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Today, Cato has announced our largest round to date at $130M and reached a valuation of $1B (pre). I want to take this opportunity to cover several highlights of our journey-to-date and how we see the way forward.
Cloud Service vs. Point Products
In 2015, the cloud disruption was already in full swing. The applications and infrastructure pillars of IT were continuously displaced by cloud-based services. Gur Shatz, Cato’s co-founder, and I come from the networking and network security domains. These were largely untouched by the cloud and dominated by appliance-based solutions (routers, firewalls, etc.). We saw an opportunity to create a cloud-based platform that will challenge the legacy appliance stack in the same way AWS challenged server vendors and datacenter hosting providers.
Converged Architecture vs. Integration: the first “SASE”
Historically, networking and network security were separate between networking specialists (like Juniper and Cisco) and security specialists (like Check Point and Palo Alto Networks). The cloud wasn’t just the right platform to replace physical equipment but rather the natural place to converge networking (routing, optimization) and security (firewalling, decryption, and deep packet inspection), into a single-pass architecture. We took that architectural breakthrough one step further and distributed the single-pass architecture across the globe via dozens of identical PoPs. The PoPs are built to optimize and secure incoming multi-gig traffic from all users and locations to on-premises and cloud applications. Yet, the customer network is controlled by a single policy, regardless of the location, PoP, or resource connected to it. This, in essence, is the only true SASE architecture. To date, no other company attempted, or built, a similar service.
The Transformation Starts with the Network
Transitioning enterprise networks to the new service, benefited from a key catalyst. Customers were looking to move away from their MPLS networks and the backhauling of Internet traffic to a secure internet gateway at the datacenter. The new network was built on edge SD-WAN devices, Internet last mile, and secure direct Internet access at the branch. Cato SD-WAN was created to complement the Cato Cloud and ensure the service fully supported the WAN transformation customers needed. It was important to control the network edge, because it determined who’s cloud security will ultimately be used. Cato offered the entire stack – from SD-WAN at the branch to cloud-based security, global connectivity, and remote access in one platform. Today, more than 70% of our customers buy the full networking and security stack in the initial sale.
Serving All Edges: The IT Architecture for Post COVID-19
Cato was built as a cloud first architecture. The only functionality that absolutely had to be placed at the edge (like the SD-WAN zero touch device or remote access (SDP) client) was built as a lightweight “connector” to the cloud service. The practical implication of this is that the optimization and security capabilities of Cato are available to all users anywhere: in the office, on the road, and at home. We dubbed Cato as “the network for whatever’s next” shortly before COVID-19 hit and the truth in that message was immediately apparent. Customers deployed thousands of Cato SDP clients overnight as users moved from the office to work from home. Optimal connectivity and enterprise grade security, according to corporate policies, simply followed them to wherever they needed to go. The customers’ networks were, in fact, ready for this unforeseen event and adapted seamlessly. The remote access usage of Cato jumped by 300% over the first 60 days of the pandemic spreading. Our cloud infrastructure, built to process massive traffic globally, seamlessly adapted to the change.
Start in the middle market and grow upmarket
Every startup has to identify its initial target market. We saw an opportunity to offer the enterprise midmarket a turnkey secure network that replaced the current complex set of technologies they were using and struggling to manage. Hundreds of manufacturing, engineering, technology, legal, and financial organizations deployed Cato in full production. As our capabilities grew, we were able to go up market, and now count Fortune 500 companies among our customers.
The Way Forward: Grow at Cloud Speed
Cato and its channel partners are 100% focused on the SASE market opportunity. An aggressive product roadmap and “as a service” delivery allows us to rapidly introduce new capabilities and converge more categories into our “utility” consumption model. As we expand these capabilities, ever-larger enterprises, that are amazed by the scalability, resiliency, simplicity, speed, and cost reduction we offer, are increasingly adapting our service. Finally, the strength of Cato’s financial position enables us to aggressively pursue the transformative opportunity SASE is creating in the market.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Cato story.