The Top 25 IT Innovators Of 2020

As part of CRN‘s Top 100 Executives Of 2020 list, here are the 25 Most Innovative Executives, those who are always two steps ahead of the competition.

The Innovators

You‘ve got to have a pioneering spirit to stay ahead of the competition in the IT market. Executives that strive to break new ground, that aren’t afraid to forge new paths, are a tremendous asset to the companies they work for.

As part of CRN‘s Top 100 Executives Of 2020 list, here are the 25 Most Innovative Executives, those who are always two steps ahead of the competition.

Be sure to also visit the complete list of the Top 100 Executives Of 2020.

25. Gajen Kandiah


Hitachi Vantara

As Hitachi Vantara‘s new CEO, Kandiah is bringing an integral services mindset to the vendor amid its transformation to becoming a lead IoT and big data player. Having previously led Cognizant’s digital business, Kandiah knows what it takes to bring digital practices to the next level.

24. Jed Ayres



The channel, technology and marketing-savvy CEO has established IGEL as the undisputed edge operating system market leader for cloud workspaces. Under Ayres’ leadership, IGEL is headed toward 1 million IGEL operating system seats being sold and activated each year.

One of IGEL’s biggest accomplishments under Ayres: making IGEL the first Linux operating system green-lighted by Microsoft for use with Windows Virtual Desktop.

As he has moved from CEO of IGEL North America to CEO of the overall Germany-based company, Ayres has kicked into high gear a plan to take the company from $150 million in sales to $1 billion. He has also continued to double down on IGEL’s growing channel partner network. Look for more big channel and technology bets from Ayres over the course of the next year.

23. Jim Whitehurst



Whitehurst went from the staid airline industry to what he described to CRN as the “mind-bending” innovation and disruption of the open-source software business at Red Hat. Now he’s No. 2 at Big Blue following its acquisition of Red Hat—a leader IBM hopes can combine the best of those worlds.

22. Eva Chen


Trend Micro

Chen purchased Cloud Conformity to help Trend Micro handle misconfigurations and unprotected user accounts in the public cloud and ensure that consistent policies and procedures are being applied across all user accounts. She has gone all in on hybrid cloud security, which now accounts for one-quarter of Trend Micro’s nearly $1 billion in annual sales.

21. Todd McKinnon

Co-Founder, CEO


McKinnon has made it easier for large organizations to authenticate the traffic generated by immersive digital experiences through Okta DynamicScale rather than having to rely on one-off services. McKinnon has also simplified the identity giant’s training and accreditation process to make it simpler and less expensive for solution providers to get sales and technical certifications.

20. Rob Rae

SVP, Business Development


As Datto continues to become the industry‘s top provider of the widest range of MSP-focused automation, storage, networking and management platforms, Rae is at the center of innovating channel programs that bring those disparate technologies to MSPs large and small.

19. Orion Hindawi

Co-Founder, Co-CEO


Hindawi has been laser-focused on building a mission-oriented culture at Tanium that provides the world’s largest enterprises with more visibility into their IT ecosystems. Hindawi has expanded Tanium beyond security to help customers address challenges they have around IT operations as customers look to simplify their computing environment and get rid of unnecessary or redundant tools.

18. Rohit Ghai



Ghai is making RSA more nimble and agile by formulating a plan to carve the encryption pioneer out from the Dell Technologies behemoth and reconstitute it as an independent company under the stewardship of STG Partners. The move will provide RSA with a more focused approach of selling to security and risk buyers while Dell concentrates on making its infrastructure more intrinsically secure.

17. Mark Barrenechea

Vice Chairman, CEO, CTO


It‘s Barrenechea’s turn to try to unify security and storage. Others have tried—think Symantec/Veritas—but did not succeed. Barrenechea engineered the late 2019 acquisitions of Webroot and Carbonite, and his ability to bring them together will define OpenText’s future.

16. Salvatore Sferlazza


Ninja RMM

As some legacy remote monitoring and management tools have fallen prey to exploits, Sferlazza invests heavily in engineers and drives a relentless 45-day update cycle for the company’s flagship product. Ninja RMM debuted mobile capabilities and revealed the company is rolling out a partner program to drive growth.

15. Taher Behbehani

GM, Mobile B2B Division

Samsung Electronics America

Behbehani has been driving Samsung’s increasing efforts around B2B devices and mobile offerings—such as with the recent launches of two rugged business-focused devices, the Galaxy Tab Active Pro tablet and XCover Pro smartphone, and the debut of Project AppStack for business-to-business SaaS and native app delivery.

14. Rami Rahim


Juniper Networks

Cloud-first, artificial intelligence-empowered networks are more critical than ever before and Rahim is taking full advantage of Juniper’s Mist Systems acquisition, which he led, to revamp Juniper‘s road map. Under Rahim, Juniper is becoming a formidable player once again in the wired and wireless networking space.

13. David Bennett



Axcient is all about protecting data, and Bennett is all about making that protection end to end. He has led Axcient through multiple acquisitions, and recently melded its acquired technologies into a single platform while adding a unique take on ransomware protection.

