On the Big Data Frontier

Abhishek Joshi, Director of Data Engineering – Cortex

As the director of engineering on Palo Alto Networks’ Cortex Data Lake, I oversee multiple teams that collect and analyze enterprises’ security data to identify and block potential threats through our Cortex Apps. Our primary function is ingestion, which is the heart and soul of any Big Data platform. This team is where the magic happens. From scaling to billions of logs per day to making sure that we are available and successfully running in multiple geographies around the world and are able to process data from disparate sources — including IoT devices, firewalls, and any other sensors deployed — this is the team that makes it happen. We make sense of all that security and threat data to give meaningful insights to our end customers.

Many people who are familiar with the name Palo Alto Networks assume that we’re in the networking space, or they know that the company started in firewalls, so they think of us as purely a firewall company. But in truth, we’re on the bleeding edge of the data world, working on the latest and greatest technologies that you can find within computer science. From a technology perspective, this is as exciting as it gets!

My Path to Palo Alto

I grew up in India and earned an undergraduate degree in computer science at the University of Mumbai, then I relocated to the United States to complete my master’s in computer science at North Carolina State University. I worked in a number of software engineering roles and wrote quite a lot of code for the cloud portion of the industry, eventually rising through the ranks to earn management roles. 

A former coworker approached me about working for Palo Alto Networks. He was working here and was really enthusiastic about the company and the leadership, and it was clear to me that it was the right fit for me. Breaking ground and pursuing a vision was in its DNA. They were doing things no one else was doing.

When I first joined this team last year, we were working around the clock to get a first version of our product out. We had made some promises in terms of the numbers we were planning to hit, and we were a bit behind the 8-ball. A bunch of us were in the “war room,” just burning the midnight oil, literally making things happen. Fast-forward to today, and we have a V1 product that has been on the market for months and has scaled to roughly 1.5 million logs per second, and now we’re excited to see that hard work come to fruition and know that what we do really matters. As a leader, I think that’s the most exciting part: to see something we built together and know that it actually works and makes a difference.

Playing on Our Team

From a people-management perspective, I make it a point to hire people who are smart and intelligent, yet humble. Humility actually plays a big role with respect to the team I run because I want to ensure that everyone is getting to learn and grow every single day. 

Life at Palo Alto Networks is very focused and outcome-driven. We’ve set clear, measurable goals, and we’re not afraid to push boundaries. The goals are not unreasonable, and as a member of the team, you get a chance to participate in establishing them, but once they’re set, you are the master of your own destiny. So we want people who want to come in and make an impact within a reasonable amount of time and who aren’t afraid to try something new and even risk failure in that process. This is not a legacy product that we’re simply maintaining — we’re building it from the ground up. We’re blazing new trails. And we get to do it with a technology stack that is, bar none, the most comprehensive and exciting in the industry. So for someone who’s starting out in their career, I can’t think of a better opportunity.