Fortinet adds 11 new vendor partners to Fabric-Ready program in embrace of co-opetition strategy

Fortinet now has 42 strategic vendor partnerships, which include many direct competitors, and these relationships are critical to their Security Fabric strategy.

Fortinet CEO Ken Xie on stage at Accelerate 18

LAS VEGAS – This morning at their Accelerate 18 event here, security vendor Fortinet announced the expansion of their Fabric-Ready Partner Program for strategic alliances with the addition of 11 new partners. It brings the number of participants in the program to 42 in total. The expansion is important in driving Fortinet’s vision around its Security Fabric. It is particularly strategic because many of the new partners are also direct competitors of Fortinet.

Fortinet’s Security Fabric, launched in 2016, is Fortinet’s new architecture, emphasizing full visibility, integrated threat prevention and automated response.

“While the traditional network security space is still our focus, the second part of our strategy is around the Security Fabric,” said Ken Xie, Fortinet’s founder and CEO. “This next-generation architecture is actually growing faster than our FortiGate business. It has huge potential and a bigger addressable market.”

“The Security Fabric, growing at a 25 per cent rate, is a very clear growth opportunity for us,” said Keith Jensen, Fortinet’s Chief Financial Officer. “It is fundamental to our push to move up from the SMB into the mid-enterprise and the enterprise. We have been very focused on that and will be even more so over the next few years.”

The Fabric-Ready program is fundamental to this strategy, providing access to Fortinet APIs to enable deep integration with the Security Fabric, enabling deep unified management, and providing pre-integrated offerings for customers. A majority of the new partnerships are in the management and incident response space, with BackBox, CyberArk, CyGlass, Hughes Network Systems, IBM Security, Micro Focus, Phantom, and ServiceNow being announced. McAfee is a new partner in the Threat Detection and Response space. NEC Corporation and VMware are new partners in the virtualization and software-defined networking area, with VMware also being categorized as a Cloud partner.

“Many applied, and these 11 were selected,” said Matt Pley, Fortinet’s Vice President of Cloud, Carriers, Service Providers, & Strategic Accounts. “It’s not so simple as checking a box.”

Pley emphasized the centrality of these partnerships to Fortinet’s strategy.

“Fortinet is looking at the entire market, broadly, trying to solve security issues which touches all markets,” he said. “We are solving complex security solutions along with service provider partners, and cloud providers, and that all translates back to our channel strategy.”

Most companies in the security space these days embrace a co-opetition strategy, working with competitors in certain areas while still competing with them in others. Pley said that the formation of the Cyber Threat Alliance in 2014 by Fortinet, McAfee, Palo Alto Networks, and Symantec played a key role in this.

“The inception of that alliance was to further sharing information about threats, and that was a huge shift in the market,” Pley said, “It’s great that these companies, which are competitors in the market, will partner around these issues, because there’s a real benefit to that in security. Within the Fabric-Ready program, you have companies like Cisco, with whom we compete in many areas, seeing the mutual benefits of co-operating.”

All the hyperscale cloud providers are members of Fabric-Ready.

“The Cloud obviously brings a new way to introduce threats,” Pley said. “Certain clouds are further along than others, and it’s going to be a race. All the providers have differentiations in the market. Multicloud is a big element to the cloud these days, and people will choose the cloud that best fits their needs.”

Google is a fairly new partner for Fortinet, and Pley said that while Google has been seen more as app-focused and not as a serious Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider, that’s changing.

“They are making huge changes in the way they are doing things,” he indicated. “They are moving into Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and trying to use their cloudd platform in similar ways as the others. They’ve gone from single NIC support, to dual and multi-NIC support, which are indispensable today. They just  launched BYOL in the cloud platform. They are making huge strides, and that lets us make huge strides partnering with them.”

Pley also indicated that Fortinet’s partnership with AWS through Fabric-Ready makes for a deeper relationship than is customary for most of AWS’s many strategic partners.

“We became involves in an invite-only program with them, and now their AWS Web Application Firewall is us beyond the scene,” he said. “For their really strategic partners, they do double down.”

The many orchestration partnerships in the management space that are part of the program are likely to grow in importance.

“Orchestration partnerships are something that is bigger in the longer term,” Pley said. “Orchestration is sometimes seen as the same as software, but it isn’t. It’s getting things to talk together intelligently, and it can be hardware, or it can be cloud.”

Phil Quade, Fortinet’s CISO, emphasized the strategic value to Fortinet of this type of partnership.

“Phantom, one of the newly-announced partners, is a security orchestration company,” Quade said. “They allow other products to be orchestrated. That’s important for us because it brings in new ideas to complement things that we aren’t presently doing. It’s a way to embrace innovator products that come out, until we can integrate them more deeply into our ecosystem.”

The new partnerships have differing degrees of integration, from pure technology integrations, to go-to-market integrations which meet in the channel, to deeper go-to-market integrations with co-selling.

“With some of our partners, like AWS, we have to do all these very well,” Pley said. “Some other partners, like Nuage, don’t have a go-to-market strategy with us at all, because they are purely orchestration. With those, the emphasis is on a commitment to sharing roadmaps.”