Fortinet recently held its signature Accelerate customer and partner event for the first time in four years. It’s been great to finally put the pandemic in the rearview mirror and return to the industry event circuit; as a technology analyst, travel is essential for gathering intelligence to formulate and share my insights based on meetings with security, networking and telecom infrastructure providers and customers. Even better, in this case I had the opportunity to spend time with Fortinet executives in sunny Orlando on the Disney World property—during spring break, no less.
A lot has changed for Fortinet since its last in-person event. I want to share my insights accordingly.
Beyond the firewall
Fortinet was founded in 2000 as ApSecure. However, current CEO and cofounder Ken Xie recognized the power of converging networking and security functionality early on—rebranding it as Fortinet based on a fortified network concept. Xie’s early vision is astounding, given that frameworks such as secure access service edge (SASE) and secure services edge (SSE) that leverage cloud-native networking architectures and infuse security controls are relatively new, dating back just a few years.
Fortinet’s first product, aptly named FortiGate, was a physical firewall. That product quickly led the company to a dominant market position in unified threat management over the next several years. Flash forward to today, and Fortinet is extending itself into other adjacent security and networking categories, including SD-WAN, SASE, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), endpoint and email security and more. This portfolio expansion allows the company to compete for an expansive market share, as evidenced by its consistent top-line revenue growth and customer acquisitions over the last five years.
What also impressed me at Accelerate this year is the company’s investment in research and development. Fortinet boasts nearly 1,000 issued patents, and although patent counting does not translate into innovation, it is a barometer of potential. Bottom line, Fortinet is no longer a one-trick firewall pony, although it does still maintain its leadership in evolving that category with next generation firewalls (NGFW) and a consistently deployed fabric in FortiOS Everywhere.
Laser focus on three growth vectors
At Accelerate 2023, company executives shared Fortinet’s vision for its future growth, which is focused on universal SASE, unified endpoint security and secure 5G. I believe these are three solid portfolio endeavors, with Fortinet estimating the combined addressable market at nearly $35 billion. Universal SASE facilitates the company's continued focus on delivering a fortified network with SD-WAN, cloud access security broker (CASB), universal zero trust network access (ZTNA) and more. I’ve previously written about universal ZTNA, and you can read more about it.
Fortinet’s unified endpoint security aggregates ZTNA, SASE and virtual private network (VPN) agent functionality, endpoint detection response (EDR) and vulnerability management. Finally, the company’s secure 5G effort is holistic, encompassing customer and operational technology (OT) edge, mobile edge and core, as well as mobile radio access networks (RAN). I believe there is a tremendous opportunity to shore up security for the latter, given the momentum behind Open RAN and the corresponding threat surface expansion that comes with not only disaggregation of the underlying infrastructure but also the adoption of massive IoT enabled by 5G’s improvement over LTE in terms of the scale of supported devices.
Accelerate 2023 was a personal education for me. I have followed Fortinet for a considerable time but was unaware of its leadership’s early recognition of the value of the convergence of networking and security. The event was also eye-opening, demonstrating the company's push into new market segments and corresponding success. This isn’t just your ordinary firewall company, given Fortinet’s successful acceleration past the firewall in developing a broader and deeper networking and security portfolio.