted by strong marks for product innovation (88.6) – and notching an overall score of 83.4.

HP finished second with an average of 80.0, above third-place Lenovo at 68.2.

Power Protection And Management: APC by Schneider Electric

Channel Chief: Shannon Sbar, VP, Channels

Perhaps the most hotly competitive category in the 2017 ARC, power protection and management saw the top three vendors fall within 1.1 points of each other.

Ultimately, APC by Schneider Electric took the crown with an overall grade of 80.2, outscoring runner-up Tripp Lite (79.7). Eaton finished third with an overall score of 79.1. APC by Schneider Electric also won the support subcategory with a score of 78.6.

Processors: Intel

Channel Chief: Maurits Tichelman, VP, GM, Worldwide Direct, Channel Sales

Intel won the Processors category with an overall score of 83.5. That was fueled by an excellent mark in product innovation (90.5) along with solid scores in support (78.1) and partnership (80.9).

In July, the vendor unveiled its new Skylake family of server processors – the Intel Xeon Scalable Platform, designed with modern data center applications like cloud, networking and artificial intelligence in mind.

Security Management: RSA

Channel Chief: Ted Kamionek, VP, Worldwide Channels, Alliances

Like last year, this category went to RSA in a tight race, with HPE Security and IBM both challenging the Bedford, Mass.-based vendor in 2017.

RSA prevailed with a 66.4 overall score, including winning marks of 70.6 in product innovation and 66.3 in partnership. HPE Security finished with an overall grade of 64.1. IBM came in third with an overall score of 63.6.

SMB External Storage Hardware: Buffalo Technology

Channel Chief: Bill Rhodes, Director of Channel Sales, Buffalo Americas

Buffalo finished third in this category last year, but the Japanese company's solution provider program received glowing grades in 2017 – enough to best EMC and Datto in the standings.

Buffalo, with its Americas division based in Austin, Texas, scored an 85.4 overall, while Datto scored an 85.3 and EMC finished not far below with 83.2. Buffalo received top marks for support (83.5) and partnership (85.8).

SMB Networking: Dell EMC

Channel Chief: John Byrne, President, Global Channels

Dell EMC swept the SMB Networking category this year, claiming all three subcategories for an overall grade of 81.0, after coming in third last year. HPE-Aruba Networks came in second with an overall score of 76.6.

Dell EMC in June said its networking business would push the X Series network switch products exclusively through distribution, the first time Dell EMC has offered a product line exclusively through distribution.

Tablets: Dell EMC

Channel Chief: John Byrne, President, Global Channels

Dell EMC's fifth category win in the 2017 ARC comes in the Tablets category.

The company's solution provider program for tablets earned high grades with an overall score of 78.1, powered by subcategory wins in support (75.5) and partnership (77.6).

Runner-up HP Inc. came in with an overall score of 77,1. Samsung finished third with an overall score of 70.1 followed by Lenovo at 70.0.

Web And Application Security: Veracode

Channel Chief: Leslie Bois, Vice President, Global Channel

Veracode vaulted itself into a first-place finish in the voting this year, recording wins across the board in product innovation, support and partnership for an overall grade of 86.4. Fortinet, last year's winner, fell to second place with a score of 82.6, while Zscaler was third at 75.7.

Veracode surely caught the attention of solution providers when it hired Kaspersky Lab channel veteran Bois to be its global channel and alliances chief in January.

Workgroup Color Printers: Xerox

Channel Chief: Darren Cassidy, President, U.S. Channels Group

Xerox, the Norwalk, Conn.-based printing giant, this year made a clean sweep of all four subcategories for Workgroup Color Printers: product innovation, support, partnership and managed print services.

Overall, Xerox scored a 67.0 compared with HP Inc.'s mark of 65.8.

Xerox recently unveiled a massive product launch of 29 new printers, which partners believe will make the vendor's portfolio more appealing to businesses.