McAfee CEO ponders consolidation, Cisco threat

Dave DeWalt on the security industry and McAfee

On Monday at 6 a.m., Dave DeWalt stood in front of McAfee's Plano, Texas, offices to greet employees with coffee, doughnuts and a handshake. "They were wondering, 'Who's the guy in the suit?'" says the former EMC vice president who became McAfee's CEO on April 2.

But it will take more than a hearty handshake to win over the market for IT security buyers, which is DeWalt's plan. The executive sees his company as well positioned to become the dominant player in the security industry, given McAfee's breadth of offerings, army of researchers and alliances in the greater technology industry. As the market matures, DeWalt believes am increasing number of enterprise and consumer customers will turn to McAfee for its range of products, rather than pick, chose and stitch together offerings from smaller, less-stable vendors. No doubt executives at Symantec feel the same about their company's opportunities, however, and DeWalt acknowledges he faces formidable competition.

DeWalt spoke with Cara Garretson on day 3 at his new job to discuss why he took the position, where the security industry is going and where McAfee fits in.

What interested you about taking the helm at McAfee?

A lot, but the foremost factor was the security industry itself. It's a market segment that's very dynamic, very fluid. It's a consolidating market, but it's still got a lot of growth opportunity. There's no single, dominant vendor. We want to be the vendor who can drive the strategic agenda of the security marketplace, to be the pure-play dominant provider of security.

Do you believe it will be tricky to lead a company with a dual focus on consumer and enterprise?

Yes, there's no doubt. But what makes this a little less of a balancing challenge than it may appear is the same products we sell to the consumer we sell to the enterprise. It's not like there's a different set of products for each market segment, with some exceptions. I have products that are very elastic and go from consumer to enterprise, so that becomes a more scalable and power model.

The security market is consolidating. Where does McAfee fit?

Every major market segment goes through periods where they go from best of breed to best of suite, or I like to call them, the Little Six to the Big Three, until you have a couple of gorillas in the space. Look at the database market: How many database vendors did you have in the beginning, 15? Now there are three. I went to the RSA Conference [in February], and there were 2,000 vendors, companies I'd never heard of and so many that do the same thing. McAfee probably had the most powerful balance sheet at the show, and there's lots of opportunity to expand the footprint of the company. A lot of analysts believe this market will mature to the point that most enterprises and consumers are going to look for packaged suites, and they need trusted advisers for their [security] problems. With 2,000 new threats every day, would I trust this to a start-up company? Not really.

Everyone has their opinion of where we're at in the consolidation of the security game. There's a very predictable maturation process; the last two to three years we've seen a very big growth in the underbelly of security that results in thousands of security companies, but the market won't sustain that.

Is security becoming commoditized?

Security will be everywhere. It's going to be a critical component to IT infrastructure moving forward for every type of device platform. But it's changing dramatically so it's almost impossible to commoditize the components of it. Security in the last few years has largely been relegated to PCs. Now we've got mobile devices . . . storage is still a nascent security market, and the world of network security -- bringing a lot of technology into switching -- is a nascent market. Maybe parts of the market commoditize with basic functionality, but it's so dynamic and changing with the number of threats and challenges happening and the complexity of infrastructure, I don't think you'll get to [commoditization] anytime soon.

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