Tech Prediction 2022


Krithiniwas Neelakantan, Channel & Alliances Leader, Palo Alto Networks

With its cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions through an integrated platform across clouds, networks, and mobile devices, Palo Alto endeavors to address bigger security challenges through the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

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“Channel partners will have to capitalize on the cybersecurity trends by bringing agile and innovative solutions to the market. It could also see Channel partners evolve from traditional technology advisors to business consultants.”

Krithiniwas Neelakantan,
Channel & Alliances Leader,
Palo Alto Networks


The Pandemic has forced businesses to shift to online operations and there has been a massive adoption of remote working culture. and online learning, resulting in digitalisation on an unprecedented scale. Along with the shift to online has also come an unacceptable rise in cybersecurity issues.

With rising ransomware cyberattacks on IT infrastructure, businesses have realized the importance of embracing zero tolerance for gaps in their security strategy. They are increasingly investing on strengthening their cybersecurity to secure their crown jewels and their valuable data. This has thrown open a big opportunity for cybersecurity players.

As the India market remains in the eye of a major digital transformation buoyed by a tech-centred Union Budget,   SME Channels embarks upon recording the voices of the who’s who of the Cybersecurity landscape.

As part of our effort to make the voices of major security players heard by the channel community, we have brought in this for you as first of a series of Security Predictions by major scecurity vendors.

Here, in a special interaction with SME Channels, Krithiniwas Neelakantan, Channel & Alliances Leader, Palo Alto Networks, reveals his organization’s strategy to address growing need for security solutions from customers, his predictions for the cybersecurity industry in 2022 and his vision and plans for the channel community. Edited excerpts…

Please give a brief introduction of your company.

As a global cybersecurity leader, Palo Alto Networks is shaping the cloud-centric future with technology that is transforming the way people and organizations operate. We work with over 77,000 customers across multiple verticals to advance their cybersecurity postures and are present in more than 150 countries. Delivering deep tech, cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions through an integrated platform across clouds, networks, and mobile devices is central to our business. We endeavor to solve the world’s greatest security challenges by bringing significant levels of automation and orchestration to the SOC through the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

The Indian subcontinent remains a key market for us with approximately 2,250 customers here and over 340 employees. Strategic alliances continue to drive our GTM strategy and are important to us from both India and global standpoints. In 2021, we launched a brand new multi-cloud location in India to help our customers here benefit from direct, high-performance access to our Prisma Cloud, Cortex XDR, WildFire and Cortex Data Lake line of products. In addition, we partnered with Infosys to automate their Cyber Defense Operations with our Cortex XSOAR offering and with Tech Mahindra to create specialized industry solutions that will offer complete visibility and control of the network, endpoint, and cloud security.

With the pandemic still in play in the form of a new variant, what are the major market trends you are forecasting for 2022?

Accelerated tech adoption is bringing waves of innovation across industries but it has also led to a rise in cyberattacks and security concerns. As we continue on the path to becoming a fully digital economy, businesses will have to work round-the-clock to secure data, resources, and employees, all while working remotely. This begs the question: Are organizations sufficiently equipped to deal with the security threats we will face in 2022? Here are the trends we see emerging in the cybersecurity domain this year:

  • Cryptocurrency will create a well-funded adversary: As more regulations are set down in markets across the world, cryptocurrency will strengthen the ransomware industry, leading to more high-level attacks on important infrastructures. As a result, businesses will need to focus on improving their cybersecurity frameworks, identifying their levels of cyber readiness, and closing any existing gaps within their security systems.
  • More smart devices will mean more risk: Increased interactions with smart devices that have sensory triggers such as geolocation, computer vision, and biometric or commands will create reams of digital data that will exist in physical spaces. Organizations will need to draw up a strategic approach that will provide complete visibility into this hyper-connected security infrastructure and work on segmenting their networks to reduce the attack surface.
  • Attacks on critical infrastructures will get bigger and bolder: Considering their reserves of confidential and lucrative data, essential infrastructures will continue to garner attention from cyber attackers in 2022. So, there will be a need to fast-track global policymaking and regulatory collaboration. Governments and enterprises will have to work together to create safeguards against complex threats, particularly those that target critical infrastructure through the supply chain.
  • APIs will usher in new forms of digital fraud and exploits: Digital banking brings greater convenience and accessibility to the table, but there are also several potential risks. With the rise of open-banking and Fintech, poor programming, or security misconfigurations at the application program interface (API) levels could be exploited as an entryway for cybercriminals to gain access to personal data, manipulate a transaction, or shut down a service. Such breaches could leave some groups such as the elderly more susceptible to frauds as they are new users of digital banking.
  • Borderless workforces will need borderless solutions: As remote work becomes a critical long-term strategy for most organizations, there will continue to be a convergence of network and security. Therefore, organizations will need to extend their corporate networks and bring unified security policy management to their work-from-home employees. Security solutions like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) will be central to this approach as they bring about both security and operational efficiency. We will also see a lot more harmonization, or application rationalization, around the all-remote-access technologies that people use, such as VPNs, which can be complex to work out.

What major trends are you forecasting in the channel market?

