Q&A: McAfee CEO Chris Young On What To Expect From The (Now Official) 'New McAfee'

The New McAfee

It's official – the "new" McAfee has been reborn, with the announcement Tuesday that Intel Security has closed its split from parent company Intel and re-assumed its heritage brand. In an interview with CRN, CEO Chris Young, who previously had led Intel Security, said the split will allow the company to focus entirely on cybersecurity for the first time since its $7.7 billion acquisition by Intel in 2010. That means partners can expect to see new innovations, a focused go-to-market strategy, and even some acquisitions, he said. Take a look at what Young had to say about the split, and what to expect as the company looks to hit the ground running as a $2 billion standalone security vendor.

Give us the rundown – what do you see as the key benefits of the separation?

I think as we separate and as we become an independent company, I think there are a couple of points that are really important, particularly for the industry as well as for your readership in specific. No. 1 is the resurgence of the platform player in cybersecurity - that is what we will be. When we separate from Intel, we will be a 100 percent focused cybersecurity company that is a real platform player in the industry… That will be one of the most important value propositions that McAfee is going to be able to bring to the table for our customers. We can truly partner with our customers on a global scale to really help them manage their cybersecurity problem broadly and then as they need to plug in other tools and technologies, whether those be tools and technologies that come from us or from third parties, we are one of the few players that's made a real commitment to that and bring together different parts of their infrastructure. You've seen what we've done with Open DXL and really making that available as a communications platform for bringing together different products in our customers' environments and for many years with EPO making that a management platform that they could go to integrate into their other capabilities.

What is the value proposition that you bring as McAfee, versus what you brought to the table before?

One of our core goals as a platform player is to be our customer's No. 1 security partner. That’s really big and really important. When I talk to CISOs - and even when I talk to channel partners – that's one of the reasons why they spend time with us because they see that we've got the size, we've got the scale, and we're making the investments to really help them drive that large scale value proposition that most organizations are looking for. But, we're also not looking to ask them to trade off everything… They're not willing to accept that. What they are willing to do is have us be their No. 1 partner and then bring on the pieces that they still believe are necessary but may or may not come from you. Even as we launch the new McAfee brand we bring forth our promise of a company of "Together is Power"… Getting that whole architecture right, that whole platform right is going to be really important. That is going to be one of the core elements of our mission as we separate and become a standalone organization.

How will the split from Intel allow you to invest in innovation? Where will you be looking to invest?

One of the benefits of our focus in cyber is that we're able to put all of our energy around building out our product portfolio. We will have available to us all options: whether that's to build, partner, or to buy products. Clearly, there is a fair amount of consolidation happening in our market. It is an active market and we except to be an active participant in that as one of the largest and most trusted players in the cybersecurity space. Organically, we have a lot that we're doing. One of the areas that I think is very exciting… is what we are doing around security operations and applying machine learning models and analytics to the security operations information and process… [These] are technologies and tools that will enable [customers] to go after this problem with higher skill capabilities and to go after it faster, while also leveraging the benefit of some of the latest methodologies in order to do that… That’s one of the most exciting parts of our portfolio and we have gotten a lot of great feedback ground that.

What are some of the areas you might look to make acquisitions?

I will tell you that we have a broad portfolio. We will seek to add pieces to that portfolio that we believe are going to help us solve the customer problem. I don’t think it makes sense specifically on where we are right now, but adding pieces to our portfolio both organically and inorganically is what we will be doing when we separate… Stay tuned.

What are you doing in particular to innovate around the endpoint? Especially to respond to McAfee dropping off as a "leader" in the Magic Quadrant?

The Magic Quadrant is a data point that we understand and respect. I will say that our latest product releases weren't a part of that. For example, one of our core capabilities in the endpoint is centered around our Endpoint 10.5 release, which is something we brought out late last year. It didn't make the timeframe to be included in that latest round of Magic Quadrant. It's a great new product for us. It's got machine learning capabilities… advanced endpoint detection and response capabilities… [and a] new feature called Dynamic Application Containment… We've really made a significant step forward in our endpoint suite and that wasn't part of what made the list for Gartner last year… I think at this point it is about proving your capabilities. A great example is we did get Endpoint 10.5 released in time to make the NSS Labs test… We scored very well relative to other players in the market, both the existing incumbents as well as new players in terms of our overall efficacy and overall total cost of ownership. We are very proud and we think that is a great example of the kind of capability that we now have available to our customers in the market.

Do you expect the split from Intel will allow you to accelerate innovation?

We're already on a path with our product portfolio. The splitting just enables us to focus all of the energy of the company in one direction. A great example is when you have the entire energy focused on a common problem, it just improves your focus and helps you execute better. This is something that we're expecting to see. We already have great examples of that. If you think about it, every person in the organization is going to be laser focused on the security mission. If you think about it, focus is one of the things that makes small companies work effectively. We will be an 8,000-person company focused on the very common cybersecurity mission, which will translate into a different cadence for us as a company.

As you re-assume the McAfee brand, how will you make the shift clear from a branding perspective that you are a platform security company, not an AV company?

