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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

It helps our partners drive revenues around services, not just around margins on products. Combine that with the fact that we're not over distributed, and we work really hard to ensure our partners are protected. We want to take good care of them. It's a disruptive technology, it's a big new market, and it's a big opportunity for partners.

AS: So what makes you think your rivals are struggling to keep up?
NZ: To do what Palo Alto networks do you have to start afresh. From scratch. A bunch of our competitors are really just putting lipstick on a pig. If that worked, then these other vendors would've been growing like us. Juniper is shrinking by 20% year over year, Check Point is more or less flat.

They are all trying to take existing products and retrofitting them, and that doesn't work. You cannot take a product that was simply designed to block things, and suddenly get it to allow things dynamically. There is a huge difference between the two, it isn't just a switch you flick.

AS: If you are moving so far ahead, is there a concern that one of your larger rivals may come in and attempt to acquire you?
NZ: As a publicly traded company, we are, by definition, up for sale. But there is no appetite for that from us. We want to stay independent of these big vendors. Some of us have had experiences with Juniper, some of us had experiences with other big vendors — it wasn't fun. We think we have a lot to do on the product side. I still think there is a lot to be done on the sales and marketing side. It will be better if we stay independent.

AS: Tell us about Palo Alto's first ever acquisition, security start up Morta?
NZ: It was mostly a technology and talent acquisition. Morta has come up with some very unique techniques and algorithms for tracking bad guys. They have some very sharp people working for them, and we wanted them to work for us and bring their technology. We've said many times in the past we are looking for these kinds of acquisitions. We aren't about acquiring for revenue boosts.

AS: So this wasn't a response to FireEye's acquisition of Mandiant?
NZ: Unlike FireEye we aren't about acquiring for professional services. We believe our partners need to provide professional services to our customers. We are 100 per cent channel and don't want to compete against that.

We think of Mandiant as the 'ghost busters' of the security industry. If you wake up in the morning and find that your intellectual property or your customer information has ended up in another country — you pick up your phone, call your local 'ghost busters' and they do a post mortem. They show up, start billing you $500 an hour, for six months, looking for how it happened.


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