The 25 Most Influential Executives Of 2021
These 25 CEOs offered solution providers much-needed partnership at a time when the channel needed it most.
As the pace of digital transformation has gone into overdrive during the pandemic, strong leadership has become more essential than ever in the IT industry. For our list of the 25 Most Influential Executives of 2021, we’ve selected leaders who’ve been making an outsized impact during this turbulent period through a combination of exceptional vision, know-how and execution.
All of these leaders have been driving hard to capture the accelerating demand for new technologies—with a focus on innovating in their products and services, reinventing their ways of doing business and moving quickly to adapt to the changing market environment.
Crucially, these leaders have all brought a focus on working closely with solution provider partners in order to help customers across industries to digitally transform.
What follows is our list of the 25 Most Influential Executives of 2021.
Be sure to also check out the complete list of CRN’s Top 100 Executives Of 2021.
25. Dan and Michael Schwab
D&H’s co-presidents have transformed the distributor into a cloud powerhouse and sharpened its ability to develop deep relationships with partners. Look for the 104-year-old employee-owned distributor to continue to move boldly into the future under their steady hands.
24. Thomas Kurian
Google Cloud under Kurian continues to capitalize on the company’s strengths in data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning—and increasingly tap into the capabilities and knowledge base of the broader Google—to grow its No. 3 cloud under a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy.
23. Raghu Raghuram
Raghuram has hit the ground running after taking the CEO role June 1 following an 18-year tenure at VMware in top engineering and product management roles. His goal is to make VMware the global leader in hybrid and multi-cloud software while also focusing on Kubernetes and security innovation.
22. Rami Rahim
Under Rahim’s direction, Juniper has made some bold moves. The vendor has transformed from a “box company” with a service provider following to an enterprise networking leader with AI baked into its core. Now, Juniper’s enterprise segment is growing more than 20 percent year over year.
21. Mike Long
Chairman, President, CEO
In an IT world characterized by component shortages, Long has been able to use Arrow’s strong supply chain to help vendors mitigate tough supply issues. His insight has made his company one that many have turned to for help, with sales in the last fiscal quarter up 42 percent over last year.
20. Paul Bay
EVP, President, Global Technology Solutions
Bay has what few top executives have when their companies get acquired by private equity: freedom. Ingram Micro was just acquired by Platinum Equity, but Bay and his team have retained the ability to do what they do best, which is to quickly adjust to massive changes facing distribution.
19. Charles Giancarlo
Giancarlo has been driving the company to turn all of its storage-related technologies into services. Pure Storage has moved faster than its peers into not only making its technologies available as a service, but in ensuring those services are available only via channel partners.
18. George Kurian
Kurian has shown today’s data center infrastructure manufacturers what it will take to turn their companies around in response to the challenges—and the opportunities—of the cloud. Under Kurian, NetApp is the leader in giving customers free rein to manage data whenever and however they choose.
17. Ken Xie
Founder, Chairman, CEO
Xie spearheaded the buys of network monitoring vendor Panopta and cloud and network security startup ShieldX to improve visibility into servers, containers, applications and more. He also took on the biggest security issues around working from home and securing SASE deployments with FortiOS 7.0.
16. Yang Yuanqing
Yang has overseen the company’s leadership position in the global PC market and continued rise in data centers. Along with driving a channel-first sales push in North America, Lenovo has reorganized its businesses to create more synergies between its PC and data center sides while emphasizing services.
15. Kris Hagerman
Hagerman helped customers get a better grip on their IT environment with Sophos XDR, which synchronizes endpoint, server, firewall and email security to provide a holistic view. He also fortified Sophos’ services muscle with a fixed-fee remote incident response offering.
14. Adam Selipsky
Amazon Web Services
The former Tableau Software chief executive re-joined Amazon Web Services this year to succeed Andy Jassy as the second ever CEO of the industry’s largest cloud computing provider, which he helped launch and where he led marketing, sales and support for 11 years from 2005 to 2016.
