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Sex, Lies and Acquisitions

The story of the last year, of course, is the acquisition of Layer 7 by CA Technologies

Has it really been one whole year since my last post? I suspected I was near that milestone, but it’s still surprising to discover it has been so long. Blogs have a natural ebb and flow, governed by the irregular rhythms of the day job. But this was a pretty big ebb—maybe more accurately described as a catastrophic drought.

Naturally, my absence was not lost on the spammers. That curious breed who prey on dormant blogs left me with a mountain of weirdly unctuous commentary that I needed to shovel out of the way just to get to the front door. But now that I’ve finally worked my way inside, it’s time to turn up the heat, blow out the cobwebs, and get back to work.

The story of the last year, of course, is the acquisition of Layer 7 by CA Technologies. This explains my extended absence from writing. I’m no less busy than in the past, and indeed often quite a bit more, but I’ve been completely consumed with making this deal a success. So the last year is a blur of integration, customer outreach, some terrific innovations—but not a lot of writing. That changes today.

The number one question people ask—and they ask this quite a bit—is how am I doing at a large company, and more specifically, how is CA? It is a logical question, but one always delivered with a slightly raised eyebrow that really implies just give me the dirt—and the juicer the better.

I respond with the truth. And the truth, to be honest, is quite a bit less salacious than everyone secretly hopes. Everyone knows acquisitions can go spectacularly bad. The cultural explosions can power a small city through a tough eastern winter. People love to hear these bad news stories; it’s somehow wired into our DNA to revel in nasty gossip.

Fireworks are fun, but more often acquisitions simply wither. Often the combination of start-up and Fortune 500 is an impossible calculus of mismatched expectations. In a way, this is a much worse outcome, because although the end is the same, the story is more depressing.

At CA and Layer 7, we are steering clear of these all-too-common disaster scenarios. Against all odds, we seem to be finding a very effective approach that just seems to work well for everyone.

We built a great company at Layer 7, and around this a powerful international brand. This feat is hard to achieve and once there, it is heartbreakingly easy to destroy the results. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than acquirers, and they usually respond with one of two strategies, each taken to extreme. Either they leave their new prize alone, fearful of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, or they embrace it with enthusiasm and their own unique style. The former creates silos that will never come down; but the later can squeeze the vigor out of a start-up until someone notices that the empty shell isn’t moving any longer.

We are all working very hard to find the virtuous middle ground. CA recognizes that the Layer 7 team in Vancouver is a great engine of innovation. So the band stays together, and moreover has the opportunity—really the mandate—to continue to push the envelope around APIs and mobility. All of us recognize that we are part of a much larger narrative now; but honestly, it is this role that excites us most of all.

CA is big but it isn’t overwhelming. I’ve been struck with what a small-big company this actually is. In just seven months, I feel as though I have a good handle on who all of the key players are, and I can pretty much engage anyone I need to and be taken seriously. It’s a level of engagement I never dreamed of at IBM, a company much larger in size and exponentially more complex in organization.

That said, not everything is sunshine and roses. The expense department is convinced I’m really Frank Abagnale. I have big philosophical differences with the Internet policies. And the telephone conference codes are just too long. But I suppose I can adapt.

So the truth is boring, my anecdotes are not sexy, and that’s all a very good thing. Actually a great thing. The numbers are high, opportunity abounds, and there is a sense we can affect real change when change makes sense. My stories about the swashbuckling days of Layer 7 are far more entertaining.

But to hear these, you’ll need to buy me a beer.

Cheers.
Scott

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More Stories By Scott Morrison

K. Scott Morrison is the Chief Technology Officer and Chief Architect at Layer 7 Technologies, where he is leading a team developing the next generation of security infrastructure for cloud computing and SOA. An architect and developer of highly scalable, enterprise systems for over 20 years, Scott has extensive experience across industry sectors as diverse as health, travel and transportation, and financial services. He has been a Director of Architecture and Technology at Infowave Software, a leading maker of wireless security and acceleration software for mobile devices, and was a senior architect at IBM. Before shifting to the private sector, Scott was with the world-renowned medical research program of the University of British Columbia, studying neurodegenerative disorders using medical imaging technology.

Scott is a dynamic, entertaining and highly sought-after speaker. His quotes appear regularly in the media, from the New York Times, to the Huffington Post and the Register. Scott has published over 50 book chapters, magazine articles, and papers in medical, physics, and engineering journals. His work has been acknowledged in the New England Journal of Medicine, and he has published in journals as diverse as the IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow, and Neurology. He is the co-author of the graduate text Cloud Computing, Principles, Systems and Applications published by Springer, and is on the editorial board of Springer’s new Journal of Cloud Computing Advances, Systems and Applications (JoCCASA). He co-authored both Java Web Services Unleashed and Professional JMS. Scott is an editor of the WS-I Basic Security Profile (BSP), and is co-author of the original WS-Federation specification. He is a recent co-author of the Cloud Security Alliance’s Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing, and an author of that organization’s Top Threats to Cloud Computing research. Scott was recently a featured speaker for the Privacy Commission of Canada’s public consultation into the privacy implications of cloud computing. He has even lent his expertise to the film and television industry, consulting on a number of features including the X-Files. Scott’s current interests are in cloud computing, Web services security, enterprise architecture and secure mobile computing—and of course, his wife and two great kids.

Layer 7 Technologies: http://www.layer7tech.com
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Twitter: @KScottMorrison
Syscon blog: http://scottmorrison.sys-con.com