The 10 Most Controversial Companies Of 2015 (So Far)

Creating Controversy

The enterprise technology industry is always a buzzing hive of nonstop activity, but amid all the coding, fixing, selling and marketing that vendors are doing these days, some are still managing to stir up quite a bit of controversy that keeps their names in the news.

Some vendors are always involved in controversy for one thing or another, and they're represented on this list. There are also newcomers to the list -- vendors that made decisions that have either rankled partners or caused them to re-evaluate channel relationships. In some cases, companies have generated internal controversies that touch on larger industry themes of importance.

Controversy isn't always a bad thing, however. As is often made clear, there are vendors that seek it out and see their ability to stir things up as a badge of honor.

CRN here presents our picks for the top 10 most controversial companies of the year so far.


If you haven't heard by now, Oracle says it's now a cloud-focused vendor, despite the fact that CTO Larry Ellison used to use the whole concept of cloud as a verbal punching bag. And in earnings calls this year, he and co-CEOs Safra Catz and Mark Hurd have touted cloud sales figures as evidence that the transition is going quite smoothly, thank you very much.

Yet in the Oracle channel, and elsewhere, there are some who feel the vendor is artificially pumping up its cloud sales figures. They claim Oracle sales reps are offering discounts on big software deals if customers agree to buy "cloud credits," or licenses redeemable for Oracle cloud products.

Sources also told CRN that when Oracle audits a customer's software usage and discovers they're out of compliance, its salespeople offer to waive back support and retroactive licensing costs if the customer agrees to buy cloud credits.


VMware and reseller partner Carahsoft agreed to pay $75.5 million in June to settle a civil lawsuit for allegedly overcharging the federal government for VMware products and services over a six-year period.

VMware and Carahsoft allegedly provided "inaccurate pricing, inaccurate disclosures and incomplete information" about VMware products and services to the General Services Administration, the purchasing arm of the federal government. They also allegedly gave private-sector customers better pricing and discounts on VMware products and services than they offered to government customers.

VMware and Carahsoft also inked a $78.1 million enterprise licensing agreement with the U.S. Army that has allegedly led to higher-than-expected costs for some Army commands, like the Army National Guard, which last year declared a moratorium on VMware purchases that remains in effect.

Citrix Systems

Citrix saw a steady stream of senior executives head for the exits during the first half of the year, including 15-year veteran sales vice president Al Monserrat. Then it revealed plans to lay off 900 employees as part of a corporate restructuring.

In April, sources told CRN that Citrix was mulling a sale or spinoff of its online services division, home to the GoTo family of SaaS products. In a subsequent earnings call, Citrix executives labeled that report a "rumor," but in July, as part of a pact with Elliott Management, Citrix said it was exploring "strategic options" for the GoTo business.

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton, who decided to stay on as CEO last year after the company was unable to find a new leader, is now stepping down for real. Citrix has solid technology and it'll be up to the next CEO to get the most out of it and stem the tide of departing talent.


Storage vendor NetApp has endured some rocky times of late, with declining commercial and channel sales, lackluster financial results, several rounds of layoffs and key executives leaving.

In June, things came to a head when NetApp ousted Chairman and CEO Tom Georgens and replaced him with George Kurian, executive vice president of product operations.

NetApp has been the subject of acquisition rumors for years, and these will likely see an uptick now that Cisco has decided to shutter its Invicta flash storage business. Meanwhile, some NetApp partners who've watched the company become less channel-friendly in recent years said they have already moved on to other vendors.

En Pointe

When sources told CRN in January that En Pointe Technologies, a $700 million Los Angeles-based national Microsoft enterprise partner, was looking for a buyer, En Pointe CEO Bob Din vehemently and categorically denied that this was the case.

"It's simply not true. We are not for sale. Our business is on fire. Every facet of our Microsoft business is growing like crazy. We're winning business in all areas, including solution sales and professional services, not just Microsoft business, so I don't have any reason to sell," Din told CRN at the time.

But then in March, PCM acquired En Pointe for $15 million.

Din was right about his business growth claims. En Pointe nearly tripled its net earnings for two years running and delivered revenue growth well over 20 percent in 2014, according to financial documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission after the acquisition by PCM.


It has been a bumpy ride this year for CSC. In April, the co-founder of ServiceMesh, the cloud management vendor it acquired in 2013, resigned in the midst of a bribery scandal.

Then, after CSC revealed a plan to split itself into two separate companies -- one focused on the commercial market and the other on government customers -- CSC CEO Mike Lawrie admitted that he didn't do enough to prepare his company for the cloud computing market.

"I missed some of the dynamics associated with the acceleration to cloud," Lawrie said during a CSC earnings call. "It is accelerating and had a bigger impact than what I thought it was going to have in 2015."

In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged CSC and former executives with accounting fraud and levied a $190 million fine in a case that began in 2011.


Google is known as a highly attractive place to work, with free meals and all kinds of other perks. But Google is facing the harsh glare of industry scrutiny after one of its ex-employees recently claimed that the company isn't very good when it comes to pay equality.

Erica Baker, a former Google engineer who worked at the company for nine years, posted a series of tweets in mid-July how she tried to highlight the issue by maintaining and sharing a spreadsheet with employees' salary information. She said she got the cold shoulder from management, and was even denied bonuses, for her efforts.

Baker said she managed to get 5 percent of Google's employees to enter their salary information on the spreadsheet, which she claims helped some negotiate better pay raises. Although Google's policy is to allow employees to share salary information, Baker appears to be the first to aggregate it in this way.


Hyper-converged infrastructure startup Nutanix is getting ready for an IPO, and it has also been locked in a spirited back-and-forth with VMware over whose technology is superior.

VMware's top storage executive, Chuck Hollis, penned a series of blog posts in May and June in which he offer a detailed rationale for his side. The gist: VMware has better performing hyper-converged technology that's less expensive than Nutanix's.

Lukas Lundell, global director of solutions and performance engineering at Nutanix, fired back with a post about how his company's technology is better suited to public cloud and features better management software.

Nutanix also debuted its own KVM based hypervisor and management software, as well as technology that converts VMware virtual machines to KVM. Clearly, Nutanix intends to take its fight with VMware beyond the hyper-converged market.


Microsoft has never been a stranger to controversy, particularly in years when it's launching a new version of Windows.

Windows 10, which hit the market in late July, has received positive reviews so far and looks poised to erase the bad memories of Windows 8. Yet Microsoft's decision to make Windows 10 automatic updates mandatory for consumers rankled many users, as it reportedly broke driver compatibility and messed with some apps. Microsoft reversed course on that decision in late July.

The tech giant also caused some confusion with its policy for free upgrades for people who tested the Windows 10 preview version. Users will, in fact, get a free copy of Windows 10, but only if they agree to receive future preview updates.

Microsoft, which rankled partners last July with free email migration services for Office 365 customers, expanded that program this July to include its Enterprise Mobility Suite offering, which includes Azure Active Directory and mobile device management.


The long-awaited Apple Watch doesn't appear to generating as much interest as the iPhone and iPad when they were launched, but that issue is taking a back seat to reported problems with Apple Music, the company's recently launched streaming music service.

In mid-July, Apple blogger Jim Dalrymple penned a blog post titled "Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it," in which he claimed around 4,700 songs had gone missing from his library. Then iOS developer Marco Arment weighed in on the situation, claiming the "iTunes Store back end is a toxic hellstew of unreliability."

Meanwhile, Apple Store employees, who sued the company in 2013 over its policy on searching their bags and personal belongings, gained class-action status in mid-July. They're seeking to be paid for the time it takes for Apple security to perform the searches when they leave Apple Stores.