Fortinet Channel Chief To Partners: We're Much More Than Firewall Appliances

Fortinet is encouraging its U.S. partner base to think beyond its line of next-generation firewall appliances to sell a larger portion of the company's security product portfolio.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has made subtle changes to its partner program to incentivize partners to sell its line of Fotigate appliances to larger businesses, but partners often miss opportunities to sell deeper into the portfolio, said Fortinet U.S. channel chief Bryan Wood. Wood, who will be meeting with some of the company's most valued integrators at the Fortinet Global Partner Conference later this week, said the program is on a solid foundation for 2014.

"We have a message that is very diverse with a broad portfolio that together we can execute on," Wood said in an interview with CRN. "There are a number of other pieces that fit into that ecosystem, and we need to do a better job coming out of the conference integrating those pieces into the story."

[Related: Fortinet Readies Sandboxing Approach To Rival Competitors ]

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Wood took the reins of the Fortinet channel program after the departure of industry channel veterans Michael Valentine and Kendra Krause to rival Sophos last year. Fortinet often competes against Dell SonicWall and Watchguard and is increasingly facing Sophos in potential deals with small and midsize businesses.

The departures of Valentine and Krause led to Fortinet filing a lawsuit against Sophos, claiming it poached Fortinet employees.

Wood declined to comment about the ongoing lawsuit but said the company's goal is to gain market share in the enterprise market against Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Check Point Software Technologies and Palo Alto Networks. A recent competitive analysis conducted by Frost and Sullivan pegged Fortinet as having more than 20 percent market share.

Meanwhile, Fortinet in November rolled out the FortiSandbox appliance, supporting a virtual file analysis sandbox to detect advanced threats, to go head to head against Palo Alto Networks and FireEye.

With version 5 of its FortiOS, unveiled in October, Fortinet has made marked improvements in operational capabilities, said Vikram Singh, a systems manager at Shelton, Conn.-based SAI Systems International, a Fortinet partner. Expandable wireless, the ability to control mobile devices and VPN support make the operating system easy to configure and customize to customer policies, Singh said.

"Fortinet is giving us one package that can handle everything and that is attractive to the end client," Singh said. "We see big growth potential with interest in detecting threats and better security beyond IT into business line executives."

Wood pointed to a number of successes in 2013. Fortinet has encouraged training and gotten a larger percentage of its partner base to get four to five certified engineers on staff, a key component in strong growth and investment in the Fortinet brand, he said.

The company also is investing in enablement and lead generation to support its partners, Wood said. It continues to support call centers with both third-party and internal support staff and plans to increase investment in direct-touch activities in 2014, according to Wood.

The channel team also is working on providing co-branded marketing campaigns, enabling partners to tap into Fortinet's marketing plans. At the end of 2013, the company introduced campaigns-in-a-box to provide marketing consistency and help tell the story about its broad product line.

"Partners have been telling me that they desire to market more, and we share that goal as well," Wood said. "We're increasing the ability for our partners in a much more systematic way to plug into some campaigns that we're doing."