Fortinet Targets Cisco, Juniper In Quest To Reach $1 Billion

During its first annual global partner conference earlier this week in Miami, Fortinet executives discussed the company's plan to increase its market share, revenue and overall brand awareness in the networking security space. Greg Fitzgerald, vice president of global marketing, said a big part of the company's strategy will involve becoming more competitive with networking leaders like Cisco and Juniper.

"We believe we can grow 30 percent year-over-year," Fitzgerald said. "And we're trying to take out the Junipers and Ciscos. They've taken their eye off the security ball, mostly for organizational reasons, and we just want customers to put our stuff side by side with their equipment and put it to the test."

Fortinet has exhibited strong growth despite the IT spending crunch in recent years; the company saw revenue increase 35 percent in the second quarter. But as security becomes a greater concern for businesses of all types and sizes, Fortinet knows that vendors like Cisco will be pushing their single-vendor data center stacks, which will include network security gear.

"I don't think customers want to limit themselves to just one vendor, but obviously they don't want to deal with 10 either," Fitzgerald said. "We think customers are OK with two or three vendors, so our approach is simple: Cisco's great at networking, so use them for networking. But let us handle the network security."

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The trick will be displacing incumbents like Cisco and Juniper, of course. But Fortinet believes it has an edge. "We're winning the performance battle," said Fortinet CEO Ken Xie.

Fortinet just announced a host of new FortiGate products to cover more of the small and midsize business market, but Xie knows that the company's channel partners will play a key role in winning new business and displacing incumbent hardware.

"Customers use a lot of older networking equipment and whether it's Cisco or another vendor, there are a lot of things like policy changes and network integrations issues that need to be resolved if they're going to upgrade to a new platform," Xie said.

But upgrade and hardware refresh cycles are still driving business for Fortinet, he said. "Every four or five years, networking hardware needs to be refreshed. It's just like the PC and server markets," Xie said. "So there is some opportunity around going to customers and consolidating all of their security into one UTM (unified threat management) appliance, but a lot of business is being driven by hardware refresh."

"Partners want Fortinet to step up and be one of the big boys. They want us to increase our brand awareness and that's our biggest challenge," Fitzgerald said. "The strategy is to provide a network security solution for every customer size and need. We really want to hammer the message of one platform, one solution for unified threat management."

Jay Smith, partner and president of sales at Security 7 Networks in Hampton, N.H., approves of Fortinet's new approach. "I think they have a real good story to tell because they have a lot of flexible products with Swiss Army knife-like functionality," Smith said. "The granularity of the product line is great because it allows us to find the right product for the right customer."