Channel partners will have to capitalize on the cybersecurity trends we discussed earlier by bringing agile and innovative solutions to the market. While this will enhance value for customers, it could also see Channel partners evolve from traditional technology advisors to business consultants. Here’s how channel partners will evolve with cybersecurity trends in 2022:

  • The cryptocurrency threat: Channel partners will play a critical role in helping organizations determine their attack readiness and close any existing gaps within security systems. Additionally, the partner ecosystem will need to work with security providers to help customers go from being reactive about cybersecurity to being proactive. Bringing AI and Automation together with the scale and leverage possessed by the channel will aid in securing networks for the long term.
  • The dangers of IoT devices: Channel Partner expertise will be crucial in helping CISOs understand the IoT estate, assess risk, and take the appropriate steps to secure the network. Educating enterprises on Zero Trust – the key to beat the IoT threat – and what they need to do to develop this framework will be instrumental in this scenario and also be a significant part of the partner role. Network segmentation through the implementation of physical and virtual firewalls will be essential in reducing the attack surface.
  • Safeguarding critical infrastructures: The channel will need to help enterprises underpin security at the core of any enterprise architectures and accordingly design strong threat prevention and response strategies. Since the supply chain is vulnerable to breaches and a threat to critical infrastructures as a whole, protecting it from constantly evolving threats that include cybergangs, state-sponsored attackers, and more will become a focus point for channel partners. Doing this proactively across sectors keeping current and incoming regulations in mind could be a significant challenge.
  • Formulating API security: In the face of new threats and frauds originating from APIs, the channel community will have to drive conversations around DevSecOps or ‘Shift-left security’, helping customers implement security across the application lifecycle. Awareness campaigns and educational programs will be crucial to maintaining consumer trust. In addition, channel partners will have to address the challenges of integrating security into modern app development by combining skills from across the board: organizations, security providers and their own teams.
  • Helping a hybrid workforce: As remote work goes mainstream, the channel community will need to work with customers to accurately define what constitutes a distributed workforce. Partners will also play a role in the restructuring of security architectures as they will help customers pinpoint what is campus, branch, remote, and more. The community will see more demand for remote workforce management solutions such as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) along with demand for all-remote access technologies. SaaS solutions will come front-and-center as they are easy to operate and scale in remote environments.

Which areas are you focusing on in the channel – skillsets, sales and marketing, vertical and technology practice development, service capability, etc.?  

The redefining of how we work at a global scale has pushed us to innovate ahead of threats, and relook at what it means to be “secure.” Therefore, securing distributed workforces is going to be a major focus area for our channel partner programme NextWave 3.0 in 2022. We have already begun laying the foundation here with the launch of Okyo Garde – an enterprise-grade cybersecurity solution integrated with Prisma Access and delivered through a premium mesh-enabled Wi-Fi 6 system. Additionally, we plan to stick to our goal of working with our channel partners to deliver products that have integrity, flexibility, and adaptability at their core. Securing supply chains to better protect the critical infrastructures of countries is also going to be of top priority in 2022. This will require strategic planning and end-to-end implementation of solutions without any error or downtime in operations.

We also plan to do our part in reducing the skills-gap in the industry through education programmes that will impart fundamental knowledge across a wide range of skill levels. Our channel partners will be pivotal here as they will be working with the Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy to bring the latest expertise from the field to aspiring security professionals.

What percentage of budget growth are you expecting for channel development? 

The cybersecurity market is predicted to expand from USD 1.97 billion in 2019 to USD 3.05 billion in 2022, according to a PWC analysis. Currently, end-users are struggling with a dynamic threat landscape and new surface threats because of remote working and the all-pervasive ‘internet-of-everything.’

Additionally, businesses have a significant cyber-skills deficit, and the pressure to deliver digital services fast is high. In such a scenario, security typically takes a back seat and this is where channel partners and managed security service providers (MSSPs) come in. They act as the strategic business consultants to enterprises and cater to all their security requirements, thus reducing the need for in-house security teams and keeping the operational costs low.

For us, this means, the future of our business and that of our partners is fundamentally linked. The current iteration of our partner programme, NextWave 3.0, focuses on providing incentives and value to our partners. We introduced specialized enhancements to NextWave 3.0, which provides graded rewards based on the resources invested, business growth, and competencies learned. The programme is tailored to meet market requirements and assists partners in addressing a customer’s changing cybersecurity standards. Our partners can benefit from our investments in pipeline development, customer acquisition, portfolio delivery and more.

In 2022, as we move forward towards a services-driven economy, we will continue to introduce enhancements to fuel mutual business growth and enable partner-led services.

Are you planning any new product additions for the channel market? 

The rise of hybrid working models and the need for businesses to accelerate their digital journeys have increased cloud adoption. Securing cloud environments will require outpacing the most sophisticated of threats and bad actors, while keeping data and enterprise operations safe. Given this, we’re focused on delivering prevention-based, automated, end-to-end partner-delivered security solutions via a single integrated platform. We will continue to invest in our partners with training programs, webinars and support through best-of-breed technologies that will help customers close security gaps, reduce latency, and improve their overall user experience.

Additionally, Zero Trust will be a key segment of our strategy for 2022. In the face of evolving cyber threats that can attack us from multiple clouds, networks, and endpoints, ensuring that every entity within a network is constantly validated and given access only to the necessary data goes a long way in maintaining the sanctity of security infrastructures. The endgame for us will be to leverage this framework at the top of the portfolio for all our customers, giving them access to best-in-class cyber security that is available 24×7. More on this will be outlined at “Securely Speaking” – a Palo Alto Networks webinar being held for our global channel partners on February 9th.

Is there any channel expansion plan in terms of numbers in 2022?

According to Gartner’s Information Security Forecast our TAM will reach $73 billion this year. With an addressable market of this scale and size, the role of our partners has become even more critical to our efforts in securing both employees and enterprises. In 2021 over 800 of our partners grew greater than 100% and our goal for 2022 is to continue helping our partners grow by expanding opportunities and profitability through Nextwave incentives, rebates, and referrals. Additionally, driving automation and orchestration with AI and ML as tools will continue to be an important aspect in the product development process. Considering the phenomenal growth of the cloud market since 2020 (expected to be double the size of the non-cloud market by 2025 as per Gartner), we expect our channel partners to see greater demand for cloud-focused SaaS products and we will be there to fill that demand.

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