A conversation with John McAdam of F5 Networks

Looking to the future and understanding the past in application delivery controllers

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Absolutely, and ideally, that's where we're headed as we try to help enterprise IT groups meet their escalating traffic and security challenges, achieve the levels of scalability they need, embrace cloud deployments and, at the same time, consolidate more of their infrastructure on fewer devices.

14. What is the one question when meeting with potential customers that you get the most and why?

This is an easy one! CIOs and IT executives always ask me "How can my IT department become more agile and save money by moving applications to the cloud, yet still maintain the same level of control, security, and service that our business units require?" It's difficult for IT to maintain control of mission-critical applications when they don't control the infrastructure. With F5, then can maintain control over the application delivery infrastructure, regardless of where an application lives or which business unit is pushing that app into the cloud. And that's what every CIO wants to know-that their business processes won't be interrupted when they move mission-critical apps to the cloud.

15. Many vendors I talk to bring up customer purchasing terms, many have moved from 15-30 days to 60-90 days. Do you think this is getting out of hand or is the power in the customer hands?

Our terms have been and still are net 30 days to net 45 days for domestic customers. Terms for international customers range from net 30 days to net 120 days. Neither of these has changed for F5; we're still adhering to the same terms and conditions that we have had for the past several years.

16. Do you see F5 doubling in sales within 5 years?

We do not give specific growth guidance beyond a quarterly view. Having said that, our run rate in recent quarters indicates we're capable of achieving that $1B annual milestone, and we expect to maintain aggressive hiring for the foreseeable future to ensure our continued growth. If we maintain the growth we have seen in the recent past, then the math definitely indicates that doubling in 5 years is very achievable.

17. What is the biggest misconception about F5 that people believe or hear?

The biggest misconception is that F5 makes load balancers. That's certainly where we began more than a decade ago, but with some of the features I've already mentioned like our full proxy architecture and application fluency, we have helped pioneer the advanced ADC market. It's a matter of getting in front of customers and demonstrating to them the functionality of our products. Our solutions can dramatic improve ROI in countless ways-by keeping applications up and running, improving performance and bandwidth utilization, reducing CapEx and OpEx by offloading servers and enabling consolidation, and perhaps most important of all, protecting applications and data from cyber attacks across their entire infrastructure.   

18. It has been a while since we have seen some head to head testing against your competitors, when will we see more?

In general, we believe testing is not very objective when a vendor pays a third party to test their product against a competitor's, so we don't do that. Instead, we do our own performance testing, but what distinguishes us from others is that we make our testing methodology, device configurations, definitions, factual data, real-world scenarios, and performance guidelines completely transparent and available to anyone who wants it. We back that up by operating a real-world performance lab where customers can see test results based on their own application-specific scenarios.

Typically we test alongside other products that are comparable in terms of price, performance, and the timeframe in which they were released. In 2010, we did some extensive testing of our VIPRION chassis-based and mid-range products against other vendors' similar offerings. As always, our overriding goal is to help customers make the most informed buying decisions possible.

19. If you could partner with one company right now to expand your product line or sales, who would it be and why?

We have a very wide selection of partners today, both in terms of our global channel partners and technology relationships. Perhaps there is room for expanding our portfolio with organizations that are competitors today but could be partners in the future. I am not going to single out a specific company.

20. IPad, iphone or android? What do you own?

iPad and iPhone

21. What kind of songs are on your mp3 player?

A lot of sixties stuff (The Who, Rod Stewart, Beatle etc) plus recent hits.

22. Being an executive like myself you have to have a release. Mine is golf or my handheld satellite radio. What is yours?

Golf, gym, traveling, watching soccer, and time with the family (not in that order!).

23. Fly, drive or train; which would you take the most if you had the chance?

Definitely not drive. Probably the train, but I mainly fly.

24. In the movie Almost Famous, what was the name of the bus they traveled in? Name of the song playing when they showed that bus name in the movie?

Okay, I had to use "Bing" on this one ...

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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