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The Journey Has Just Begun

By: Michael Sutton

The Journey Has Just Begun

In early 2008, I received a phone call that would ultimately change my career. The caller pitched his vision of the future of internet security and suggested that we should discuss the company that he was launching, then known simply by the code name NewGen. I was skeptical, but he piqued my interest as he spoke about the challenges that enterprise security would face as employees became increasingly mobile and began bypassing traditional hardware-based security stacks. We spoke about how a cloud model could better adapt and we debated the technological and financial hurdles inherent in such an approach. He was proposing solutions to the many problems that I’d been pondering and I wanted to hear more.

The caller was, of course, Jay Chaudhry, and the company would ultimately come to be known as Zscaler. After a cross-country flight and an all-day meeting to get down in the weeds, my decision was firm. While I didn’t know if Zscaler would be able to climb the gigantic mountain ahead of it to realize this vision, someone would. I had no doubt that this is where enterprise security was heading. Someone was going to achieve this dream and I wanted to be a part of the journey. That was the easy part…

While it takes no great leap of faith today to suggest that cloud and mobility fundamentally changed enterprise security, it wasn’t so clear in 2008. When I joined Zscaler on March 1, 2008, the iPad was still two years away and the iPhone was a brand-new device running on a 2G network without an App Store. Salesforce was only four years past its IPO and many of today’s SaaS juggernauts—Workday, ServiceNow, and Splunk—wouldn’t go public for another four years. While the vision was sound, plenty of evangelism was required. While CISOs liked the story, many were skeptical of “losing control.” Sending CRM records to the clouds was one thing, but security?

Several fundamental shifts have occurred over the past decade, which have transformed Zscaler from being a promising visionary to a market leader. They include:

 

  • Mobility – The battle between iOS and Android for mobile dominance drove innovation, empowered users, and forced enterprises to tackle BYOD.
  • Cloud – The success that Salesforce achieved in the CRM space was replicated in virtually every other software realm. Enterprises not only recognized that they didn’t need to own and control technologies outside of their core competencies, but ultimately saw the cloud as a strategic advantage that led to greater efficiencies across the board.
  • Threats - As hackers in it for the challenge were pushed aside by well-funded and highly skilled criminals and nation-state adversaries, it was clear that basic static security controls would no longer suffice and that security needed to be everywhere, regardless of where the employee was or what device they chose to use.

As the technology and threat landscapes evolved, we were able to move from evangelism to execution. While the opportunities increased, so too did the competition. A critical early design decision hinged on delivering a platform as opposed to a point solution. Being a gateway for all internet traffic has put Zscaler in an amazing position to continue to add value and expand capabilities. The landscape will continue to evolve and we must continue to adapt and stay true to our roots as an innovator unwilling to compromise. As I review the very first corporate deck that Jay shared with me over a decade ago, I’m struck by just how true we have been to the original vision pitched to me on the phone that day. Our IPO is an incredible validation of that vision...but the journey has just begun. 




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