12. Douglas Brockett



The IT industry traditionally has had primary storage and secondary storage vendors. Since Brockett joined StorageCraft in 2017 with the acquisition of Exablox, where he was CEO, he has led the push to help the company blur the line and make it a true provider of unified storage.

11. William Largent

Chairman, CEO

Veeam Software

As Veeam‘s founders step out of the limelight, Largent is responsible not only for moving Veeam’s headquarters to the U.S. to be closer to the cloud, but also for shifting focus from data protection to the fast-growing but technically more complicated data management space.

10. Jeff Teper
Corporate VP, Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive


Teper, who in 1998 formed the group that would deliver Microsoft SharePoint, now leads the engineering teams for that product in addition to Microsoft Teams—whose usage exploded during the coronavirus pandemic—and OneDrive. The tools help more than 1 billion people around the world collaborate.

9. David Brown
VP, Elastic Compute Cloud
Amazon Web Services

Since March 2018, Brown has led Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2)—AWS’ cornerstone web service that helped kick off the public cloud movement—after joining the team as a software development engineer in 2007, a year after EC2 shipped.

8. Kyle Hanslovan


Huntress Labs

With Hanslovan’s leadership, Huntress Labs has been sowing goodwill throughout the MSP landscape by taking the fight to the hackers. In February, Huntress Labs posed as a potential buyer on the dark web and convinced a hacker to send screen shots of a compromised system. This allowed Huntress to warn the MSP, leading to an arrest. The company also sells enterprise-grade, built-from-the-ground-up security software.

7. Rose Schooler
Corporate VP, Data Center Sales

As the head of Intel‘s data center sales, Schooler is pushing partners to embrace cloudification as an architecture and deployment model as time to value becomes just as important as total cost of ownership and as software plays an increasingly important role in the data center.

6. Alex Cho
President, Personal Systems Business
HP Inc.

Cho has kept the innovation engine roaring in personal systems at HP Inc. He has overseen HP‘s launch of new laptops at a rapid clip with enhancements aimed at meeting work-from-home computing needs, such as with improved portability, battery life and 5G connectivity.

5. Jeff Clarke
Vice Chairman, COO
Dell Technologies

Other than Michael Dell himself, Clarke arguably has been the most strategic asset at Dell Technologies over the past several years in terms of R&D vision and go-to-market dominance. He has reshaped Dell’s infrastructure portfolio to meet the needs of the new data-driven world.

4. Robert Enslin
President, Cloud Sales

Google Cloud

The 27-year SAP veteran was instrumental in overhauling Google Cloud’s sales organization, including the hiring of enterprise-savvy Amazon Web Services, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, Salesforce and SAP alums as leaders reporting to him under a new framework with dedicated industry vertical and expanded geographic oversight.

3. Todd Nightingale
SVP, GM, Enterprise Networking, Cloud
Cisco Systems

Enthusiastic former Cisco Meraki leader Nightingale has had a big year. He’s now heading the Enterprise Networking and Cloud Business and is a member of the executive leadership team, driving business strategy and development efforts for Cisco’s core $34 billion business unit.

2. Keerti Melkote
Founder, President
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Melkote’s unwavering cloud-first vision and his impressive resume as both a technologist and entrepreneur continue to power HPE’s intelligent edge strategy faster and further than any and all competitors.

It takes some doing to go toe-to-toe with Cisco in the networking market, but that’s just what Melkote has done by establishing Aruba as a leader in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure and Wired and Wireless LAN Access. Add HPE’s planned $925 million acquisition of Silver Peak Systems to the equation and you’ve got a robust HPE Aruba enterprise networking story.

Look for Melkote’s influence to grow as Aruba puts the pedal to the metal on the HPE intelligent edge strategy.

1. Kumar Sreekanti
CTO, Head of Software
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

There’s a reason why Sreekanti is referred to as “the professor” inside HPE. That’s because of the software smarts and intelligence he has brought to bear to drive HPE’s cloud-native, software-defined edge-to-cloud Platform-as-a-Service strategy.

HPE President and CEO Antonio Neri hand-picked Sreekanti, whose impressive software chops delivered a big artificial intelligence breakthrough at BlueData (acquired by HPE in 2018), to do dual duty as both chief technology officer and head of software. That puts Sreekanti in charge of 3,800 talented HPE software developers tasked with delivering the flat-out best container experience for customers.

Sreekanti—who was CTO for HPE’s hybrid IT business before taking on the bigger software job in May—has brought an architectural clarity and simplicity to the HPE cloud-native, software-defined stack.

At the HPE Discover Virtual Experience event, Sreekanti made his debut as the new software boss with the launch of the blockbuster Ezmeral container platform that is already turning the heads of partners and customers for its artificial intelligence and machine-learning superiority.

Sreekanti’s new software-defined stack is sure to give fits to Amazon Web Services, VMware and Red Hat. That’s a lesson plan sure to get an “A” from the professor.