The 50 Coolest Software-Defined Data Center Vendors Of 2021

From Citrix and HPE to IP Infusion and Lightbits Labs, here are the 50 hottest IT companies leading the software-defined data center market in 2021.

The 2021 Software-Defined Data Center Leaders

Software-defined data centers are playing a critical role in the hybrid cloud and data-driven era.

Innovation around artificial intelligence, automation and software-defined infrastructure is surging as it enables organizations to make better business decisions and help companies across the globe digitally transform.

Data centers have been key to keeping the business world afloat during the global COVID-19 pandemic as the IT foundation enabling millions of people to work and learn from home. Software-defined data centers are driven by automation, resource pooling and virtualization to make facilities more agile and flexible. The customer buying trend toward data center infrastructure and Software as a Service is also fueling growth in the hybrid cloud era.

CRN breaks down 50 of the world’s software-defined data center vendors that are shaping the digital world.


Top Executive: Julien Dahan, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

6Wind is a global networking software company of virtual routing (vRouter) offerings and is aiming to displace expensive hardware with software and virtualization for routing and security use cases. In September, 6Wind hired former Neocase Software CEO Dahan as its new CEO, tasking him with driving the company’s next level of growth worldwide.

Arista Networks

Top Executive: Jayshree Ullal, President, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Arista Networks is a cognitive cloud networking company targeting large data centers and campus environments with nearly 15 years of networking software and hardware innovation under its belt.The company has a $2.32 billion run rate with a healthy pace of new networking and security product launches every quarter.


Top Executive: Hock Tan, President, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Broadcom has a massive software infrastructure portfolio of monitoring, management, automation and open-source networking offerings as well as PCIe, storage and mainframe products. In May, the company launched its Expert Advantage partner program aimed at accelerating the adoption of Broadcom software and channel partner skill sets to drive growth.

Cato Networks

Top Executive: Shlomo Kramer, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Alpharetta, Ga.

Red-hot Cato Networks has converged SD-WAN, networking security and its zero trust network access technology into a cloud-native service. The SASE platform provider saw bookings in 2020 grow by more than 200 percent for the fourth consecutive year. In 2020, Cato’s channel partner base grew by 255 percent with new channel-led customer bookings increasing by 240 percent.

Cisco Systems

Top Executive: Chuck Robbins, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

The dominant worldwide leader in networking has one of the largest software-defined networking, switching, server, cloud and security data center portfolios on the planet. Cisco continues to innovate both organically and via acquisitions, including last month’s purchases of Sedona Systems and Kenna Security. Cisco’s software revenue run rate is now north of $14 billion.

Citrix Systems

Top Executive: David Henshall, President, CEO

Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The software and virtualization giant provides a variety of data center offerings including virtual desktop infrastructure, SD-WAN, endpoint management, application delivery and analytics for security. Citrix CEO Henshall told CRN last month his company vows to stay “channel-oriented” during its transformation toward cloud and software subscriptions.


Top Executive: Poojan Kumar, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Launched in 2019, Clumio is a Backup-as-a-Service and SaaS data protection startup for cloud and on-premises environments. The company dubs its new Clumio Discover as the industry’s first cloud backup optimization and visualization engine. The company’s market strategy is currently shifting toward the public cloud, specifically Amazon Web Services.


Top Executive: Mohit Aron, Founder, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

With a valuation of $3.7 billion, Cohesity is radically simplifying data management. Cohesity offers a full suite of services consolidated on one multi-cloud data platform for backup and recovery, disaster recovery, file and object services, dev/test, and data compliance, security and analytics. The company is focusing on new Data-Management-as-a-Service offerings.


Top Executive: Dave Zabrowski, CEO

Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Datacore provides intelligent virtualization and software-defined storage offerings aimed at modernizing how businesses store, protect and access their data. This year, Datacore acquired object storage specialist Caringo to offer best-of-breed software storage products for block, file and object from a single vendor.


Top Executive: Alex Bouzari, Co-Founder, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Chatsworth, Calif.

DDN dubs itself as the world’s largest private data storage company with a focus on multi-cloud data management and artificial intelligence. DDN and its enterprise data center division, Tintri, deliver data management software and hardware offerings along with a unified analytics frameworks to solve complex business challenges for data-intensive global organizations.

Dell Technologies

Top Executive: Michael Dell, Founder, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Round Rock, Texas

Dell Technologies is the worldwide leader in servers, storage and hyperconverged infrastructure for data centers. In a bold move this year, the $94 billion company has started to offer its massive data center portfolio in an as-a-service sales motion with Apex, which now includes Apex Data Storage Services and Apex Cloud Services.


