All Ken Xie, the founder and CEO of Fortinet wanted to achieve in his adolescence was a spot in the Chinese national volleyball team. And who could argue? At six feet and five inches, he was capable enough to smash the ball deep into the opponent’s yard. But destiny had other plans for him. Who would have thought that his career will be all dedicated to smashing the bad actors in the cybersecurity realm? He mentions, “My parents who were academics at Tsinghua University had other plans for me. They wanted me to pursue PhD at Stanford University and then return to China to become an academic like them.” Little did they know that their ‘boy’ would rack tremors in the cybersecurity space through his company, the world today knows as Fortinet.
Xie's outlook at life transformed at Stanford, as he met fellow students who aspired to start businesses. He started a company while he was a student to help small enterprises establish an online presence easily and do so securely, and then a second venture which developed ASIC-based Internet security systems and appliances that delivered high performance firewall, VPN and traffic shaping functionality to Internet data centers, e-business sites, broadband service providers and application service providers—defining the first generation of network security. In 2000, Xie founded his third company, Fortinet that with an intent to provide next-generation security platform. And the rest, as they say, is history.
"Fortinet is the only company with a security fabric architecture designed to provide unified security across the entire network"
Today, Fortinet fills a unique void. By providing a security fabric architecture that reduces complexity and secures the largest enterprises, service providers, and government organizations around the world. The company empowers its customers with intelligent, seamless protection across an expanding attack surface and the power to take on ever-increasing performance requirements of the borderless network—today and into the future.
The Unique Approach
The key to better security is the ability to deliver the automation, integration, and performance required, while keeping pace with the speed of business. By staying abreast of the recent trends impact enterprise security and addressing them within an evolving IT infrastructure, Fortinet takes a unique approach through its Fortinet Security Fabric architecture. Fortinet’s integrated fabric approach to security allows companies to share pertinent information across and between management consoles, correlate important data, and synchronize a coordinated response to detected threats simultaneously across the distributed network, without compromising business.
"Fortinet is actively directing the future of threat intelligence standards and protocols through our ongoing collaboration with global law enforcement and government institutions"
Xie breaks down the unique positioning of the company’s broad solutions. He says, “Fortinet is the only company with a security fabric architecture designed to provide unified security across the entire network, including network core, endpoints, applications, data centers, private and public cloud, and access. The Fabric is designed to enable traditionally disparate security devices to work together as an integrated and collaborative security fabric.” The Fortinet Security Fabric’s interconnected security approach, built around open API standards, can scale and dynamically adapt to the needs of any business in any industry, offering intuitive awareness, actionable intelligence on threats, and automated, synchronized response. It allows organizations to have greater visibility over their entire security infrastructure, segment traffic and applications end to end, and the ability to continually prevent, detect, and mitigate cybersecurity threats. The end goal is to deliver comprehensive security that is broad, powerful, and automated, even for the most complex business models like capital markets.
Security is all about Collaboration
Fortinet’s collaborative security solutions protect the valuable assets of some of the largest financial services institutions, operating in markets around the world. In addition to solution development and integration, and threat intelligence and research, Fortinet continues to move the needle by developing and maintaining strategic industry, technology ecosystem, and public sector alliances. Xie states, “Fortinet is actively directing the future of threat intelligence standards and protocols through our ongoing collaboration with global law enforcement and government institutions. For example, we have collaborated with INTERPOL for over a year, helping catch a global cybercriminal gang last year. We also recently announced a partnership agreement with the NATO Industry Cyber Partnership (NICP), and we are a founding member of the Cyber Threat Alliance.”
Contributing to critical threat research in the landscape of enterprise security through industry organizations like the Cyber Threat Alliance allows Fortinet to contribute directly to the greater mission of every security vendor doing business throughout the world. “Sharing critical threat intelligence is a crucial part of our responsibility, and partnerships in this area will continue to be a major focus for Fortinet in the future. There are many companies working hard to respond to the security problems enterprises are facing right now, but in most cases these responses are reactive. Fortinet, on the other hand, has consistently anticipated the threats and vulnerabilities of the future, and built solutions before the threats emerge.”
Where Innovation meets Determination
Innovation is one of the key elements of Fortinet's culture—together with openness and a focus on teamwork. The company has been awarded more than 600 patents, which Xie says is three times more than any of Fortinet's network security competitors have received. Such levels of innovation has provided Fortinet with a long-term vision, and is one of the company's biggest differentiators over the competition. It's also why the company has been able to build organically and shy away from major acquisitions, spending just $35 million on two tuck-in deals last year.
Xie has spent a significant amount of time, capital, and effort to develop security solutions that meet the unique needs of various organizations. He states, “We consistently earn top scores in independent tests, including being recommended by NSS Labs, because we offer innovative and world class security coupled with flexible deployment options, including hardware, virtual, and cloud solutions.” Fortinet’s over 2.5 million threat sensors worldwide— comprised of both hardware and virtual solutions—collects and correlates over 50 billion threat events each day. The company’s global team of global cybersecurity researchers, FortiGuard Labs, works around the clock to reinforce and supplement this intelligence. For over 16 years, the company’s has been focussed on surveying the cyberthreat landscape, conduct research and analysis, and provide customers with actionable threat intelligence for the prevention of attacks and near real-time incident response.
The Road Ahead
As enterprise clients consolidate around a smaller number of vendors, Xie mentions that the breadth of Fortinet's Security Fabric will allow customers to protect more of their attack surface. The expanding Security Fabric will also enable Fortinet's channel partners to grow their business faster and gain market share from competitors.
The speed at which today’s cyberattacks take place creates the need for security devices to collaborate in a way that enables a synchronized, automatic response to threats without waiting for human intervention. “This can’t happen with the traditional model of simply deploying additional isolated security devices and platforms every time the network changes. What is needed is an integrated, open API-based approach that matches the speed of changes being made to the network,” says Xie.
In the future, Fortinet will be focusing its efforts on cultivating a team environment within its own business structure, with a clear commitment to innovation. Fortinet’s culture is invention-focused, as evidenced by a patent reward program open to all employees. Everyone is encouraged to submit ideas for consideration, and specialists help guide new applicants through the patent submission process. In the true spirit of innovation, Xie informs, “We can see how the internet is evolving and how cybersecurity will play an increasingly important role, with a demanding growth curve over the next 20 years. The requirements keep changing, the attack surface is getting larger, and the threats are getting more sophisticated. For a business to remain successful in this space, it needs to keep innovating, constantly improving its technology to help financial services institutions solve their business and security challenges.”