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Interview: Palo Alto Network's founder and CTO, Nik Zur

Allan Swann | Feb. 5, 2014
Paints bullseyes on rivals, discusses new acquisitions and his plans for 2014 and beyond

Palo Alto Networks' CTO and founder, Nir Zuk, wants to see disruption in the network security market.

Palo Alto founder and CTO, Nir Zuk, is a network security luminary who certainly doesn't pull any punches when it comes to boxing his company's rivals — after all, he has worked for most of them, and didn't enjoy the experience.

Following a stint in the Israeli Defense Force's Electronic Intelligence arm working on packet filter technology, he worked for Check Point before quitting to found Onesecure. Onesecure was unique in that it looked at security from an intrusion-detection and prevention perspective. Onesecure was then acquired by Netsuite, which in turn was acquired by Juniper Networks.

It's safe to say Zuk's credentials in the network security market are solid, and he has successfully led his new company, Palo Alto Networks, to 40% year on year growth and a successful IPO in 2012, on the back of its unique next generation firewall (NGFW) technologies.

Whereas most of its rivals have a blacklist/whitelist approach to firewalls — which sees programs such as Facebook, Salesforce and DropBox blocked (or allowed carte blance, risks and all), Palo Alto's systems can actually parse apps, in real time, like an email, and determine risks, as well as blocking/allowing certain feature sets. For example, instead of blocking employee access to Facebook outright, you could just monitor and block certain features such as chat — a far more flexible arrangement for IT manager, and general staff.

Zuk took the time to discuss with ARN his outlook on the company's rivals, its new acquisitions and plans for 2014 onwards.

Allan Swann (AS): How is Palo Alto approaching its Channel sales program in Australia?
Nir Zuk (NZ): All over the world our philosophy has been to work with select partners who are looking for quality, not quantity. We have a great relationship with all our Australian distributors, and are 100 per cent channel, 100 per cent indirect. Our sales people are there to help the channel, and we run all our business through that.

AS: How has the company been growing over the past year?
NZ: We're growing at about 40 per cent per year, about as fast as everyone else in the market combined. We have much better technology. Because if you look at the traditional firewall vendors in the market, they all have the same products, the same features, they only compete on price. Our partners can now compete on features, which means they can make better margins.

We offer a newer product, with newer capabilities, which requires more support from the channel in terms of professional services, such as integration.


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