John McAdam’s first retirement lasted six months before he returned to F5 as CEO. Now he’s ready to try again as the company prepares to launch a major product refresh this quarter.
During yesterday’s third-quarter earnings call, McAdam said he and the board have agreed to initiate the search for a new CEO. “We have no specific time targets in place, but expect that this process may take six months or more to complete,” he said during the call.
F5 also announced a new chief marketing officer yesterday: Ben Gibson, formerly of Veritas and Aruba Networks.
Timing Is Everything
It’s neither a secret nor a surprise that McAdam’s goal has been re-retirement. He previously stated that his role, this time, was only to get the company stabilized. But the announcement comes at a point where F5’s situation isn’t necessarily encouraging.
“We believe F5 Networks’ sales performance did not particularly indicate any significant improvement over recent quarters, as evidenced by product sales, which remained down 7 percent year-over-year,” writes Dougherty & Co. analyst Catherine Trebnick in a report issued this morning.
F5 reported third-quarter revenues of $497 million, compared with $484 million in the same quarter last year.
Net income was $91.8 million, or $1.37 per share, compared with $75.4 million, or $1.11 per share, last year.
Non-GAAP net income of $1.81 per share beat the consensus estimate of $1.79 as reported by Thomson Financial.
The numbers are adequate; investors have sent F5’s stock up 1.5 percent to $123.26 this morning. But Trebnick was taken aback by what she thought was an aggressive fourth-quarter forecast. F5 is predicting $515 million to $525 million in revenues — a year-over-year gain of 3 to 5 percent.
That’s set “against an IT spending environment which many investors fear may be slowing, as well as an ADC market which is experiencing near-flat year-over-year growth,” Trebnick writes.
The New DevOps World
What exactly is more stable about F5, then?
For the last few quarters, the company’s earnings calls have mentioned a yet-unannounced product line called the Shuttle series. They’re ADC appliances loaded with FPGAs — programmable chips that, in theory, would allow the appliance to take on different personalities.
If that’s what F5 is planning, then the Shuttle series would be like an intermediate step between hardwired appliances and network functions virtualization (NFV).
F5 has been promising that the Shuttle series — due to launch this quarter as part of a complete refresh of F5’s appliances — will be “DevOps-friendly” and will improve on the performance of the company’s current ADCs.
“The Shuttle series is designed with future proofing in mind, to support these cloud-based applications in the hybrid [cloud], specifically to be able to connect seamlessly between private traditional data center and cloud-based applications,” McAdam said during yesterday’s earnings call.
In May, F5 also tweaked its orchestration and management tools, preparing for a world where developers program the network.
So, F5 seems to think it has an idea how to adapt to the new world of software developers and the public cloud.