In 2016 we said good bye to the BlackBerry smartphone. Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry CEO John Chen made the historic decision to exit the hardware business and leave development of future smartphones to its partners.
This decision was a sad news announcement for Canadian innovation as BlackBerry was at one time the darlings of the mobile generation.
Previously, Chen had said that if BlackBerry’s hardware business was not profitable within its current fiscal year, it would exit.
Chen said the company planned to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners allowing the company to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital.
He added that BlackBerry reached an inflection point with its strategy. While the financial foundation is strong, the company had already pivoted to software and that strategy is taking hold.
To say 2016 was a big year for Dell EMC Canada president Kevin Peesker would be an understatement.
The executive represented Canadian interests in what was one of the largest mergers in the tech industry’s history. The announcement that Dell and EMC were combining their firepower in a $67 billion mega deal was made at the end of 2015 but wasn’t actually completed until September 2016. While many tech experts thought the merger would be disruptive to the market, Peesker said it was a “seamless transition” for the two companies.
“I found that [the merger] was an incredibly positive experience and we’ve really hit the ground running,” he told CDN. “It brought together two great organizations and I was fortunate enough to travel across the country several times to meet and work with our new team members, as well as our legacy Dell folks.”
Dell EMC Canada also hired a new Canadian channel chief, Deanna Thomson, in December 2016 after an exhaustive search and more than 25 initial applicants for the role. Thomson, a 20-year Dell Technologies veteran, spent much of her career “in the end user space working with large corporations, and in the last few years, in the channel community building a great ecosystem for Dell in Western Canada,” Peesker said.
Probably the most exciting company in the channel in 2016 was Amazon Web Services Canada. Besides exciting AWS Canada may also be the quickest company in the entire IT industry in Canada.
In 2015 the announcement was made that AWS would put down roots in Canada and hired an experience, well respected leader in Eric Gales to fulfill that dream. Well, by the end of 2016 AWS Canada is a significant player in the marketplace with the channel signing hundreds of partners.
And, then Gales cut the ribbon on its first regions in Montreal. This facility ended up becoming AWS’s first region outside of the United States. An important milestone for the company and for Gales.
But that wasn’t all. Gales hired Rob Stevens, another highly thought of executive with tons of channel experience to become AWS Canada’s first channel chief.
The Montreal region is just one step towards a much larger footprint the company is building in the Canadian market, Gales said.
On March 27th of 2017 Rick Reid will be starting his 19th year as the President of Tech Data Canada of Mississauga, Ont. His leadership tenure is unmatched in the Canadian IT channel community and only rivals last year’s Top Newsmaker of the year Harry Zarek, founder and CEO of Top 100 Solution Provider Compugen. The only difference is Reid's term is uninterrupted. Zarek stepped aside from Compugen for close to two years after it was acquired by Norigen Communications Inc. around the turn of the century; only for Zarek to buy back his company when Norigen went bankrupt.
Circumstances could not have been any better for Reid and Tech Data in 2016. The first event happened in mid-February when his long-time rival Ingram Micro sold to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group for $6 billion. Then seven months later a blockbuster deal occurs where Tech Data acquires the Technology Solutions group of Avnet. At a purchase price of $2.6 billion this acquisition is the biggest IT distribution deal in history.
CDN is not suggesting that Reid played dealmaker between his company and Avnet, but it’s important to note the significance of this transaction to Tech Data’s Canadian operation and the entire channel community as a whole.
Janet Kennedy is still living the dream. Kennedy told CDN on her first day as President of Microsoft Canada back in 2013 that her new position was her dream job.
As she enters her fourth year as the President of Microsoft Canada, Kennedy has set her sights on establishing Artificial Intelligence as a mainstream business opportunity. As the calendar turned the page into 2017, Microsoft announced it had acquired Montreal-based deep learning vendor Maluuba, a company described as one of the world’s most impressive deep learning research labs for natural language understanding.
But while her focus is on 2017 goals, Kennedy is CDN’s Newsmaker of the Year for what the Canadian operation achieved in 2016.
And, the list of achievements is a long one with four major initiatives that can’t be overlooked. The list starts with two data centres in the country, hosting the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto and selling out for the first time ever, the acquisition of LinkedIn, and building on the Red Hat Canada partnership by fully committing to open source.
