Network General has named veteran Bill Gibson as its new CEO.

The network app manufacturer, best known for its Sniffer line, said: "Bill was our top choice because of his strong execution skills, his proven ability to drive strategy for significant growth, and his track record in leading technology companies."

The CEO spot has been vacant at the privately run company since October 2004, when Bruce Framm left. In the interim, Mike Pope has run the company as president - a position he will continue to hold.

Gibson, 58, lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, but plans to move to California next summer. For 33 years he has worked with telecommunications, computing and business intelligence companies. He was chief operating officer at Crystal Decisions and president of the western region of Rogers Cantel, a wireless provider in Canada.

Gibson stated that Network General is profitable and that its annual revenue is more than the total of all its competitors' combined. The Sniffer brand, which first hit the market in 1986, is "powerful" and has grown in brand recognition to become the "Xerox of network management," he said. Even so, Network General needs to improve its marketing, he said.

He said Network General's greatest strength is in the "robustness of the technology", pointing to the way Sniffer software inspects 100 percent of the packets in a network for thorough analysis, whereas competitors inspect random samples of packets.

Technology innovation has been a top priority at the company for the past 19 months, with 30 percent of its revenue invested in research, Gibson said. Last month, Network General announced four product revisions and a new Sniffer Enterprise Solution architecture.