Time To Fire It Up



Can be reached at (415) 947-6229 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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.

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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]