Time To Fire It Up
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security upstart was once the hottest of hot channel companies. Its early entrance into UTM appliances—which combine a firewall with VPN, antivirus and other security features—set it up as a company to beat. VARs praised its product as an affordable plug-and-play security offering for small businesses that actually worked.
But that fire of excitement in the channel was doused with ice water last year as a patent fight with security stalwart Trend Micro gained steam. From the beginning, plucky Fortinet executives dismissed the claims that the company had violated a Trend Micro antivirus patent in its FortiGate appliances. Early on, the company&'s VAR partners stood behind it and continued selling the product.
But that changed last summer.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Fortinet&'s antivirus software did violate Trend Micro&'s patent and banned the import of Fortinet products containing the antivirus software in question. Fortinet executives say the decision didn&'t slow the company down. Indeed, Fortinet posted some 50 percent worldwide revenue growth in 2005.
Still, here in the United States, the patent dispute and the ITC ruling slowed the momentum of the formerly high-flying company on its way to an initial public offering.
Solution providers that once sang the praises of Fortinet began to express doubts. Customers worried about support issues from a company embroiled in a legal battle with a much larger foe. Stories of spotty channel support began to circulate. And, tellingly, many solution providers began to look elsewhere for small-business security wares.
With Trend Micro and Fortinet reaching a settlement in the patent dispute last week, Fortinet is at a channel crossroads, faced with a decision: It can rekindle its channel relationships and set the small-business security space on fire again. Or it can continue to ignore the rumblings of a disgruntled channel and watch its sizzle fizzle.
What fires you up? Let me know at (415) 947-6229 or via e-mail at [email protected]