2016 ended up becoming a year of change for Ingram Micro Canada. The Canadian subsidiary saw its parent company agree to a historic deal to be acquired by Chinese conglomerate HNA Group for $6 billion dollars.
And, then midway through the year popular Ingram Micro Canada president Mark Snider accepted a promotion to be the Executive Vice President and Group President for Europe, Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) for Ingram Micro; making him responsible for all of those regions.
With this new role, Snider moved to Ingram’s Irvine, Calif. headquarters. Snider has been in charge of Ingram Canada since the middle of 2007 when he, along with Charlie Spano, became dual presidents of the subsidiary.
With that move came news that Bill Brandel, the executive director of advanced solutions would be overseeing the Canadian operation, reporting directly to Paul Bay. Brandel, an 18-year veteran of the distributor and a native of Buffalo, N.Y., mentored under Snider since 2010. Brandel would get the title of vice president and country chief executive of Canada for Ingram.
After 30 years in the data protection software business, David and Eran Farajun, the father-son duo in charge of the Canadian vendor that is Asigra, aren’t slowing down.
In fact, as the company turns the page on its 30th anniversary and begins year 31, the two are looking toward the next 30 years, starting with an entirely new management team put together in 2016.
Eran, the executive vice president of Asigra and responsible for the company’s global expansion, marketing, business development, and long-term strategic activities, and his father, David, the company’s CEO and founder of the business in 1986 in Toronto, have been mainstays in Asigra leadership.
The two were joined by five new executives in 2016.
“2016 was a people pivot year if you will,” said Eran Farajun. “We have a lot of new brain power, which is very exciting for us as a business.”
2016 saw the one-year anniversary of one of the most significant splits in IT history between HP Inc. and HPE.
Many pundits evaluated the first year of HP on its own a close to a home run for the corporate giant. The success of the HP split performed very well in Canada. HP Inc.’s Canadian footprint in commercial PC sales has become much stronger, the gap between HP PC sales and competitors grew by almost 15 per cent in the last year, and with investments into printing and copying, HP plans to keep that growth as they move forward. HP also pulled the trigger on a massive deal to acquire the printing business of Samsung.
Mary Ann Yule, the president of HP Canada, outlined a bold agenda to reinvent and amaze customers in 2016. She treated the situation as a startup; including the energy of a startup. As for HPE Canada, its first year without HP, saw the Canadian operation shine in the channel’s eyes. Partners saw the company become nimbler than before.
Luc Villeneuve took the Canadian operation of Red Hat to another level in 2016. Buoyed by the Microsoft partnership that made the once fierce rivals pivot to the benefit of customers and channel partners; the strategic relationship was furthered in 2016 by Villeneuve. Microsoft is now offering Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the first choice for enterprise Linux workloads on Azure along with Red Hat middleware and cloud management solutions. As a bonus, OpenShift, Red Hat’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables developers and channel partners to create and host scalable applications in the cloud, is also on Azure.
While the Red Hat/Microsoft partnership was high profile, Villeneuve did not stop there. He put the Canadian operation on a new trajectory in 2016. Red Hat now boasts partnerships with Cisco, Tata Consulting Services, Wipro, Dell EMC, SAP, Lenovo, Samsung, and QCT.
Villeneuve is doing his part to help the parent company reach its $5 billion stated goal.
2016 was another special year for Cisco Canada President Bernadette Wightman. She started the year off with a bang by opening the new billion-dollar Innovation Centre in downtown Toronto. At that opening, Wightman made a promise to place no limits on the number of partners, projects or special relationships at the newly opened facility.
Wightman, who moves up from the 7th position last year, said Cisco Canada is just using half of this centre at the time of opening and would like to fill the rest of it. “I have no problem asking for more investment to expand,” she said.
The Toronto Innovation Centre is one of nine Cisco Innovation Centres around the world.
Wightman is a true believer in diversity and committed significant dollars to that end in 2016 by introducing the Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle program. This program will provide women entrepreneurs with access to technology knowledge and resources such as the Toronto Innovation Centre.
Jason MacKay, with some help from CDN No. 1 Newsmaker Janet Kennedy, president of Microsoft Canada, brought in high profile born in the cloud solution provider Comparex to Canada.
The company, founded in Leipzig, Germany, hired Mackay as its first ever leader for the Canadian operation. Mackay, a long time senior executive at Microsoft Canada and CompuCom Canada, said the two Microsoft Canada data centres had a significant reason for his company entering the Canadian marketplace, but Mackay added it was not the determining factor.
