Fortinet CEO Explains the Evolution of the Network Firewall

When Ken Xie founded Fortinet in the year 2000, the networking world was a very different place than it is today. Both Fortinet and Xie have rolled with the punches since then, with 2017 being one of the best years in the history of the company.

Fortinet reported its fourth quarter and full-year fiscal 2017 financial results on Feb. 5. Fourth quarter revenue came in at $416.7 million for a 15 percent year-over-year gain, while full-year revenue was reported at $1.49 billion for a 17 percent gain over fiscal 2016.

At the core of Fortinet’s business is the company’s network security technology, which includes the FortiGate firewall appliances. The newest appliance is the FortiGate 6000 series.

“The 6000 series is the fastest next-generation firewall appliance in the industry and is fully integrated with the Fortinet Security Fabric,” Xie said during his company’s earnings call. “It is built upon a new hardware process and architecture that delivers over 100 gig of advanced threat protection and SSL inspection to handle massive volume of traffic driven by increased adoption of the cloud.”

The History of Firewalls

Xie explained during the earning call that when Fortinet got started 18 years ago, it was already the second generation of firewall technology. He noted that his prior company, NetScreen, which was acquired by Juniper Network, was in the business of traditional first generation firewalls providing VPN and connection security features.

The second generation of firewall technology was about application content security. In Xie’s view, firewall technology is now entering its third generation, which includes network, cloud, endpoint, IoT and application security components.

“So that’s where the total addressable market is bigger, but all these security piece need to be working together with network security,” Xie said.


Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is another area of the networking market that Xie sees as an opportunity for Fortinet’s growth.

“Our core business of network security continues to offer growth in new, displacement and adjacent markets such as SD-WAN,” Xie said.

Xie added that the current SD-WAN solutions are very low cost, but they lack the computing power to address any security issues.

“I believe SD-WAN needs to be integrated just like APs need to be integrated with network security, and security is a very important part going forward,” Xie said. “So that’s where we have huge advantage because our solution combined with the SPU ASIC, which has huge computing advantage, computing power performance advantage compared any other SD-WAN solution.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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