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Fortinet Security Fabric: Channel partners find a role

Fortinet's pursuit of a unified security architecture to protect against cybersecurity threats may open opportunities for channel partners in consulting and integration services.

Change is evident in the IT industry, especially in terms of security. The threat landscape represents an area in constant flux. Recently, customer interest shifted from traditional point products to integrated solutions. Fortinet Inc. responded to the change with the Fortinet Security Fabric, with partners playing a key role in its evolution.

Because of headlines trumpeting major break-ins at the world's largest, most sophisticated organizations, security has become a top priority for many enterprises. While organizations have been trying to cap IT spending, security investments have been growing robustly. Market research firm IDC forecasts that worldwide revenue for security-related hardware, software and services will reach $81.7 billion in 2017, an increase of 8.2% over 2016 numbers.

But the spending has created inefficiencies. IT departments have found themselves managing point solutions, such as end-user security, intrusion detection and firewalls. "Corporations want to pull all of their security systems together into a cohesive whole," said John Maddison, senior vice president of products and solutions at Fortinet, which is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Creating cohesion

Against that backdrop, the vendor unveiled the Fortinet Security Fabric in April 2016. The security ecosystem brings traditionally autonomous products together into a single architecture, one designed to protect corporate data against threats to various components: core infrastructure (servers, networks, storage), remote devices, internet of things (IoT) and the cloud (private, hybrid and public).

John Maddison, senior vice president of products and solutions, FortinetJohn Maddison

Fortinet's security system also cultivates partnerships with third-party vendors. In March, Fortinet announced that eight companies (AlgoSec, Attivo Networks Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Nokia's Nuage Networks, Silver Peak, VeloCloud and Versa Networks) joined its Fabric-Ready Partner Program, bringing the total number of supporters to 22. Here, partners validate technology integration with the Fortinet Security Fabric, commit to sharing roadmaps to ensure consistent interoperability, and benefit from joint go-to-market initiatives.

A strong channel presence

Founded in 2000 by Ken Xie, Fortinet has developed a broad cybersecurity product line through the years: firewalls, antivirus, intrusion prevention and endpoint security solutions, packaged as software and appliances. The products have sold well: Company revenue rose from $534 million in 2012 to $1.275 billion in 2016. The fabric is key to keeping its sales rising.

Fortinet is relying heavily on the channel to promote its fabric. "Virtually all of our sales come via the channel," Maddison stated.

The Fortinet Security Fabric offers partners some potential revenue opportunities, mainly with consulting and integration engagements. To deploy the system, enterprises need to sift through their current security products, determine which ones can be tied into the framework and then integrate those products.

Founded in 1997, Safari Micro Inc., which has 45 employees and generates about $75 million in revenue, supplies IT solutions to organizations across the U.S. The reseller has partnerships with a handful of security suppliers and became very interested in the Fortinet fabric.

Security is becoming too complicated for businesses to continue relying on a series of point products.
Brent Klespiessenior solutions architect, Safari Micro

"Security is becoming too complicated for businesses to continue relying on a series of point products," noted Brent Klespies, senior solutions architect at Safari Micro based in Chandler, Ariz.

The early results have been promising: Revenue from selling Fortinet products rose from $108,000 in 2015 to $1 million in 2016. And the future looks bright: Fortinet solutions represent about 10% of Safari Micro's security revenue, but Klespies expects that number to grow to 35% to 45% in the next 24 months.

Finding a few holes

But Fortinet has a few chinks in its armor. "Fortinet has been conservative and content to let other vendors develop new markets," said Robert Westervelt, research manager at IDC.  Consequently, the vendor often trails rather than leads emerging markets.

Robert Westervelt, research manager, IDCRobert Westervelt

Security analytics are now an emerging area. Enterprises are being inundated with alerts, and these tools help staff sift through the noise. In June 2016, Fortinet purchased AccelOps and rebranded its solution as FortiSIEM. While the system is flexible and has strong reporting capabilities, it lags behind competitors in areas such as machine learning, visualization tools and user interface, according to Joseph Blankenship, senior analyst at Forrester.

In addition, Fortinet sells across the entire business spectrum, from small local businesses to large enterprises. Building a sales and support structure to serve all of those companies can be challenging.

With the Fortinet Security Fabric, however, the company is entering a new phase and its banking on the help of partners to make a smooth transition.

Next Steps

Read how Fortinet has boosted support for managed security services providers

Find out why some partners target larger customers with IT security services

Look into other cybersecurity vendors that target channel companies

This was last published in May 2017

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