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Fortinet Thinks Big

The security company has big designs on the carrier market but no immediate plans for an IPO

Trying to secure a place in the service-provider market, security appliance vendor Fortinet Inc. issued new blades today, including a 10-Gbit/s switch card.

The move bears some resemblance to last month's introduction of a 10-Gbit/s security box from Force10 Networks Inc., the Ethernet switch vendor. (See Force10 Breaks Into Security.) As Force10's first security offering, the box targets intrusion detection and prevention. Fortinet, by contrast, is adding to the established FortiGate systems that handle universal threat management -- a passel of functions including intrusion detection, virus blocking, and firewall capabilities.

The new FortiController-5208 card, one of the products announced today, is a "10-Gbit/s insertion point" for FortiGate, says Anthony James, Fortinet's senior product manager. The card, equipped with two 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interfaces and eight Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, takes in 10-Gbit/s signals, switches them to the appropriate FortiGate blade, and spits them back out. (See Fortinet Goes 10-Gig.)

That's in contrast to the usual FortiGate model, where each blade acted as a standalone security device. The switch fabric in the 5208 means an incoming pipe can be directed to a number of different blades. "Customers wanted to have a switch fabric so traffic could be switched across the backplane, to minimize front-side wiring," James says.

Fortinet is quick to point out the Gigabit Ethernet interfaces on the 5208 blade. Customers want 10-Gbit/s security but don't need it yet. "Building a high-end 10-Gbit/s [box] wasn't the answer for them," James notes.

Separately, Fortinet announced the FortiGate-5005 blade, sporting eight Gigabit Ethernet ports.

"We feel we are in a very good position to get into this high-end market," Fortinet chief exec Ken Xie says of the carrier market. It's an area where hardware-based security will be required because it can achieve faster speeds than software, he explains.

Fortinet also sees a chance to strongarm competitors when it comes to support for Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA), the set of standards aimed at simplifying the design of telecom hardware. James notes the company has adhered to ATCA for two years now, and is extending that support to high-end products with the FortiGate-5005 line of blades.

The company today is releasing FortiController 5208 switch blade for the FortiGate 5005 platform.

Fortinet, which shipped more than $110 million in products last year, would seem a ripe candidate to go public. (See Fortinet Fires Up for IPO.) Fortinet brass hinted at an IPO last year, but founder and CEO Ken Xie -- who founded NetScreen Technologies, which went public and got acquired by Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) for $4 billion -- tells Dark Reading Fortinet isn't interested now.

"We don't really need IPO money. An IPO would probably help to get some visibility to get bigger business, but our shareholders don't believe Fortinet would be better positioned to be a long-term leader," Xie says.

Fortinet keeps growing, meanwhile, having recently picked up the assets of CoSine Networks. Xie notes that the purchase "puts us in a much better position if Trend Micro Inc. comes up again," referring to a patent dispute that was resolved in January. (See Fortinet Scoops Up CoSine IP and Fortinet Settles Suit.)

The 5208 and 5005 are due to ship in the second half of the year, at prices of roughly $45,000 and $33,000, respectively.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading. Special to Dark Reading

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA)
  • Force10 Networks Inc.
  • Fortinet Inc.

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