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High-profile vendor executives were on the move in 2008 -- some voluntarily, others not so much. The biggest move came from VMware, whose board of directors fired CEO and co-founder Diane Greene in July. Joe Tucci -- chairman of the board and CEO of EMC, VMware's parent company -- said he wanted a CEO with "more operational experience" and replaced Greene with former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz. VMware co-founder and chief scientist Mendel Rosenblum, who also happened to be Greene's husband, resigned two months later.
Microsoft also saw a lot of comings and goings. Jeff Raikes, co-president of the Microsoft Business Division, announced his retirement in January. Two months later the company snagged Doug Kennedy, Oracle's worldwide channel chief, and named him vice president of Microsoft Dynamics partners. And in July, platforms and services president Kevin Johnson left to become Juniper Networks' CEO. (Johnson is now a rumored candidate for the Yahoo CEO job.)
Kennedy's departure was part of the complete overhaul of Oracle's channel leadership, as North American channel chief Rauline Ochs also left, to take a job at Safeco. The company replaced Kennedy with veteran Judson Althoff and promoted two vice presidents, Tyler Prince and John Gray, to fill Ochs' shoes.
Apple, Linux gain on Microsoft
Microsoft Windows machines remained the overwhelming choice of businesses in 2008, but Linux and Apple's Mac both made inroads, thanks in part to customer dissatisfaction with Windows Vista. The Mac's enterprise strength has typically been with creative design and advertising customers, but Apple resellers saw more interest this year from other businesses, including law firms and medical offices. Enterprise Linux market share also grew, but it still remained below 1%, and leading provider Novell pledged to drive growth next year by focusing more on the channel.
Coming in 2009: Microsoft looks to put the Vista fiasco in the past by releasing Windows 7.
Ethernet switches fuel Cisco vs. Juniper fight
There was heightened competition in Ethernet switches in 2008 as Cisco Systems and other vendors brought out new products. Juniper Networks took aim at Cisco in March, announcing its EX-series Ethernet switches, and CEO Scott Kriens said at April's partner summit that Juniper will become a $10 billion company.
That same month, Cisco announced Nexus 5000, its 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switch that enables Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). The switch was part of Cisco's new strategy to treat the data center as a company's central focus.
Cisco and Juniper weren't the only companies getting in on the action, though. Brocade announced in July that it would acquire Foundry Networks for $3 billion. The move gave Brocade the combination of Ethernet and Fibre Channel that only Cisco could match, although some partners said they weren't sure how the acquisition would help their businesses.
SAP uses its influence
SAP extended its channel in 2008, offering referral fees to accountants, consultants and other nontraditional partners. The company said these partners, which it calls "influencers," are key to reaching small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers -- a relatively new market for SAP. Influencers who recommended certain SAP products to customers will receive 5% of the net license sale for each closed deal. Traditional partners praised the strategy for helping to bring them new business.
Microsoft partners welcome Small Business Server
Microsoft released lots of new products this year -- Windows Server 2008, Dynamics CRM 4.0 and Dynamics NAV 2009, just to name a few. But the one that captured the channel's attention the most was Windows Small Business Server 2008. Microsoft partners said the new release would make it easier for them to deploy it at customer sites and open up opportunities for add-on sales of terminal services and other advanced features. The company announced Small Business Server 2008 in February and released it in August.