It seems like only six or seven months since we last spoke with Ixia CEO Bethany Mayer.
And it was, in fact. It’s just that she wasn’t Ixia CEO then. She was head of the newly christened network functions virtualization (NFV) group at HP, spearheading a company wide effort to become an NFV leader. Tha job was created in February, but Mayer was gone by August to join Ixia. (Saar Gillai now runs HP’s NFV group.)
At the time, Ixia was in the rough. Former CEO Vic Alston resigned late in 2013 after the company learned he hadn’t received the college degrees he’d claimed. Ixia then fell behind on its quarterly earnings filings, which led to a scolding from Nasdaq, and, in August, the company initiated a layoff of about 5 percent of the workforce.
Mayer took time just before the holidays to talk with us about her new job and how it’s keeping her in the NFV sphere.
You sure joined Ixia at an interesting time.
Mayer: They had a difficult year, but if you look at Q3 results, we grew revenue 4 percent that quarter and grew enterprise revenue 43 percent. [Both figures are in comparison with Ixia’s second quarter.]
I’ve known about Ixia for many years, of course. What I see with this company is great IP [intellectual property] and technology, and a chairman of the board who is the founder and is chief innovation officer here. Over the last several years, it’s been high-growth and has a very strong, technically astute organization. Those are all very good things to work with.
That NFV job at HP sounded like a good opportunity, though.
Mayer: It was great to start up a business at HP and have the support of Meg [Whitman, CEO] to do that, but what I can also say is that Ixia has a good role to play in NFV. We have had a strong carrier presence, the customers know us, and now we have virtualized our products — virtual test machines that can test virtual functions and virtual-machine traffic.
So I continue participating very heavily in the carrier market. I’m doing something different, but I haven’t left it.
What did you learn about NFV during the HP job?
Mayer: Carrier CTOs were very excited about this transition to virtualization, but the operations team had a lot of concerns. They knew how to solve for service issues and QoS [quality-of-service] based on a physical network. Moving to a virtual network, they were concerned not only how they could be sure it met QoS but also that it was secure.
I think NFV is still in the proof-of-concept phase. It’s continuing along. I do think that many of the carriers have figured out architecturally what they want to do, and last year, I don’t think that was the case.
Mayer: I think those issues are really big, and I don’t think people spend as much time thinking through that as the carriers are.
The other comment that was made was about attracting people to the carriers, because they’re going to have to hire different kinds of skill sets, such as DevOps. Those people are attracted to different kinds of companies. How do [carriers] make it exciting for them? Those challenges are still very much front-and-center.
For HP and other equipment vendors, the sales cycle is changing as cloud providers, the Amazon types, become a more important buying constituent. Is the same happening for Ixia?
Mayer: We have a very good customer base in the cloud service providers. Many of them, remember, have virtualized their infrastructures. We offer both virtualized products as well as virtualized testing. They want to make sure they are being resilient against some of these attacks that have been going on. We’re also seeing interest in helping what’s going on from an application performance perspective in the network.
The test and measurement market changes rather slowly. What’s new over there?
Mayer: The value proposition of test and measurement has moved, so now our value proposition is on application performance, Layer 2 and up. Pre-validating design of the network, pre-validating the devices, providing visibility and even security. We are getting into all segments of the network life cycle, from the design phase to the rollout phase where we can layer in a level of security and test the architecture for security resilience.
Where is the technology for these other areas coming from?
Mayer: They’ve made acquisitions in a few different spaces. One is application performance, primarily for applications across the network for visibility — so, they made acquisitions of Anue and Net Optics. Those were great because they put Ixia in the network packet broker space and [gave us] the ability to provide visibility and optimization in the network.
The other piece that I found very interesting is that they made an acquisition of BreakingPoint Systems. They were founded by the same folks who founded TippingPoint — and if you recall, I ran TippingPoint at HP. [TippingPoint was part of the $2.7 billion acquisition of 3Com.]