IT consultants supporting even a few dozen clients might deploy, upgrade, and replace unified threat management (UTM) appliances on a regular basis. Possible reasons may include: a client is growing and must accommodate new sites; lightning or power surges might toast an old unit; appliances fail; or VOIP deployments prompt upgrades.
My consultancy supports several hundred commercial clients, and we frequently must deploy, replace, or upgrade client routers. We see everything from firewalls integrated within an ISP-provided modem and basic Linksys models to enterprise-class Ciscos. Recently a prominent computer manufacturer announced it was acquiring a well-known UTM firm, and consultants and clients voiced concerns. We turned our attention to re-evaluating UTM providers, and we were surprised by what we found.
Gartner finds Fortinet a leader
We knew from experience that the firewall brands we deployed were capable and cost-effective appliances, but we didn't have much experience with Fortinet's FortiGate products. A Gartner Magic Quadrant report released in March 2012 opened our eyes.
Using its Magic Quadrant methodology, Gartner ranks Fortinet at the top of its leaders/visionaries quadrant. For those unfamiliar with Gartner's Magic Quadrant, that's the best place to be.
Gartner notes the Fortinet "product line has aggressive price/performance points and an easy migration path as network speeds increase." Gartner adds the vendor boasts a strong channel distribution and credits FortiGuard Labs with being a "strong source of threat and vulnerability information."
Statistics arrest attention
A quick review of Fortinet statistics commands attention. The company, which trades publicly on the NASDAQ, was founded in 2000 and has grown to 1,600 employees with $434M in 2011 revenue. The debt-free firm counts more than 125,000 customers, possesses some 101 patents, and has won more than 100 technology awards for its products, of which more than 900,000 units have shipped.
How Fortinet units compare
Fortinet's firewalls can be ordered with integrated Wi-Fi or not. Customers can choose to purchase Fortinet subscription services, which provide perimeter-based protection against malware, spam, and viruses, as well as content filtering and intrusion prevention. Such services are optional.
Models start with the FortiGate-20C, which is designed for small or branch offices. The device boasts 20Mbps performance, a single WAN interface, and four internal switch ports. It's roughly comparable in price and performance to a SonicWall TZ 100.
The next model up is the FortiGate-40C, which is comparable to a SonicWall TZ 100 or even TZ 200. These units are intended for small businesses. The FortiGate 40C boasts 200Mbps throughput, compared to just 100Mbps on the TZ 200, and can support 40,000 concurrent connections vs. just 12,000 for the SonicWall.
The devices scale well. FortiGate-80C models, for example, provide 1.8Gbps throughput and 100,000 concurrent connections. Enterprise-class medium-sized business units, such as the FortiGate-1000C appliance, boasts 20Gbps throughput and supports 7 million concurrent connections.
Deploy with confidence
I believe that consultants can deploy Fortinet firewalls with confidence. Gartner vouches for them, and market statistics are evidence of their popularity. Better yet, performance figures speak for themselves.
In the wake of ever-changing industry trends and allegiances, it's good for consultants to have as many sound vendors as allies as they can. A Fortinet partnership is one consultants should explore, especially considering Gartner took extra care to note in its Magic Quadrant that the UTM manufacturer boasts a "strong channel" with strong managed security service support. Those are two elements that should please any IT consultant.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.