I think a couple of things are important. I will say that, while our heritage has been antivirus at this point, most of our biggest customers view us today as much more expansive than just AV and their expectations are far beyond that in terms of what we deliver…They do view us as more of a platform provider and a partner. We have to continue to add in the right products to bring the right solutions. I can tell you that, for example, one of our fastest growing businesses in the last year has been our business around security analytics. Our SIEM product continued to grow well. Those are good examples of places where our customers are looking to us to do more to enable their broad-based security operations. I think that’s an important part of the value proposition that we will bring to them. We will continue to prove it. I think we are positioned well now and we will continue to prove it in terms of how we execute through our product portfolio and how we work with our customers.

Will partners see any changes from the split from Intel?

I think there is a few things that partners should expect. No. 1, we are very committed to our portfolio, the roadmap, and delivering the value that has excited many of them… It's important that they understand that we are committed to that path. Obviously, examples like Endpoint 10.5 are great examples of really driving and delivering on that promise… The innovation we're doing around the intelligent security operations center – those are great examples of our leadership in the industry. We took that a step further by driving the ability for the industry to collaborate effectively with Open DXL and what we're doing there. Those are good examples where we will be able to accelerate as a company our investment around innovation, around collaboration, and really getting ahead of a lot of the threats that our customers are focused on… You don't want to necessarily give too much credence to threats that might happen, but I can tell you that we have been very focused on trying to lead the industry in understanding where the threat landscape is going and investing in the collaboration aspects of going after those threats with Open DXL.

Do you see more of your partners moving to adopt your full platform?

Most of the conversations I'm having with partners are about how they can build a platform with us… We have over 135 SAI partners and we are plugging those partners into our solution. We're obviously investing real effort and dollars in bringing the industry along with our DXL partnerships, as well as what we have contributed to the broader community via open source. That is really important for the channel partners because I think the customer is asking the channel partner to do something different than in the past. They don't want them to just sell a product – they want the channel partner to bring them a solution. The channel partners are really trying to build their solutions delivery capability around fewer partners who can bring more capability and better scale… If partners are going to deliver outcomes, they have to know that there is the company-level commitment behind the products and behind the longevity of their customer's ability to be successful… We're not going to be bought up by another company that will change direction later. This is an important value proposition that we can bring to the channel partner as part of what we jointly bring to the end customer.

Is the split from Intel 100% complete or are there separation pieces that will be ongoing?

When we separate next week, we will be separate. Anytime there is technology involved, you have burn in periods and things like that. We are expecting that we will have a time frame to settle out anything that would be lingering. We expect to remain fully operational through the end of this week and into next week as we close out the Intel chapter and open up a new chapter as the "new McAfee." There are many, many people dedicated to making sure that happens. I will share with you some of the things that we talk about internally: the most important thing we can do is operate effectively as a standalone organization. We are laser focused on making sure that business continuity is part and parcel of what we bring and what we live as we transition.

Does your role change now that you will be CEO? How is that different?

It changes significantly. Obviously, the expectation and the responsibility of a CEO is very different than when you are a divisional head at a larger company. There are many different aspects of that. No. 1, I don't have anybody to look up at and take direction from. At the end of the day, the buck stops with the CEO at these organizations. Obviously, we are a standalone company so our strategy, how we operate, our procedures, our governance, and our policies are all my responsibility and our responsibility on the leadership team. It's exciting. One of the things I like to joke about with the team, which has a degree of seriousness to it, is that we will be a brand-new company, but a brand-new company that will be over $2 billion in revenue with thousands of customers and over 8,000 people. It will be exciting and obviously my role is to make us the best in the industry and to really build products, deliver solutions, and deliver outcomes for our customers and our partners that allow them to be successful. If we do that well, we will be successful as a company.

How big of a milestone is the actual split date?

In many ways, it's massive. How many times do you introduce a new $2 billion company into an industry? That's pretty big. At the same time, in terms of how we operate, the goal is for that to be like duck paddling on the pond: all of the hard work is happening under the surface with the feet moving, but the pond and the duck look really calm on top. The goal for our customers and our partners is they can be the duck above water, and the rest of us are paddling hard under the surface.

Are you going to do anything to celebrate?

We've done some celebrating…We did the brand reveal, which was a lot of fun. We are going to have some more fun with it. This is a really important milestone on a journey. It is a journey, because in many cases the hard work doesn't stop with the transaction. It starts with next week when we build the confidence of our customers, we deliver on our solutions, we work closely with our channel partners, and we do all that in the context of being independent McAfee again – no longer Intel Security… We will take an opportunity to celebrate that milestone in the journey, but my analogy would be very simple: all of the teams that made it to the Final Four over the weekend all celebrated. But, they know they aren't done because the ultimate goal is to win the national title. It's good to celebrate your victories along the way and I think this is a really cool milestone for us, but the real work is to build value, deliver outcomes for customers, to solve the hard security problems, and that's really what I'm most focused on.

Any other final messages to partners about the split?

One of the things that I think is really important tin our industry is that what we're doing here is bigger than the business that we're a part of. We're trying to protect people. We're trying to protect institutions. We're trying to protect society, in many regards… People who work here do so because they feel in many ways the gravity of that and the importance of that mission. One of the things that we're doing as we re-launch ourselves is reaffirming our commitment to that mission. We will even have a McAfee pledge as to what we're doing in cybersecurity to really make a difference. I think it's about a quest. You don't do it on Tuesday and get the results on Wednesday. It's a fight that you just have to keep working at. As we launch and become an independent company, we will be re-stating some of our focus around our vision for the industry, our mission for the organization, and really what we're doing here as McAfee people to make an impact on the broader society at large.