McAfee more than doubles size of Waterloo R&D lab

One of the world’s largest IT security firms has more than doubled the space in a Canadian research and development lab to meet the demand for its intrusion detection and risk management products.

McAfee Inc. Wednesday said the

lab it opened in 2000 in Waterloo, Ont. would grow from 5,000 to 13,000 sq. feet, making room for at least 10 additional staff responsible for design, development and testing of its next-generation products. The Canadian lab is focused on McAfee’s consumer business, which includes products like Personal Firewall Plus, AntiSpyware and SpamKiller.

Mark McArdle, vice-president of McAfee’s consumer division, said the firm first chose Canada as a location for an R&D lab in part because of the talent pool in Waterloo and because of the high costs of operating in Silicon Valley, Calif. The lab started with five employees and now has 50, he said.

“”We’ve got this facility with room to spare right now,”” he said. “”We don’t have a business plan for hiring 100 people today, but . . . if the consumer business continues to outperform its expectations, then additional growth may be warranted.””

McAfee has R&D teams for the enterprise, an ASP team that creates Web service products for the mid-market and the consumer market. All share the same core technology, including the antivirus engine and the DAT content files. McArdle said the Canadian facility could lead to breakthroughs that benefit all McAfee customers.

“”It’s more than highly likely. It’s certain,”” he said. “”For instance, AntiSpyware is an area of significant new effort, and the innovations that come out of the Waterloo products are likely going to find their way into enterprise and SMB.””

One McAfee reseller said some of the firm’s products could use some R&D overhaul.

Derek Keoughan, president of Finnegan Software in Toronto, said he has dealt with SpamKiller and has even recommended it to at least one customer, but ended up uninstalling it not much later.

SpamKiller goes onto a mail server and downloads the headers, Keoughan said, and based on the content of those headers will either pull it off the server and keep a local copy marked as spam.

“”If you have something that’s in the spam (folder) that you want, you have to basically mail it back to yourself,”” he said. “”There was a lot of overhead involved in transferring files back and forth, and I was finding that it was sucking up a hell of a lot of CPU time.””

McArdle said McAfee works very closely with its support organization to gauge user satisfaction, although he said there’s a fair amount of anecdotal feedback as well.

“”Anytime anything happens that affects the user experience negatively, we certainly respond to it very quickly,”” he said. “”Everyone’s a consumer and everyone knows people who are using your product. There’s an intrinsic, almost cocktail party approach to making sure your products are rock-solid, because you’re inevitably going to hear about it if they’re not.””

McAfee is still accepting applications for its Canadian R&D lab, which is located at 565 Kumpf Drive in Waterloo.

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