Richard Eyram makes the CDN Top 25 Newsmakers list for the first time because of Project Salesforce Einstein.
The Area VP of Salesforce Canada saw the unveiling of his company’s artificial intelligence engine, dubbed Salesforce Einstein, that will be integrated across its platform and provide users with new functions such as predictive lead scoring and vision-based search.
Salesforce Einstein has the potential to completely turn deal registration upside down for channel partners.
Well the face of Google Canada Sam Sabastian did well for non-profits in Canada in 2016 by giving 10 Canadian non-profits $5 million in its Go North campaign. But the question is; Can Google make the channel happy.
And, in 2016 the search giant tried — at least in the retail channel — by opening 10 small Google shops inside Best Buy locations. The plan will see Google follow that up with four larger shops in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, Ont., by year’s end. Within these shops, customers can book one-on-one appointments with trained staff and partake in hands-on weekly workshops on Google products.
Tony Lacavera is putting his money where his mouth is.
The former Wind Mobile CEO sits on the board of startup-funding charity Next Canada, whose venture capital firm Globalive Communications Corp. is one of its leading financial backers of Artificial Intelligence. Lacavera’s initiative is called NextAI.
In 2016 there was a lot of talk about Canada being over-distributed. While many distribution leaders believe this is the case, one executive is offering a different point of view: Greg Tobin, the GM of D&H Canada.
D&H Canada has continued to grow under the watchful eye of Tobin. In 2016, the distributor achieved 26 per cent average growth overall year-over-year, which exponentially outpaced the performance of 2-tiered distribution in Canada as measured by research firm the NPD Group.
After 16 years of unprecedented success in the solution provider channel Dave MacDonald is retiring as the President and CEO of Softchoice.
During his tenure Softchoice won an unprecedented seven consecutive CDN No. 1 Solution Provider of the Year awards. No other Canadian solution provider has come close to that record.
CDN’s Newsmaker issue for 2016 was an easy one: Data Centres. There were so many data centre openings in 2016 highlighted by the two from Microsoft Canada and the first AWS region outside of the U.S. in Montreal. What these data centres did was put to bed the issue of data sovereignty in this country for channel partners.
Data centres in Canada are growing rapidly. At present there is more than 5,000 data centres of which 200 are brand new, high-end commercial-grade facilities. An additional million square feet of data centre and co-location space is in the planning stages, according to JLL, a Chicago-based professional services and investment management firm specializing in data centres.
Multiple CDN Newsmaker Michael Murphy opened a brand new office for Citrix in Canada. He also helped to make the Canadian operation more of a cloud player than ever before.
In 2016, Citrix deepened its partnership with Microsoft to integrate even more solutions with Azure. This move solidified Citrix as an all-in cloud player to the channel. It also took Citrix’ partnership with Microsoft to the next level with the integration between Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) and Intune with XenMobile and NetScaler, NetScaler with Azure Active Directory, and finally enabling XenDesktop-powered VDI to deliver Windows 10 desktop-as-a-service from Azure cloud.
Mary Peterson, the vice president of enterprise and IT Solutions for Samsung Canada pulled up the device maker by the lapels and shook it and got it going into the business-to-business and enterprise markets in Canada.
The appointment of Peterson, an experience channel executive with well-known vendors such as Microsoft and SAP, helped Samsung make a significant series of investments in 2016 towards building up its enterprise business. Peterson told CDN that the company named 2016 “the year of the enterprise.”
A culture shift came to the Canadian operation of Synnex thanks to its longtime leader, president Mitchell Martin.
Martin told CDN the services culture initiative is a North American wide strategy centered around ServiceSolv. The new services push will have solutions development managers handle all aspects of a channel partner solution such as implementation, special delivery and deployment services in the field. “We are closing about 1,000 to 1,500 tickets a month through ServiceSolv, and our goal is to expand that dramatically,” Martin said.
Global IT solution provider Zones Inc. arrived in Canada in 2016. Zameer Hussain was hired to be Zones’ first ever country manager for the Canadian operation.
Hussain was formerly with two CDN Top 5 Solution Providers in Compugen and CDW Canada. At CDW Canada, Hussain was one of Mary Ann Yule’s top direct reports. Before that Hussain worked at two other CDN Top 100 Solution Providers in Xwave and Metafore. He got his start in the channel at Ingram Micro Canada.