On the campaign trail with McAfee's Dave DeWalt

On the campaign trail with McAfee's Dave DeWalt

Summary: Fifty days into the job, McAfee's CEO Dave DeWalt is pumped up about his new position and is on a campaign to change public perceptions about the company. The former CEO of Documentum and then EMC's President of Customer Operations and Content Management Software (which acquired Documentum), told me that the company has solid assets but the brand has been neglected too long.

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TOPICS: Security
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Fifty days into the job, McAfee's CEO Dave DeWalt is pumped up about his new position and is on a campaign to change public perceptions about the company. The former CEO of Documentum and then EMC's President of Customer Operations and Content Management Software (which acquired Documentum), told me that the company has solid assets but the brand has been neglected too long. "We have to educate the marketplace on what we have and outline our vision and strategy--many think of us as the AV [anti-virus] company," he said.

DeWalt took over a McAfee that had been rocked by financial scandal. Despite the management and legal problems, DeWalt said the company had 16 percent year over year revenue growth, and nine consecutive record quarters. Revenues for last year were about $1.2 billion. DeWalt's early efforts are apparently having a favorable effect on McAfee's stock; since he joined the company on April 2, the market cap of the company has risen about $800 million.

dewalt460.jpg Now the company has spent $50 million on rehabilitating its infrastructure , with a new SAP, Siebel and supply chain system and bringing in a new management team, DeWalt said. The company is also closing in on a financial restatement that will finally resolve issues with the federal regulators. "All the cards are face up, and we have world class compliance--in the top 1 percent in my opinion," DeWalt said.

McAfee's new mission is to be the leader in security risk management, which DeWalt defined as as combination of network and systems security. "It takes both to be a leader," he said. His challenge is to build up the enterprise portion of the business, which is not as strong the consumer side. At Interop, McAfee made several new product announcements for enterprise-class products, including an intrusion prevention system appliance for 10 Gigabit Ethernet networks.

He views Symantec as his main competitor, but hampered by its acquisition of Veritas. "Symantec is confused about what it wants to be with Veritas. It's like trying to make apples and oranges into the same fruit," he said. "We don't need to do a Veritas--security and storage are a very different selling process. That's why Symantec has struggled so hard." That sounds like a bit of spin control from DeWalt.

Symantec paid more than $10 billion for Veritas, which develops enterprise storage software, in 2005. CEO John Thompson wouldn't agree with DeWalt's assessment. He has focused his company on acquiring more share of CIO wallets through acquiring assets that form an enterprise portfolio, just as EMC has done from its storage base with Documentum (DeWalt's former company), VMware and RSA (which DeWalt called a "stretch" for EMC in terms of the fit). More recently, Symantec acquired IT management company Altiris for about $830 million.

DeWalt has a strong cash position and a rising stock to make his own acquisitions, and is focused on partnerships with companies like Cisco, Microsoft, EMC and system integrator. Cisco and Microsoft are also competitors with McAfee in some areas. "We are a pure security play, they are not. We see an opportunity in partnering with them. They cannot solve all the problems in the marketplace."

Regarding Microsoft, DeWalt said, "I just spent the last eight years hearing Microsoft would enter the document management space. I am still waiting."

DeWalt is planning to make McAfee more visible, not that it is getting free of its tainted past. "McAfee is not well marketed, and we are going to change that," he said. He is not kidding. DeWalt will be on the campaign trail, with 17 keynotes on tap at various conferences around the world in the next six months. He's even done a few blog posts. Now he just needs to show that McAfee's pure security focus for the enterprise will pay off.

Topic: Security

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