Former CEO John McAdam talks cybersecurity.

Analyst Dave Holmes on the Kate Upton cyberattack.

F5 establishes itself as an SaaS market leader.

New CEO Manny Rivelo adds tech credibility.

Making Security The Name Of The Game

F5 Networks

Security

A new communication strategy helps F5 Networks reinvent its business model.

What does it take to be the go-to company? Blood. Sweat. Tears. And years of backing up your talk with unrelenting kick-ass work. And when you become the can-do company, life is good. But don’t get too comfortable resting on your laurels. Because when your industry starts to shift, your business model might just shift with it. And if you’re a company like F5 Networks, you’ll want to do what it did: jump into the driver’s seat.

A new direction for the industry

F5 Networks is the go-to IT infrastructure hardware brand, commanding more than half the $5 billion global application delivery controller market. But the tech world was becoming a more solutions- and services-based place. And the driving, central issue of the new cloud and app universe was security. F5 wanted to introduce security solutions as part of its applications delivery. But the world only saw F5 as the “IT hardware” geeks. At the same time, cybersecurity news was getting a lot more real estate in the spotlight. So F5 not only had to change the message; it also had to change how it communicated it.

Mining the untapped resource

In 2013, F5 began a disciplined communications campaign to start making that shift. And for inspiration, it didn’t have to look any further than its own backyard. It started by identifying its own top security experts and grooming them to be media superstars. These subject matter experts began writing and contributing to the top security publications. F5 then pitched its experts as speakers at the major IT conferences. And when security issues (such as the Ashley Madison hack or the Kate Upton nude DDoS cyberattack) made the national news, broadcast media outlets needed credible security pundits. And guess who was ready and waiting in the wings?

Leveraging the new leader

During the midst of the communications push, beloved F5 Networks CEO John McAdam retired. When Manny Rivelo took over in the spring of 2015, the company kept the strategy on track by making the most of Rivelo’s stellar tech credentials and credibility to accelerate the pace of perception change.

A seamless shift

Security modules have become a big growth driver for the company. Revenue from the sales of software modules and virtual editions has more than doubled and now accounts for more than a third of product revenue. F5 Networks grew at 2.5 times the pace of the application delivery control market. It signed a major Tier 1 security deal in Q3 2015. But of course it did all of that stuff. Because go-to guys always do what needs to get done.