Meet the 14 power players of IBM, playing key roles in CEO Ginni Rometty’s bid to dominate the $1 trillion hybrid cloud market — and a few who might take over for her one day (IBM)

IBM was once the undisputed star of enterprise tech — the company that sold the hardware and software running many of the business world's computer networks.

But Big Blue has found itself falling behind in the cloud, where even the largest of companies are shifting some or all of their computing infrastructure to the tech giants' massive data centers. That market is dominated by more powerful rivals like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

IBM is making a big bet on a related trend, hybrid cloud, which lets businesses store data and use applications on cloud platforms, while maintaining big chunks of their networks in private data centers.

CEO Ginni Rometty boldly predicted in January that IBM will be the first-place player in that emerging market, which IBM predicts will eventually be worth $1 trillion. IBM just bought Red Hat for $34 billion, to form a cornerstone of this bold bet.

Amid all of this, industry insiders have started to wonder out loud about who might one day replace Rometty, 62, who has served as CEO since 2012. To be clear, there's no indication that IBM's chief exec is going anywhere. But that hasn't stopped the chatter: In August, a Morgan Stanley analyst predicted that Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, will inherit the mantle.

IBM isn't saying anything, and declined to comment for this story. But in light of IBM's hybrid cloud push, and the Red Hat acquisition — the largest in the company's history — we thought it would be a good time to take a look at IBM's executive bench, and the leadership taking it to the next stage. There might even be some clues into who is the heir apparent at IBM.

"Lots of strategic decisions in this next pick," IDC analyst Frank Gens told Business Insider on the possibility of a new CEO. "IBM, like most of the traditional leaders in tech, continues to be in a major transition, as the industry shifts more fully to the cloud, and a whole new generation of tech like AI, blockchain, quantum, etcetera."

The next CEO must focus on two key arenas: selling cutting edge technology products and offering high-end services as a "digital business-savvy advisor," an arena where it competes with the likes of Accenture, Deloitte, or Capgemini.

"It will certainly remain in both businesses, but which will it choose to more strongly emphasize with its next CEO pick?" Gens said.

Here are the 14 IBM executives who are expected to play an important role in that strategy, including several considered by analysts to be Rometty's potential successor:

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