IT Life: Weathering The Changes

John McAdam CEO F5

Keeping network performance high is John McAdam’s goal

John McAdam has had thirty years in the industry – almost half of them in his present job as president and CEO of network performance company F5 Networks. From 1995 he served as CEO of symmetric multiprocessing firm Sequent, staying briefly at IBM, which bought Sequent in 1999, before taking the F5 role in 2000.

graph, figure money financial decrease downturn © Prixel Creative ShutterstockWhat has been your favourite project so far?
I’ve really enjoyed growing the F5 brand and technology footprint over the past fourteen years, paralleling the ascension of the role applications play in our lives, both for organisations and consumers. The industry has changed so much in a relatively short amount of time, and F5 has had to negotiate numerous changes to the market, dynamic customer priorities, and emerging threats. This has meant moving into new markets and expanding further into adjacent areas, such as security—which has become a significant focus for us. While not without inherent risks, this adaptability has served F5 well. We’ve seen growth near 20% year-on-year, and several important acquisitions have broadened the solution portfolio we offer to customers.

Weathering the dot-com crash

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
In 2000, I was appointed as CEO and Director at F5—only a few months before the dot-com crash. Nearly all of F5’s customers at the time were dot-coms. To survive this turbulent time, we adopted a more strategic focus on enterprise customers, rebuilt our flagship technologies to be more extensible, and modified the company’s sales and marketing efforts to re-establish the company.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
I think we’ll see the total integration of business applications and social networking, available from anywhere at all times—providing a more consistent, holistic experience. The industry leaders that do the best job of partnering and adapting (and avoiding complacency) will be in the best position to meet customers’ evolving demands.

andy grove intelWho’s your tech hero?
Intel’s Andy Grove (Only the Paranoid Survive!).

Who’s your tech villain?
I have one in mind but I’m keeping it to myself!

What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
The Internet, which I imagine is a popular answer for this one…

Apart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
Apple – Do I really need to say why?

Security threats top the agenda

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Security, hacker © cristovao Shutterstock 2012I’d say cybersecurity threats top the list. The repercussions of a data breach can impact a business’ reputation, its balance sheet, and the overall value of the company. Today’s organisations need to be on the front foot and devise a strategy to combat cyber-crime across a growing number of vectors, typically working with security partners to help lessen the impact of attacks, now and looking forward. As technology continues to advance at a significant pace, companies are sometimes faced with a more challenging security environment to thrive in—as success itself can raise a company’s profile with respect to potential threats. The modern security landscape can also create confusion around where to invest in technology. But, if businesses can ensure that their data, particularly at the application level, is protected, that’s generally a sensible place to start.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?
Cloud—with caveats for now. Whilst the cloud offers its own distinct benefits such as operational efficiency, it can be challenging if you don’t have the right infrastructure in place to support it. Moving to the cloud requires integration with the correct on- and off-premises systems, enabling security, performance, and availability of your applications.

Celtic football fans beer barcelona © Maxisport ShutterstockWithout taking these aspects into consideration, your organisation will be vulnerable to further complexity and new security risks. I’m a firm believer in the cloud but it needs to be aligned with business objectives, defined parameters, and, not insignificantly, the evolving comfort levels of those within IT organizations to be done right and in order to reap the intended benefits.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
A player for Glasgow’s Celtic Football Club.

How’s your tech sporting knowledge?