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Unified threat management market battle heats up as security developer launches partner program

Fortinet, a unified threat management (UTM) vendor, has launched a global security partner program in hopes of taking enterprise customers away from Cisco and other competitors.

Unified threat management (UTM) vendor Fortinet announced a worldwide partner program aimed at prying enterprise customers away from its main competitors.

Fortinet leads the $271 million unified threat management market, according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Security Appliance Tracker. But most members of Fortinet's partner program are local and regional value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators (SIs), and they primarily sell to small enterprises or large midsize businesses.

The Global Alliance Partner Program will allow Fortinet to reach larger customers, said Karl Soderlund, vice president of America sales and global alliances.

"Our traditional channel partners weren't always equipped to go and sell to a worldwide deployment," Soderlund said.

Soderlund said the new security partner program is not meant as a slight to those partners -- nor will it negatively affect their business. Global partners have higher expectations for profit margins, so they won't be able to compete with the lower prices offered by local and regional partners, he said. And even if they could, he added, a deal registration process is in place to prevent them from doing so.

Jay Smith, president of Security 7 Networks in Atkinson, N.H., said he does not think the global partners will threaten business for him or other Fortinet partners who work with small and midsize clients on unified threat management projects.

"It's going to be mostly relegated to very high-end enterprise customers," he said. "I traditionally don't work with Fortinet customers up in that space."

New global partners include Advanced Micro Devices, Alcatel-Lucent, ArcSight and Unisys. ProCurve Networking by Hewlett-Packard, which already uses Fortinet products to compete with Cisco in the networking security market, is also part of the program.

Fortinet is a 100%-channel-driven company best known for FortiGate Unified Threat Management, an appliance that features firewall, VPN, intrusion detection and prevention, antivirus software and antispyware. Cisco is its top competitor in the unified threat management market, and other vendors in the mix include Barracuda Networks, Secure Computing and Trend Micro, according to IDC.

Fortinet's new security partner program features three levels: strategic, for "a select few" partners whose products and services enhance Fortinet's portfolio; solution, for partners who work specifically with FortiGate and the FortiManager management console; and technology, for partners whose products complement Fortinet's.

The company has had some global partners for the past few years but never formalized the program until now, Soderlund said. The program's goals are to assign at least one representative to every account and help partners define value propositions for different end-user communities, he said.

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