The Top 25 IT Innovators Of 2021

The ability to drive innovation for technology products, solutions and services is the hallmark of CRN’s Top 25 Innovators of 2021 list.

The Innovators

The impact of the pandemic on the IT industry has been clear to see—with the demand for new technologies growing at unprecedented speeds and no sign of a slowdown any time soon. The ability to drive innovation for technology products, solutions and services in such a dynamic environment is the hallmark of our Top 25 Innovators of 2021 list.

Most tech companies claim to have differentiated offerings, of course. But which vendors actually deliver on their promise of innovation? And deliver in a way that creates major opportunities for partners? For our top innovators list, we’ve selected executives that have been bringing true channel-friendly innovation to the market during the pandemic—accelerating digital transformation, enabling new growth opportunities for partners and producing one customer success story after another.

What follows is our list of the Top 25 IT Innovators of 2021.

Be sure to also check out the complete list of CRN’s Top 100 Executives Of 2021.

25. Rob Johnson



Johnson led Vertiv into the public market last year with plans to double the company’s R&D budget and his sights set on new 5G infrastructure and AI data center opportunities. Under his leadership, Vertiv launched new MSP and as-a-service partner programs this year to drive additional channel growth.

24. Kristin Russell

President, Global Enterprise Computing Solutions

Arrow Electronics

Russell has shown she knows what it takes to help solution providers, MSPs and OEM partners engage with the distributor to bring services to customers and to lean on the company for help in building a wide range of next-gen data center, security, cloud and IoT solutions.

23. Patrick Pulvermueller



Pulvermueller is a new face at Acronis, having joined the company in July. But he brings to the company a strong channel and cloud focus after time as president of GoDaddy’s partner business, where he led the expansion of its hosting, productivity and security services through agency partners and resellers.

22. Brian Breton

Regional VP, Americas Channel Sales, Operations


Breton streamlined the procurement process for partners during COVID-19 by removing steps while still ensuring they would receive full benefits for their orders. He also re-educated the channel on lesser-known ways they could help customers more quickly deploy RSA products and services.

21. Jed Ayres



Ayres’ transformation of IGEL into the de facto secure edge OS standard on any cloud and any device is resonating deeply with the company’s partners and customers. It’s a compelling story given today’s work-at-home revolution and the current barrage of ransomware attacks.

20. Avi Shua

Co-Founder, CEO

Orca Security

Shua launched Orca into the stratosphere, raising nearly $300 million on a $1.2 billion valuation in just two short years to provide agentless security and compliance for AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. He also rolled out Orca’s inaugural partner program.

19. Tom Black

SVP, GM, Storage

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Black has completely reinvented the HPE storage experience for partners and customers with one data service breakthrough after another. His latest coup: the pending acquisition of Zerto, which will enable customers to quickly recover from any ransomware attacks.

18. Rose Schooler

Corporate VP, Global Data Center Sales


For Schooler, it’s not enough to just push Intel CPUs in the data center. She wants partners to understand the opportunities, which is why she has launched a strategy around the “cloudification” of the data center that includes new resources for optimizing workloads and deploying new solutions.

17. Fred Voccola



As an outspoken leader, Voccola won’t slow down. During the pandemic, he put MSPs first by putting money in their pockets so they could efficiently deliver services. And, when Kaseya was hit with the biggest ransomware attack in history in July, he got out in front of the problem and stayed vigilant.

16. Alex Cho

President, Personal Systems

HP Inc.

As demand has skyrocketed for devices to meet at-home needs, Cho has accelerated the pace of innovation around laptops, tablets and monitors. For instance, he has overseen the debut of laptops featuring ultraportable form factors and improved collaboration capabilities.

15. BJ Jenkins

President, CEO

Barracuda Networks

Jenkins scooped up Fyde to provide secure access to cloud or on-premises applications and workloads and Skout Cybersecurity to give MSPs the technology and manpower to respond effectively to cyberthreats. He also rolled out the first secure global SD-WAN service built natively on Microsoft Azure.