Top Executive: Raj Jalan, Founder, CEO

Headquarters: West Haven, Conn.

Device42 continually discovers, maps and optimizes infrastructure and applications across data centers and cloud by grouping workloads by application affinities. The company’s software portfolio revolves around asset management, automatic device discovery, application mapping and integration. Last year, the company acquired storage discovery specialist ArrayIQ.


Top Executive: Craig Arnold, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland

The $18 billion data center power giant provides a vast portfolio of hardware and software management offerings—from UPSes and high-density PDUs to remote monitoring and software-defined power. In one of the biggest data center acquisitions in 2021, Eaton acquired power and connectivity standout Tripp Lite.

Extreme Networks

Top Executive: Ed Meyercord, President, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Extreme Networks has been innovating in the software-defined networking world for years using artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation to optimize data centers via its broad portfolio of network switches.The company recently unveiled its new AI automation software ExtremeCoPilot, which lets customers execute sensitive tasks and monitor highly distributed network environments.

F5 Networks

Top Executive: Francis Locoh-Donou, President, CEO

Headquarters: Seattle

The multi-cloud application security and delivery specialist acquired edge startup Volterra this year for $500 million as the edge data center market begins to emerge. F5 Networks recently reported second fiscal quarter revenue of $645 million, up 11 percent year over year, fueled by 20 percent software sales growth.


Top Executive: Pradeep Sindhu, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Fungible offers data-centric platforms powered by its data processing unit that disaggregates compute and storage recourses across the data center. In March, the company unveiled the Fungible Data Center, a secure offering with a centralized software suite that aims to transform data centers from complex and expensive silos into simple on-demand powerhouses.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Top Executive: Antonio Neri, President, CEO

Headquarters: Houston

The infrastructure giant is a leader in data center storage, server and hyperconverged offerings as well as a pioneer in offering data center products as a service with HPE GreenLake. HPE’s vast software portfolio includes OneView for intelligent infrastructure management, Insight Control for automation server deployment and life-cycle management, as well as its large Aruba portfolio of software networking innovation.

Hitachi Vantara

Top Executive: Gajen Kandiah, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Hitachi Vantara offers a slew of data center hardware and software from storage and hyperconverged infrastructure to data protection and data management as well as its Lumada software for industrial IoT. Hitachi Vantara is set to spend $9.6 billion to acquire digital engineering services company GlobalLogic later this year.


Top Executive: Ren Zhengfei, Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Shenzhen, China

The Chinese technology conglomerate provides software-defined networking, servers, storage, backup, disaster recovery and converged infrastructure to data centers with a massive leadership position in Asia. Huawei is one of the top vendors that public cloud providers choose when building new or expanding their hyperscale data centers.


Top Executive: Arvind Krishna, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Armonk, N.Y.

IBM has been expanding its IBM Cloud data center footprint at a rapid pace with now over 60 data centers in six regions globally. On the software front, IBM Watson is the company’s popular AI portfolio, and it also offers top-notch analytics, database engineering, monitoring, networking and IoT automation management.

IP Infusion

Top Executive: Atsushi Ogata, President, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

IP Infusion provides network disaggregation offerings for service providers and data center operators. The company delivers network OS offerings for businesses to allow network operators to reduce costs, increase flexibility, and deploy new features and services quickly. IP Infusion’s new OcNOS-SP 4 is a software platform that addresses the growing requirements for 5G and high-capacity optical networks.

Juniper Networks

Top Executive: Rami Rahim, CEO

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.

Over 80 percent of Juniper Networks’ engineers are now software engineers as the longtime data center networking and automation standout doubles down on software-defined networking, AI, cloud management and its vision for the self-driving network. This year, Juniper acquired intent-based networking pioneer Apstra, recently releasing Apstra 4.0 software.

Lightbits Labs

Top Executive: Eran Kirzner, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

In 2020, Lightbits Labs increased sales by more than 500 percent through a huge uptick in IaaS, SaaS and financial services sales as well as new partnerships such as one with Intel. Founded in 2016, the startup’s mission is to lead the cloud-native data center transformation by delivering scalable and efficient software-defined storage that is easy to consume.


Top Executive: Yang Yuanqing, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Morrisville, N.C., and Hong Kong

Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group offers a full spectrum of storage, analytics, virtualization, backup and disaster recovery, and HPC software for its portfolio of servers, storage and hyperconverged infrastructure. With its TruScale Infrastructure Services, the PC and infrastructure giant offers data center products as a service in a pay-per-use sales motion.


