Michael Joseph | Director, System Engineering, Fortinet- India & SAARC explains how Fortinet solutions are becoming even more critical in a WFH environment
What are the solutions and services in the Fortinet portfolio for the Indian market?
Fortinet is a pure security focused company. Initially we started focusing on network security and then over a period of time, based on the customer requirements, we have expanded the portfolio to address the various vectors and technologies the customers are adopting. We have a portfolio of product lines from FortiClients to our authentication solutions which cater to the zero trust network access. From a security driven networking perspective, we have our high performance Fortinet firewalls which cater to the next generation firewall market.
Along with these from an infrastructure perspective, Fortinet offers our own wireless solutions and our own solutions for 3G/4G connectivity which can expand to 5G in tomorrow’s world. This is the portfolio of product lines what we offer from a security driven networking perspective. Then from a cloud security perspective we offer various solutions. We offer Fortinet VM-based solutions which can be used for a private cloud or any flavour of the public cloud whether be it AWS, Azure, Oracle Cloud etc.
What is the vertical wise traction for Fortinet solutions and what are their use cases?
When we talk about vertical-based approach in terms of how they have been leveraging cloud for various use cases, the volume of cloud adoption can vary. The manufacturing or the retail segment has been pioneering the SD WAN solutions followed by the IT/ITES companies. Fortinet has solutions to cater to most of the verticals but in terms of consumption and technology typically, our major success comes from the next generation firewall which at the end of the day is consumed by all the verticals.
Telcos play the bigger role for managed security services where they consume or offer managed security services using Fortinet solutions. From a BFSI perspective, all the banks that are mandates from RBI to set up stock are consumers. In the current pandemic, the IT/ITES companies were more comfortable in terms of turning out solutions where they were able to make at least certain percentage of their employees to work from home whereas somebody in the retail space, it was bit more challenging. From a Fortinet perspective we have seen nice intake in terms of solutions and for pandemic based on our work from home solutions there have been a large intake in terms of the solutions what we offered for work from home.
How has cybersecurity vulnerabilities magnified in the current WFH scenario and how is Fortinet helping customers counter this?
If you see the Fortinet trade report, in the month of March itself the FortiGuard research team stopped almost 130% increase in the number of viruses what we were detecting based on the Fortinet solutions deployed wide across the close the globe. There was a huge spike what we saw. Typically even though there was pandemic and customers were struggling or trying to cope up with setting-up infrastructures, on the other side the hackers were also working to see as to how the situation can be exploited.
We did see a huge volume of increase in terms of e emails typically disguised coming from WHO, or hospitals. With work from home, they were trying to exploit the vulnerability. With remote work r infrastructure, they were trying to get into the corporate networks and then compromise the corporate network. One of the key things what we undertook was for our existing customers was a number of webinars to help customers and partners understand that what are the solutions available from Fortinet and how customers and partners can leverage the existing Fortinet infrastructure what they have already deployed. We also looked at leveraging the public cloud wherever the customers were comfortable.
What has been the impact on commercial terms and SLAs of the changing nature of the deals with existing customers? How is Fortinet changing its focus from an appliance vendor to more a managed services player?
Whatever solutions Fortinet has been selling to the customers from our business model perspective we never sells directly to the customers. So the transactions with the customers always happen through the partners. From a support and uptime SLAs, these are typically managed by the partners. I have seen the change in terms of offerings from more of managed services and more of cloud adoption,
Fortinet also did see good percentage increase in terms of the cloud business. When we say cloud business we are talking about Fortinet security being deployed in the public cloud and on the private cloud. The other business increase what we have seen is in terms of the telcos and the service providers using Fortinet solutions to offer the managed service back to their customers. In this pandemic situation, customers were looking to the tecos and service providers to offer them managed services because end of the day connectivity also was playing a very important role.
What sort of incentives or relief packages Fortinet was providing for its partners during the current pandemic?