14. Prakash Panjwani


WatchGuard Technologies

Panjwani made WatchGuard’s consumption and subscription models available for the endpoint security technology the company acquired from Panda Security. He also championed enhancements to WatchGuard Cloud that make it easier for MSPs to create policy templates.

13. Michael Gold



Intermedia’s fearless leader has spent the past year bringing the channel-first communications provider global. Gold in 2020 worked to seal a deal with market-leading business phone provider NEC in a partnership that has created a multibillion-dollar opportunity for the company’s all-important channel partners.

12. Stephen Orban

GM, AWS Marketplace, Control Services

Amazon Web Services

As the new leader of AWS Marketplace, the company’s digital catalog of third-party solutions, Orban is training his sights on private marketplace innovation, more industry-specific solutions, improved management and governance features, and international expansion.

11. Rob Rae

VP, Business Development


Rae has the channel in his soul. In the eight years since he joined Datto, he has leveraged the channel to help grow the company into an MSP powerhouse in large part due to his on-stage and in-person presence. He makes the case for the channel better than almost anyone.

10. Bill Conner

President, CEO


Conner spearheaded SonicWall’s evolution beyond the firewall to deliver security for the endpoint, email and cloud. He also helped develop Cloud Edge Secure Access to allow customers to control and protect network access to managed and unmanaged devices based on identity, location and device parameters.

9. Douglas Brockett



Brockett was key to merging old-school data protection vendor Arcserve and new-school rival StorageCraft into a single company under the Arcserve name. Brockett proved he had the right experience after joining StorageCraft as president following its acquisition of his former company, Exablox.

8. Danny Allan


Veeam Software

Under Allan’s direction, Veeam continues to shake up the market with a full embrace of cloud hyperscalers, application-centric Kubernetes management and more, all wrapped around the Veeam Universal License, which is priced based on instances, not sockets.

7. Jeff Ready


Scale Computing

Scale Computing’s founder and fiery leader has his eyes set on the massive opportunities in edge computing. Ready’s virtualization and HCI innovation charge led to software revenue increasing 45 percent in 2020 year over year, as well as edge deployments growing 110 percent.

6. Jeff Teper

Corporate VP, Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive


The leader of product, design, engineering and customer success for Microsoft 365 since 2015, Teper is the secret sauce for the tech giant’s achievements in collaboration software. Teams is growing faster than just about any other product that Microsoft has created.

5. Kumar Sreekanti

CTO, Head of Software

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Sreekanti is the company’s secret weapon in building out its software-defined edge-to-cloud platform. He continues to up the ante at HPE with breakthroughs like the Project Aurora zero trust security offering and GreenLake Lighthouse cloud service platform.

4. Gerri Elliott

EVP, Chief Customer, Partner Officer

Cisco Systems

Elliott, one of CEO Chuck Robbins’ right hands, has years of experience in IT. She became Cisco’s first-ever executive vice president and chief customer and partner officer in 2018 and has been helping drive its transition to a software and services-focused juggernaut ever since

3. Jeff Clarke

Vice Chairman, COO

Dell Technologies

Clarke has been innovating and modernizing Dell Technologies’ massive portfolio and go-to-market plan at breakneck speed over the years, including the creation of Dell’s new PoweStore storage architecture. Other than CEO Michael Dell, Clarke is arguably the company’s most critical leader.

2. Kevin Mandia



Mandia blew the lid off the colossal Russian hack when he revealed FireEye had been breached and days later alerted SolarWinds it was the source of the compromise. He also orchestrated the $1.2 billion sale of FireEye’s product business to Symphony Technology Group, which will separate it from the Mandiant unit.

1. Jensen Huang

Founder, President, CEO


Huang may have started Nvidia as a provider of specialty silicon for graphics in the 1990s, but the founder has radically expanded the chipmaker’s purview over the past decade and turned the company into the premier provider of accelerated computing solutions for AI, data analytics and beyond. Now he’s embarking on something even more radical: turning the GPU maker into a “full-stack computing company” by expanding its portfolio to CPUs, networking components, enterprise software and purpose-built systems, fueled by his belief that the future of data centers is “accelerated-disaggregated infrastructure.” It’s no wonder Intel is taking notes and formulating its own response