Top Executive: Kevin McGibben, President, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Barbara, Calf.

LogicMonitor provides a fully automated, cloud-based infrastructure monitoring platform and observability software for enterprises and MSPs that allows full-stack visibility into networks, clouds and servers within a single unified view. In February, LogicMonitor acquired Airbrake, a developer-centric application error and performance monitoring company.


Top Executive: Vincent English, CEO

Headquarters: San Francisco

Megaport is a global provider of Network as-a-Service offerings. The company specializes in software-defined networking to help customers rapidly connect their network to services via an easy-to-use portal or its open APIs. Megaport partners with cloud providers and the largest data center operators to provide agile networking capabilities aimed at reducing operating costs.


Top Executive: Satya Nadella, CEO

Headquarters: Redmond, Wash.

The biggest software company in the world is pouring billions of dollars into building new data centers across the world to meet the high demand for Microsoft Azure cloud services. Microsoft offers a full range of data center software products around storage, virtual networking, machine learning, AI, databases, IoT, and public and hybrid cloud.


Top Executive: Siamak Nazari, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Fremont, Calif.

Founded by a group of former 3Par executives, Nebulon’s smartInfrastructure provides self-service provisioning, infrastructure management as a service and local data services. The company offers server-embedded infrastructure software as a service to deliver the benefits of the public cloud experience on-premises—from core to edge—for any application.


Top Executive: George Kurian, CEO

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.

The storage specialist provides software for storage, data protection and management, virtual desktop infrastructure, artificial intelligence and application development. NetApp is ending production of its HCI technology to focus on Project Astra, its platform for providing persistent storage when managing Kubernetes data and applications. NetApp this year changed its partner program to reward partners who focus on digital transformation and cloud migration.


Top Executive: Rajiv Ramaswami, President, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

The hyperconverged infrastructure software superstar is consistently launching new software products and features around storage, database management, micro-segmentation, disaster recovery, data protection and hybrid cloud. In December, Nutanix named former VMware executive Rajiv Ramaswami as its new CEO to elevate Nutanix into a $2 billion company.


Top Executive: Jensen Huang, President, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Nvidia has the potential to disrupt the data center market through next-level innovation around CPUs, GPUs and DPUs. The company’s software portfolio consists of virtual GPUs, application management and top-notch artificial intelligence, to name a few. Nvidia expanded into high-speed data center networking products last year with its $7 billion acquisition of Mellanox Technologies.


Top Executive: Gary Marks, President

Headquarters: Edison, N.J.

Opengear provides networking monitoring, data center and infrastructure management offerings for secure remote access. The company’s Network Resilience Platform provides remote access to network devices through a separate management plane with the ability to automate NetOps processes such as securely deploying and provisioning equipment and to access remote IP devices at any edge location.


Top Executive: Safra Catz, CEO

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

Oracle is one of the largest software companies in the world with a renewed focus on the data center market thanks to high demand for Oracle Cloud services. Oracle’s vast software portfolio ranges from cloud storage, networking and computing to the Oracle Database and on-premises applications.


Top Executive: Dave Ward, CEO

Headquarters: Culver City, Calif.

PacketFabric provides a highly scalable Network-as-a-Service platform for hybrid and multi-cloud connectivity that uses end-to-end automation, a private optical network and innovative packet switching technology. The startup delivers on-demand, private and secure connectivity services between hundreds of colocation and cloud provider data centers across the globe.

Palo Alto Networks

Top Executive: Nikesh Arora, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

The cybersecurity software standout provides artificial intelligence, analytics, automation and orchestration for data centers along with a slew of security products to prevent attackers from getting inside a data center. Palo Alto Networks has a top-notch SD-WAN offering, Prisma, powered by automation and machine learning from its acquisition of CloudGenix last year for $420 million.

Penguin Computing

Top Executive: Sid Mair, President

Headquarters: Fremont, Calif.

Penguin Computing focuses on open platform systems, on-premises high-performance computing (HPC), bare metal HPC, artificial intelligence and storage technologies coupled with a wide variety of services in the data center. Penguin Computing’s TrueHPC delivers a software, hardware and management platform built on compute-optimized hardware and its orchestration software suite.


Top Executive: Bill Stover, CEO

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

Pivot3 provides hyperconverged and video surveillance infrastructure with software intelligence at the edge and inside data centers across the globe. Pivot3’s scale-out Acuity HCI software architecture combines NVMe PCIe flash, SSD, HDD and RAM in each HCI node for faster performance and cost-effective capacity utilization. The company is investing heavily in the emerging edge data center market.

