F5 Networks CEO: Creating a Competitive Edge

By: John Gallant
02/10/2011
From the Road

F5 Networks has garnered nearly half of the Layer 4-7 switching market, while Cisco’s share has declined. John McAdam, F5’s CEO, attributes the company’s success to having won ownership of strategic control points in today’s consolidated data centers. I talked with McAdam about making infrastructure more agile and why his company so often beats Cisco when customers choose an application switching partner.

Develop your differences

“We see all the traffic that’s going between applications and between servers,” McAdam said. The company developed “application templates” for optimizing performance and security of individual enterprise applications—a capability that provides F5 with a competitive differentiator, McAdam said. Potential customers are sometimes surprised at the range of F5’s offerings, he added. Though F5 is a small company,”typically when we lose against Cisco it will be because … some customers basically decide they want to do one-stop shopping,” McAdam said. “When we win is when customers are looking at functionality and performance.”

Keep an eye out for acquisitions

F5 has acquired companies with technology that compliments its core products, including an application firewall, a WAN optimization solution and file virtualization capability. “We’re always looking to see if there is anything that’s synergistic that fits in our product stack and can increase our addressable market,” McAdam said.

Know where you can expand

Service providers are a growing source of revenue for F5. “One of the big drivers has been the mobile traffic requirement,” McAdam said, along with video. The company developed its VIPRION product for service providers to steer mobile traffic. But enterprises are beginning to demand same capability.

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