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I’ve Been a Product Leader for Some of the Biggest Names in Security and Networking. Here’s Why I Joined Netskope.

May 04 2021

Why did I join Netskope? 

The first reason is clear: Company Culture. Sanjay Beri (a fellow Canadian and hockey fan to boot!) has built a great company and taken great care to create a company culture that is respectful, free of politics, results-driven, collaborative, and most importantly fun.

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The second reason: Hiring “A” players. Sanjay has assembled a very impressive team across all disciplines. There is an incredible bench of talent and leadership with people from AWS and Limelight, who are leading our NewEdge infrastructure efforts, as well as others who contributed to the past success of tech titans like Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet, Juniper, Riverbed, and others in both security and networking. Early in my career while working at GE, Jack Welch always preached, “‘A’ players hire ‘A’ players.” It only takes one bad senior hire for that cycle to break. The more people I meet here, the more I am impressed. 

The third reason: Technology and Vision. Everyone knows the Great One’s (aka Wayne Gretzky) quote, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”. You couldn’t find a better quote to describe what Netskope is doing to disrupt the cybersecurity industry and executing on the security and networking convergence promise of SASE. We are headed to where the puck is going while others are headed towards the player with the puck hoping for a lucky break, before realizing that it is a crowded spot on the ice. Hockey, like building products, is all about anticipation. For product owners, it is about anticipating the needs of your customers. The technological foundation Netskope built has allowed us to get a leg up on the competition and we will continue using it to innovate and leapfrog the competition. I am very excited to be here and be given the opportunity to build some truly amazing products on top of this great platform.  

To understand why I think Netskope has the right strategy, let’s first look at the history of how security has been delivered. In my experiences while working at Check  Point, Fortinet, and Palo Alto Networks, I have seen security delivered in various form factors starting with hardware appliances. Then as hypervisors gained popularity, the virtual machine form factor took flight and eventually gave way to workloads in the cloud. These were essentially still VMs now just running on the cloud provider’s custom hypervisors. This is what most refer to as IaaS or public cloud infrastructure.  

Today, many security vendors still use a combination of these form factors including hardware running in their own data centers, on their customer’s networks, or in public clouds to deliver security services like NGFW, SWG, SD-WAN, and other services required for a SASE architecture. However, as we all know, applications have transformed and migrated to the cloud and most are now consumed as SaaS. This transformation needs security to transform with it. Netskope could have easily decided to deploy virtual appliances in the public cloud or in a datacenter as others have done. Instead, we anticipated the demands from remote workers, the performance demands of applications, the need for the lowest possible latency access, and probably most importantly, the need to control our own destiny. In NewEdge, for example, this translates into full control over all hardware, software, routing decisions, peering, and data center location decisions. The only way to achieve this is with a born-in-the-cloud, fully-SASE-ready security stack delivered from our NewEdge data centers in nearly 45 regions, combined with an aggressive interconnection and peering strategy to internet providers for transit and the web, cloud, and SaaS our customers care about.  

Even though we are all tired of hearing about COVID-19, I do want to point out a few things that happened during the last year. Retail stores, restaurants, branch offices, and headquarters were empty for the majority of 2020 and still are for the most part. This got me thinking: What are all those firewalls at the edge of the network (on-premises) being used for? What about all those SD-WAN devices? What about all those redundant Internet circuits and MPLS WAN circuits? I think you get my point. None of those things really made a difference during COVID. In fact, they were barely being utilized. If you used them to secure your remote workforce, you probably scrambled to increase capacity by adding more software licenses and deploying more devices. What does this prove? That those solutions aren’t elastic and flexible, don’t scale, and aren’t built for the needs of today, let alone future needs. 

Users now use any device, from anywhere with whatever connection they have available (4G, 5G, Wifi) to access the web and their applications. Companies who are focused on selling boxes or legacy form factors like VMs (or services based on either of these) might have seen an uptick in business in the last year as customers scrambled to increase capacity. Companies that had the right strategy and built cloud-native security solutions benefited from explosive growth during this time and were able to secure the users by having the security follow the user and their data. And even more importantly, customers who had embraced these cloud-native security services were able to be nimble and adapt on the fly during the pandemic. 

I predict that this year and in the coming years, when CIOs, CISOs, and CFOs look at their respective budgets, they are going to think twice about what their next cybersecurity technology purchases will be. They’re going to look to partner with someone who, like them, can find those open spots on the ice. ;>)

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Elie Bitton
Elie Bitton is a seasoned product leader and executive who has led security transformation for some of the biggest names in security and networking building out SASE and virtualization products. As VP of Product Management at Netskope, Bitton leads the Secure Web Gateway, Cloud Firewall, in-line services, and Private Access teams.

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