Pluribus Networks

Top Executive: Kumar Srikantan, President, CEO

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Pluribus Networks specializes in data center networking with scalable, automated and cost-efficient offerings based on the principles of disaggregation and controllerless software-defined networking automation. Pluribus Networks recently unveiled a new “partner-first” channel program to drive partner profitability in the data center around SDN and switching for the hybrid cloud era.

Red Hat

Top Executive: Paul Cormier, President, CEO

Headquarters: Raleigh, N.C.

The open-source software player uses a developer community-powered approach to delivering container, Kubernetes, Linux and hybrid cloud technologies to data centers. Red Hat, which is now part of IBM, continually launches new products and features for OpenShift, the company’s open-source container platform based on a Kubernetes orchestrator for app development and deployment.


Top Executive: Rich McBee, President, CEO

Headquarters: San Francisco

Led by longtime IT veteran McBee, Riverbed specializes in optimizing networks and application performance and visibility everywhere. The Riverbed Network and Application Performance Platform enables customers to visualize, optimize, remediate and accelerate the performance of any network for any application, and helps to identify and mitigate cybersecurity threats.

Scale Computing

Top Executive: Jeff Ready, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Indianapolis

Scale Computing provides highly automated virtualization and hyperconverged infrastructure offerings to data centers and the edge on a global basis. Scale Computing’s HC3 software eliminates the need for traditional virtualization software, disaster recovery software, servers and shared storage with its fully integrated, highly available system for running applications.

Schneider Electric

Top Executive: Jean-Paul Tricoire, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Boston

The data center power superstar has been doubling down on software innovation for years via its IoT-enabled EcoStruxure architectures around data center management, monitoring and managed power services. Schneider Electric launched its Edge Software and Digital Services Program this year to enable channel partners to develop a managed power services practice.


Top Executive: Murad Kablan, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Boulder, Colo.

Founded in 2016, Stateless’ motto is to provide software that “puts data back in motion.” The startup’s Stateless Software Platform enables IT and data teams to easily access and transport data without sacrificing visibility or control—all through self-service stateless micro network functions.


Top Executive: Sudhakar Ramakrishna, President, CEO

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

The IT management software player provides customers with dozens of network, security, application, database and system management and monitoring offerings for the data center. Former Pulse Secure CEO Ramakrishna was hired as SolarWinds’ new as president and CEO in January, bringing with him 25 years of experience working at Citrix Systems, Polycom and Motorola.


Top Executive: Charles Liang, Chairman, President, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Supermicro provides a slew of software alongside its massive portfolio of servers, storage, networking, high-performance computing and hyperconverged infrastructure offerings for data centers. The $3.3 billion company since 1993 has been helmed by its founder, Charles Liang, who is a champion of making more green and sustainable data centers.

Veeam Software

Top Executive: William Largent, Chairman, CEO

Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio

Veeam Software provide flexible and reliable backup and recovery offerings in a single platform for cloud, virtual, SaaS, Kubernetes and data center environments. Veeam’s new 4-in-1 Backup & Replication v11 offerings protect each phase of the data life cycle while handling the complexities of a multi-cloud environments. The company protects over 400,000 customers worldwide.


Top Executive: Rob Johnson, CEO

Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio

The fast-growing data center power specialist offers a variety of monitoring and management software platforms to optimize data centers. Vertiv last month launched it pre-assembled micro data center, the VRC-S, designed for edge or small IT sites. It includes software, monitoring sensors, a UPS and a rack power distribution system.


Top Executive: Raghu Raghuram, CEO

Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.

The $12 billion virtualization superstar is a leading software provider in the global data center market with the goal of becoming the worldwide leader in multi-cloud computing. VMware last month selected 18-year VMware technologist and cloud leader Raghuram as its new CEO with bullish plans to rule the hybrid cloud software world.

Wasabi Technologies

Top Executive: David Friend, Co-Founder, CEO

Headquarters: Boston

Cloud and edge data storage startup Wasabi Technologies allows customers to store infinite amounts of data with no data egress charges. In 2021, Wasabi raised $137 million in capital funding to drive the roll-out of new data centers and grow the company’s distribution channels and partner network.

Western Digital

Top Executive: David Goeckeler, CEO

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Led by former Cisco top executive Goeckeler, Western Digital provides a variety of data center object storage, solid and hard disk drives. The $16.7 billion company’s OpenFlex composable infrastructure data center platform uses NVMe-over-Fabric to improve compute and storage utilization, performance and agility, while allowing storage to be disaggregated from compute.