At a technology conference hosted by investment bank Dougherty & Co. last week, Rene Bonvanie, Palo Alto’s chief marketing officer, expressed “more of an appetite for technologies or teams that can help their platform,” rather than for product lines that could deliver quick revenue growth,” Dougherty analyst Catharine Trebnick wrote in a security note issued yesterday.
That doesn’t mean Palo Alto is eschewing acquisitions altogether. It just means the company isn’t in the market for a big acquisition that comes with an established product line.
The company has shown a taste for smaller deals, though. For example, threat prevention startup Cyvera was acquired in 2014 for $200 million, providing Palo Alto with Traps, one of its subscription-based products. (The name originally stood for Targeted Remote Attacks Prevention System.)
Even without an acquisition to artificially boost revenues, Palo Alto still expects to sustain 30 percent annual sales growth eventually, Trebnick reported. That would be after the company’s current growth spurt levels off; revenues in fiscal 2016, which ended July 31, grew 49 percent from the previous year, to $1.38 billion.
The overall security market is growing at 7 percent per year, Trebnick wrote.
Palo Alto is best known for firewall appliances, although like the rest of the IT industry, the company is wrestling with the transition of networking functions into software form. The company’s virtual firewalls, known as the VM-Series, have 1,700 customers so far, as executives noted during the company’s earnings call in August. That’s compared with Palo Alto’s 34,000 total customers.
Half of the 1,700, though, were new buyers to Palo Alto “and could act as a ‘foot in the door’ to a longer-term expansion strategy,” Trebnick wrote. That’s been Palo Alto’s overall strategy for trying to displace incumbents such as Check Point and Cisco, she noted; the company tends to “enter accounts through one use case” and expand into other use cases from there.