Akamai CEO Tom Leighton On API Security Growth And M&A Strategy

During an interview with CRN, Leighton also discusses the impact on Akamai’s major operations in Israel and the enduring influence of co-founder Danny Lewin.


After expanding its cybersecurity offerings over the past decade, Akamai Technologies is now seeing security as its largest business by revenue.

CRN recently had the chance to speak with Akamai Co-Founder and CEO Tom Leighton to discuss the company’s growth in security, the SASE [secure access service edge] market, partner opportunities in security, the impacts on Akamai’s Israel operations and the company’s acquisition strategy.

Leighton also spoke about the continued influence on Akamai of co-founder Danny Lewin, an Israeli Defense Forces veteran who was killed on American Airlines Flight 11 during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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What follows is an edited and condensed portion of CRN’s interview with Leighton.

What parts of your security business are seeing strong growth right now?

We added in API security, aided by the acquisition of Neosec. And we’re seeing a ton of interest in our customer base there. Pretty much every enterprise CISO or CIO we talk to today, they acknowledge they don’t even know all the APIs they’ve got. We’ve already integrated [Neosec] with our web app firewall product. So very easily, without the customer doing anything, we can more or less flip the switch and show you what’s going on with your APIs.

The rapidly growing areas are API security and microsegmentation. Guardicore recently crossed the annualized run rate of $100 million, growing very, very rapidly.

Do you have aspirations to become a full SASE player in the future?

We’re not offering — and at this point, don’t have the intention to offer — the full suite of SASE capabilities. We’re really focused on segmentation, enterprise application access, north/south/east/west. And early next year, that’ll all be on one pane of glass, which will be a pretty unique capability. We have a really good recursive DNS solution to protect you from going somewhere nasty. But I think we’re not, at this point, focused on the whole SASE suite. We want to really be the best at certain capabilities that we think are most important.

Do you expect to make further acquisitions in security in the near future?

Security is a really fast-moving landscape. And so I suspect there’ll be more capabilities that we’re going to want to get, and M&A is one way to do that. I think extending [existing offerings] is probably the right way to look at it. For us, adjacencies make a lot of sense.

How does the M&A environment look to you right now?

For the better companies, the valuations are still crazy high. The market has not rationalized. It’s still a very inflated market, I would say, with the prices for the more-interesting companies.

What are the big opportunities for partners around Akamai security right now?

A lot of our security products are channel-only, and in general, we’re a channel-first company. If you look at API security and segmentation, those are all-channel. It’s a great opportunity for our partners because those products require some integration effort. And a lot of our customers want managed services around it.

Akamai has been closely connected to Israel since its founding. How are your operations there being impacted?

Fortunately, our employees today are safe. But I would say pretty much everybody knows somebody or has friends that were impacted. We’ve also had a lot of folks that are now called up in active duty. And of course, Akamai is going to support our team through all of that, whatever it takes.

Are your operations in Tel Aviv one of your bigger offices outside the U.S.?

Yes, we have over 500 developers there. And it’s really the core for security at Akamai. We do security development in a lot of places, but that’s definitely the center of gravity.

Have your thoughts been on your Akamai co-founder, Danny Lewin, these past few weeks?

We think about Danny a lot. Our highest honor for employees is the Danny Lewin Award, which we give out in the summer. Five employees out of our 10,000 were honored with that. And then in September, we have the Danny Lewin Community Care days, where around the world we do community service together in Danny’s memory. He’s always been a part of our culture and in our thoughts — for sure in mine. He was an incredible human being.