13. Bill McDermott
McDermott is used to thinking big and this spring unveiled his plan to triple ServiceNow’s revenue to $15 billion in five years. He plans to take advantage of what he pegs as a digital transformation market worth $8 trillion as customers look to digitize operations and work with brand-new companies.
12. Dennis Polk
Polk did his part to re-shape the distribution landscape by leading the charge on the Synnex-Tech Data merger. That deal was made possible by his decision to spin off the Concentrix services business. Look for Polk to continue to play a big role as the combined company moves to make its mark.
11. Marc Benioff
Founder, Chairman, CEO
Benioff has taken some big swings in his quest to maintain CRM software dominance. Multibillion-dollar acquisitions, exciting new capabilities for its vast product suite and continued praise of channel partners are all part of his strategy to reach $50 billion in revenue by fiscal year 2026.
10. Rich Hume
The seasoned technology sales veteran has emerged as a distribution visionary. First, Hume took Tech Data private in a $6 billion deal that powered a $750 million investment in next-gen technology. Next up, he pulled together the merger with Synnex that will displace Ingram Micro as the No. 1 distributor
9. George Kurtz
Co-Founder, President, CEO
Kurtz broadened CrowdStrike’s capabilities well beyond endpoint security by pulling off the two most significant acquisitions in company history: access control startup Preempt Security and log management startup Humio. He is now focusing on zero trust expertise and safeguarding cloud workloads
8. Pat Gelsinger
In just a few months as Intel’s new CEO, Gelsinger has made it clear that his comeback plan is his most important work yet. He has reinvigorated the employee base, enacted two major reorganizations and set forth a bold, new manufacturing strategy—all in the name of restoring the company’s “unquestioned leadership.
7. Enrique Lores
Lores piloted HP Inc. to achieve strong results during the pandemic across its personal systems and print businesses. As demand for PCs and home printers has surged, he has capitalized on the tailwinds by ramping up production and focusing on working closely with partners to meet key customer needs.
6. Lisa Su
AMD was in rough shape when Su took over in 2014. But those days feel like a distant memory now that her bets on the future of high-performance computing are paying off. Su has heralded a new age at AMD, where its CPUs repeatedly outperform Intel’s and ecosystem partners line up to collaborate.
5. Chuck Robbins
With more than two decades at the company, it’s safe to say Robbins has Cisco in his blood. The tech veteran has taken Cisco on a journey from being a premier IT hardware provider to a software and cloud-focused behemoth that can serve up IT as a service through its loyal channel partners.
4. Michael Dell
Dell is once again transforming his company with an eye toward becoming an infrastructure and PC as-a-service leader with Apex. The company continues to win market share in the server, storage and PC markets, with annual revenue hitting an all-time high of $94.2 billion in fiscal year 2021.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Neri is a true technology visionary. His big bold bet three years ago to transform the company into an edge-to-cloud Platform-as-a-Service powerhouse is paying off for HPE and its partners, while its ground-breaking GreenLake pay-per-use model is changing the face of the channel.
2. Satya Nadella
In his seventh year leading Microsoft, Nadella added chairman to his title in June as he approaches his third decade at the technology giant, whose cloud computing division continues to enjoy strong growth and gain market share with its Azure, Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 portfolios.
1. Arvind Krishna
Krishna is pushing the company at which he started his career to break beyond the “enduring platforms” it created in mainframe, services and middleware into what he calls the “fourth” IBM platform: hybrid cloud.
To make that happen, Krishna has IBM moving at lightning speed to become the leader in hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence. In just 16 months at the helm, Krishna has made 14 acquisitions, set in motion the spin-off of IBM’s $19 billion Global Technology Services managed infrastructure unit and put in place the biggest change in IBM’s go-to-market model in the last three decades.
All of this is in pursuit of his ambitious goal to make the storied computer company he loves so dearly the undisputed winner of the architectural battle in the cloud. Krishna said it is a privilege to be “a custodian” of the rich IBM legacy. “I bleed blue,” he said. “It’s the people. It’s the technology. It’s the clients and all IBM has done.”