Fortinet Execs: We're Selling More To Mid-Enterprise Due To Infrastructure Strength, Marketing Spend


Fortinet has expanded beyond its traditional SMB customer base and moved into the mid-enterprise market thanks to the company's marketing spend and holistic fabric approach, executives said.

"The large and mid-size companies need to up their game and demonstrate their ability to do serious cybersecurity," Phil Quade, Fortinet's Chief Information Security Officer, told CRN. "So that creates an opportunity for us."

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security vendor has long enjoyed success with Fortune 100 companies since those companies have technical buyers that do their own evaluation testing and recognize the strength of Fortinet's product portfolio, according to Ken Xie, Fortinet's founder, chairman and CEO.

[RELATED: 10 Most Significant Announcements From Fortinet's Accelerate 18 Conference]

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But Xie told CRN that mid-enterprise companies have typically relied more on branding and marketing messages when selecting a security product since they often lack the time or resources to do their own testing and evaluation. Fortinet has therefore boosted its marketing efforts, particularly in the United States and Europe, to help capture more of that mid-range market, Xie said.

"If they've never heard the name of the company or product, it's going to be difficult for them to make the decision [to buy]," Xie told CRN.

Mid-size enterprises are also re-evaluating their security posture when it comes time for product refresh, Xie said, and many are looking to do more than simply replace their firewall or unified threat management system. Instead, firms want to ensure their network security can talk with their endpoint, email, web, WiFi and cloud security systems to strengthen their defenses against the latest threats.

"They have too many products to manage," Xie said. "And most of them don't talk to each other."

Many organizations have therefore determined they'll benefit from Fortinet's security fabric approach, Xie said, which contains all of the company's products and services and covers the entire attack surface. The company further strengthened its hand for enterprises with this month's release of the FortiGate 6000F high-end firewall, which is well-suited for enterprise-class edge networks.

Keith Jensen, Fortinet's interim CFO, emphasized that the company will not move away from selling to SMBs, and vowed that the company will continue to protect that part of the business.

"It provides us with a certain degree of stability," Jensen said. "It's a significant part of the business that allows us to push into the enterprise."

The interviews with Xie and the other Fortinet executives took place this week at Fortinet's Accelerate 18 partner and user conference at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.

Fortinet will continue working with channel partners to support the mid-enterprise, Xie said. Solution providers will still be responsible for fulfillment and providing services and support even in direct-touch instances where internal Fortinet personnel are working with the end-customer directly.

When selling into the mid-enterprise, Xie said Fortinet will work with channel partners that have traditionally supported enterprise customers and have the relevant relationships and understanding. The selling cadence is different in the enterprise, Jensen said, with longer, lumpier procurement cycles that are more difficult to forecast.

Channel partners servicing SMBs are accustomed to providing all of the supporting services themselves and therefore need to be technically savvy enough to know which products are better for their customers while not causing too many problems from a support standpoint, Xie said.

Although mid-enterprises don't typically have the technical expertise of Fortune 100 companies or carriers, Xie said they almost always have an internal IT staff and sometimes make buying decisions on their own. They will often, however, turn to familiar channel partners for assistance with integration or fulfillment, Xie said.

Fortinet has always been a huge bread and butter business for Tech Data's SMB end users, particularly around the FortiGate next-generation firewall offering, according to Alex Ryals, vice president of security solutions in the Americas for the Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor.

But enterprise clients have recently given Fortinet a more serious look thanks to the breadth of the company's security fabric, which Ryals said extends beyond what competitors offer to cover items such as email security and web application firewalls. An influx of bigger deals from larger mid-tier customers has helped Fortinet become Tech Data's fastest-growing security vendor, Ryals said.

Tech Data has a demo solution center in Clearwater where the company's engineers help channel partners do demos of everything from Fortinet's endpoint offering to the company's FortiManager security fabric management console.

"Those demos are very compelling," Ryals said.