Here at Netskope we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this month, but while our story over that decade is very cool, any blog about it will be of limited interest outside of our own employee base. I wanted to add a different lens to our internal observations and so I started to refresh my memory with research into exactly what went on over those years while we were beavering away to build the best SASE platform in the world.
Let me start by setting the scene; recapping the tech headlines in the two years prior to Netskope’s launch provides a really clear picture of what was driving the vision of our founders. In 2010 Apple launched the iPad, IBM Watson hit the headlines, Instagram hit our phones, and Microsoft Azure spoilt AWS’s IaaS party-for-one. In 2011, Adobe’s Creative Cloud was the latest example of an established software giant enticed to provide Everything-as-a-Service, Uber started out on its own decade of disruption, Minecraft stole our children, and we all started using either iMessage or Snapchat, depending on our demographic.
And then in 2012 Netskope was born.
In the same year 6.5 ZB of data was created, which seemed huge at the time but is tiny compared to the 64.2 ZB of data that was created in 2020 (I didn’t easily find the 2021 numbers… perhaps they are still counting?) By October 2012, Facebook reached 1 billion users and even the most skeptical marketeers could no longer dismiss the importance of social media as a communication channel for pretty much any business.
On the device side, this was the year when the Microsoft Surface launched. Like the Chromebooks that came the year before, the laptop form-factor plus tablet processing power was a really big bet on the eventual ubiquity of cloud.
In 2013 all eyes were on the latest battle between Sony and Microsoft as the Playstation 4 went head-to-head with the Xbox One. Both devices drove up connected gaming and doubtless contributed to the huge surge in time spent online, which in 2014 surpassed an average of an hour a day per capita worldwide.
What really catches the eye, looking back, is the fact that this milestone was crossed by mobile device users, not desktop users. 2014 was also the year that the mobile surged ahead of the desktop as the internet access device of choice (access time grew from 45 to 63 mins per day for mobile users, while desktop internet time shrank from 49 to 47 mins a day). Since 2014, desktop internet use has stayed around 40 mins a day, while mobile internet use leaped every subsequent year. By 2019 mobile internet access time had reached more than 2 hours a day (132 mins).
2014 was also the year we made a new friend called Alexa, with the launch of Amazon Echo providing us all with a new example of IoT (so we could stop going on about connected fridges). And the USB-C emerged as an industry standard connector for data and power on a single cable. Eight years on, someone just needs to tell Apple about the industry standard bit … (and maybe that someone will be the EU).
By 2015 the percentage of data stored in the cloud had reached 30%, with predictions getting bolder for the speed and extent of progress to come.
In 2016 everything went a bit bonkers for a while, as Pokémon Go saw grown ups falling off cliffs and caused 150,000 road traffic accidents and 256 deaths in the US. I think this might be an illustration of why humans can’t have nice things.
More level heads prevailed that same year, in the decision by Google to call a halt on any further fibre expansion, which it had been doing for its Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) initiative Google Fiber.
A major coup was achieved by cloud in 2017 as Microsoft announced that in its fourth quarter, Office 365 revenue had exceeded that of conventional license sales of Microsoft Office software for the first time. Then we lost the kids again, this time to Fortnite and the Nintendo Switch.
I have managed to get halfway through my ten year countdown without any reference to the constant 5G progress that has been made around the world. I can avoid it no longer, so I shall mention that in 2018, while the UK announced six 5G trials would all receive government grants, progress in Qatar was more gung-ho. The 5G network was fully launched… but no 5G devices were available in the market.
I cannot tell you what happened in 2019 because I spent the year – like many of us – watching TV. In this year we saw the launch of AppleTV and Disney+, both tempted into a streaming market that Netflix had thoroughly proven by this point. More launches would come, and these services all had a major boost in 2020 when the Pandemic-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named struck and we all got stuck at home.
“We all got stuck at home” is a very flippant way to refer to the trigger of a seismic task for IT teams that happened in this year. Overnight, network and infrastructure teams had to completely re-draw architectures to support remote work on a scale that—arguably—had never been envisaged. Over the previous decade most of us had already undergone significant re-architecting projects, but lockdowns made remote work the rule rather than the exception, and the economics of our systems changed significantly. Suddenly there was no good reason to drag our feet over Edge architecture, and our data centres grew emptier and emptier as network security left the through the same door that the applications and data had already excited through.
Even while we were all at home, 2020 held some light relief in people-watching, as across Europe conspiracy theorists started to link 5G to the pandemic (I never quite understood the logic) and we saw a spate of arson attacks on 5G cell towers. The general public cannot always tell a 5G tower from a 4G tower, and health services professionals took on the job of decrying the action as disruptive.
In a lot of ways 2021 was very similar to 2020. The pandemic rolled on, hybrid working became entrenched, and supply chain disruption caused some very real challenges in getting hold of hardware. To break the tedium, we saw a number of internet service disruptions, caused by a range of issues, but the most impactful seemed to stem from outages at Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) which hit high profile targets including newspapers, payment systems, and broadcasters. Facebook had a big blip too—apparently configuration issues were to blame.
And here we are in 2022. Today more than 60% of corporate data is stored in the cloud, the average company uses 1,558 different cloud apps and 56% of companies globally allow some form of remote work. The Netskope founders made a bet a decade ago that cloud would take hold in the enterprise a lot faster than most people were expecting, and that it would require a complete rethink of network and security infrastructure, moving security services to the edge, and supporting a distributed workforce. It genuinely amazes me when people make big calls about long term predictions and get it right—but I am mighty happy to be on this ride.
Happy Birthday Netskope. Here’s to the next decade!