Palo Alto Networks CEO: Platform Security Is The Future, But Not Every Vendor Will Succeed

Palo Alto Networks CEO Mark McLaughlin, left, is interviewed by The Channel Company CEO Robert Faletra.

The age of the point solution is over, and a new era of platform security players has emerged to change the way companies protect themselves from cyber threats, Palo Alto Networks CEO Mark McLaughlin said.

However, not every security company that claims to have a platform will succeed, McLaughlin said Tuesday morning in an on-stage interview with The Channel Company CEO Robert Faletra at the 2016 Best of Breed Conference in Atlanta.

A platform for security includes four things: security capabilities with high degrees of prevention, leverage from an ecosystem of solutions, consistency, and leveraging data in the ecosystem for better security and predictive analysis, McLaughlin said.

"The idea of the platform … it is very real and it is the future. There is no doubt about that. No doubt at all," McLaughlin said. "The era of selling point solutions to fix one particular thing or technology refresh is over."

Where other "legacy" security companies falter in that platform vision is by trying to be everything to everyone, McLaughlin added. When companies try to offer the full spectrum of security solutions, McLaughlin said they have historically "failed and ended up doing a lot of stuff mediocre instead of some stuff very well."

"I think there's confusion in the market of people thinking that customers want less vendors. Customers don’t want less vendors, they want better security," he said.

Jhovanny Rodriguez, vice president and co-founder of Addison, Texas-based Synetek Solutions, said he sees more vendors moving to the platform security approach, with endpoint, perimeter security and other security features coming together into a single solution.

"I think that collaboration between the different tools, it's something that's important as things ramp up and we see more attacks," Rodriguez said.

As this approach evolves, Rodriguez said it will be important for the different security vendors from different categories to work together and integrate better to create a more complete solution.

"I see it as extremely difficult for the different vendors to understand how to work together quickly enough, but they have to," Rodriguez said.

Palo Alto Networks, for one, has placed its bets on building a network security platform that builds subscription services on top, including threat intelligence for known and unknown threats, software-as-a-service application security, mobile security and more. McLaughlin said his company, in particular, sees value around building its endpoint security business, called Traps, which he said "is not going to be a separate thing" from network security in the coming years.

One area in which the idea of a security platform is gaining particular traction is in the cloud, McLaughlin said, especially around security-as-a-service solutions. McLaughlin said 65 percent of Palo Alto Networks' business is not based on hardware. The company's subscription services are growing at 75 percent year over year, he said, representing growth that's twice as fast as the company's hardware business. For partners, McLaughlin said it's key to help customers navigate cloud-based security solutions and leverage them in a platform approach, particularly if they're in the managed security services or service provider markets.

"If you're ignoring cloud and not building expertise, you're doing so at your own risk," McLaughlin said. "Understanding this platform concept and saying 'I know how to do that for you as a partner' is very important," he said.