Building Up The Cyber Security Posture

Krithiwas Neelakantan, Channels & Alliances Leader, Palo Alto Networks

From investing heavily in R&D and curating solutions portfolio to ensure it is both best-in-breed and platform oriented to involving the partner ecosystem, Palo has been clicking all the right boxes while addressing the vaulted demand for cybersecurity. 

“Indian & South Asian enterprises are increasingly going digital and as a global leader in cybersecurity, we are forging a path alongside them with our robust partnerships.

Krithiwas Neelakantan, Channel and Alliances Leader, Palo Alto Networks.

Due to massive digitisation and unprecedented migration to the cloud, there has been a significant uptick in demand for cyber security solutions. Leading cybersecurity players like Palo Alto Networks have been trying to meet these demands by taking strong strategic steps. Palo responded by investing heavily in innovation through significant R&D investments to churn out solutions that will instil confidence in its customers and help build their cyber security posture to straddle the threatscape with confidence. The security bellwether also curated its solutions portfolio to ensure it is both state-of the-art and best-in-breed, as well as, platform oriented for its clients. Next, it made sure to involve the entire partner ecosystem – from CSPs to resellers, distributors, SIs, and GSIs – in its growth journey. Finally, Palo played a complementary role with its ecosystem partners, wherein it put razor-sharp focus on innovation and solutions, while its partners compliment it with their services.  

In an exclusive chat with SME Channels, Krithiwas Neelakantan, Channel & Alliances Leader, Palo Alto Networks, reveals his vision and focal strategies for the channel community, key predictions for the security industry, his take on Security-as-a-Service and more importantly Palo’s key focus areas for channel growth and upliftment, and much more. Edited excerpts… 

As a pioneering cybersecurity brand, how have you leveraged the recent uptick in demand for cybersecurity services?  

The demand for cybersecurity services has increased largely due to the threats that emerge from our customers’ rapid transformation to digital & cloud. We have met this demand by taking strong strategic steps. Firstly, we have invested heavily in innovation through significant R&D investments to have products & solutions that will help our customers build their cyber security posture with confidence. Secondly, we have curated our solutions portfolio to ensure it is both best-in-breed and platform oriented for our clients. Thirdly, we have made sure to involve our entire partner ecosystem – from CSPs to resellers, distributors, SIs, and GSIs – in our growth journey so they can effectively meet the customer wherever they are in their digital transformation journey. Lastly, we have played a complementary role with our ecosystem partners, where we focus on innovation and solutions, while our partners compliment us with their services. This approach ensures that our customers have access to the latest and most effective solutions to protect themselves both today and well into the future. 

Is your current channel strategy properly aligned with the current market trends?  

Indian & South Asian enterprises are increasingly going digital and as a global leader in cybersecurity, we are forging a path alongside them with our robust partnerships. We are doing this across all routes of the partner ecosystem in a complimentary fashion by helping our partners provide best-in-breed cybersecurity solutions on top of their own services. This approach has helped us future-proof our customers in the current threat landscape with the most competent solutions in the market and helped in establishing us as a pioneer in the code-to-cloud movement. Moreover, it has helped us deliver industry-leading SOCs in high action areas like hybrid work, API, and IoT, further cementing us as a force to be reckoned with in Indian cybersecurity space 

What sort of partner upskilling programs do you run to empower partners on your cyber security solutions into the market?  

When it comes to upskilling our partners, our approach involves 3 key moves: 

  • We assist our partners in getting a deep understanding of our portfolio and its relevance in today’s digital-native and cloud-first era. As a result, they are able to help customers navigate this transition efficiently. 
  • We work closely to help them build their offerings around our portfolio. Our award-winning Nextwave program coupled with the CPSP & PSDP service offerings ensure our customers experience the best in solutions.
  • We help accelerate their transition to an MSSP model, so they are well-placed to meet the acute shortage of cybersecurity talent in the market with capabilities of their own. We are also doing our bit to fill the talent gap that exists in the field of cybersecurity. In India, we work with over 500 institutions through academic programs, providing a reliable pipeline of skilled professionals to address the widening cybersecurity skills gap. 

What are your key focus areas for overall channel upliftment?  

Our channel partner ecosystem thrives globally across all key performance indicators, including partner-initiated bookings, pipelines, and new customers. As we transform and grow as a company, we plan to continuously assess our channel strategy in relation to global markets, customers, partners, and company dynamics. Our future success depends on our ability to build lasting relationships with partners who share our vision. Therefore, encouraging our partners in our NextWave program to maximize profitability by embracing new technology, developing product-specific expertise, and leading with services, is our key focus. The focus areas to achieve this will include:

  • Enabling differentiation through vertical-focussed specialisations 
  • Enhancing profitability through incentives, rebates, and deal referrals 
  • Expanding opportunities through growth initiatives 
  • Empowering success through industry-leading value-add services

How do you look at the emergence of Security-as-a-service? Do you also offer Security-as-a-service to your clients?  

Enterprises now demand an agile and simplified yet competent security stack to secure their distributed data and workforce. Considering the acute shortage of cybersecurity skills in the market, we at Palo Alto Networks deliver this by addressing both sides of the issue. On one hand, we collaborate closely with our partners to ensure they are delivering industry-leading managed security services to our clients. On the other hand, we do our bit to address the skills gap by working with the county’s most reputed educational institutions. Through this we are ensuring that security is delivered as a service and as a business imperative for today’s enterprises. This approach is particularly important in such a scenario as going beyond traditional cybersecurity solutions is crucial – a firewall or antivirus is just not enough. So, without compromising on agility, security-as-a-service models like SASE, delivered by MSSPs, unify networking and security aspects and focus on improving the journey to the cloud while reducing costs and complexity. This ensures greater risk reduction, improved UX, and consolidation advantage all under the Zero Trust umbrella which is constantly monitoring every digital interaction and removing implicit trust. Such vastly improved security outcomes are the need of the hour as the threat landscape continues to evolve.   

If you are to educate your partners on making their customers more cyber resilient, what would be the top five industry best practices that you would advise your partners to pass over to the customer? 

We collaborate with our partners to ensure that the customer is well aware of the cyber risks in their business journey and ensure that the customer has the confidence in our ecosystem to believe that we can deliver the solutions they need. This is based on a few critical practices that involve : 

  • Looking beyond VPNs to more modern and resilient approaches 
  • Leveraging Cloud-delivered security for scale, agility, and cost-effectiveness 
  • Encouraging our customers to build a Zero Trust based cybersecurity blueprint at the boardroom level when approaching cybersecurity and cyber resilience. A Zero Trust Network Access framework removes implicit trust from the equation and constantly validates every device and transaction within the network. 
  • Rethinking ZTNA principles as a whole where needed and upgrading to ZTNA 2.0 to stay secure. 
  • Adopting secure access service edge (SASE) to elevate network security as it converges a diverse range of security solutions into one cloud-native service 

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