Some of the common requests which came from the partners was wherever the customers had to renew the security licenses or the support contracts, extension of the existing support contracts with some risk periods where they could do the next renew also. We were supporting wherever possible. We were seeing other requests also where lot of evaluation licenses what the partners were looking at so that they could deploy the solutions and showcase the solutions to the customers where the customers could leverage it for the first one or two months and then based on how successful the solutions were then they could look at leveraging that solution. We also worked along with the distributors to see how we can support our partners in these challenging times so that they in turn can also help the customers in this situation.
How did Fortinet balance between retention of existing customers and acquisition of new customers?
We did reach out to our existing customers to equip them as to how the existing Fortinet solutions that they have deployed can be efficiently leveraged and which can be then be used from the work from home solutions or for improving the security posture when they were rolling out this work from home solutions. We did not see much challenge in terms of retaining our existing customers.
In terms of new customers our focus was how we could showcase our work from home solutions where combined with network security and SD WAN what has been our value proposition and then get that customers on-boarded to Fortinet. From a business perspective, we did see an increase intake from our existing customers, but we were also fairly successful in terms of acquiring new customers.
What were the dynamics of your managed services portfolio and what is the profile of the customers for this portfolio?
We had been having good success even before the cloud initiative came into the market. From a year back we had decent success. Most of the data centre solution providers in India have been offering managed security services where they had tied up with Fortinet. Fortinet had seen good success in terms of the managed security service for a longer duration.
Now with the cloud coming into the picture, we do have very large private cloud providers who are leveraging Fortinet solutions to protect their cloud infrastructure. We are also offering Fortinet solutions back to their customers as a part of their cloud offerings. We do have all the offerings available either from the marketplace of the cloud provider what a customer can purchase or there is a BYOL license which he can purchase from a partner and then leverage.
How does Fortinet work in a consortium model with other OEMs offering complementary technologies?
At the end of the day one vendor cannot offer all the solutions what the customers could be looking at. From the customer security framework or from an IT framework perspective, we could be picking and choosing various vendors. In today’s world the customer expects a closer collaboration or integration between all these products so that he is able to achieve the final goal what he has in mind.
If you look at traditionally from a security vendors perspective 10 to 15 years back, most of the security vendors used to work in silos. A specific OEM security product would never interact with any other security vendor product. But in today’s world the way trades have evolved and the multifold vectors what the hackers are using, it is very imperative that any security product needs to have that collaboration, integration options available to integrate with third party products even if it is a competing product.
We have a large set of vendors whom we are working with where we jointly work out solutions like how Fortinet solution will work with their technology and then it is tested and validated so that the customers are clear and do not have to get into too much of customisation to integrate the solutions. That is where we talk about the Fortinet security fabric partners.
There is a big list of partners available into all the verticals who touch up on the endpoint security, software defined network, public cloud, threat intelligence company c. We do collaborate and work with other vendors and then based on the customer’s requirement we showcase and talk about how customers would be able to leverage various technologies from different vendors at the same time to get the best results out of it.
How is the channel partner ecosystem structured at Fortinet?
We have different flavours of various channels who cater to the various market segments. To start with, there are different kinds of channels to cater to a SMB market, mid enterprise, or enterprise customers. The basic criteria what we look at this is based on the market and the technologies what they are catering to their customers. We get the necessary certifications accordingly. What the partner community needs is to have people who are in the sales management to have understanding of the Fortinet products and solutions. From a technical team perspective we need to ensure that when a customer is associating with the partner, the partner has the necessary technical expertise to cater and support that customer from a post sales support based on the technology.
What are Fortinet’s unique differentiators from its competitors?
Fortinet as a company has been in the market for last 17+ years. One of the things what we have been pioneering was that designing our own hardware solutions which can then accelerate. We also have different security processes we have designed over a period of time come into the market so that at a low cost of ownership the customers are able to get better and assured performance from solutions they are purchasing from Fortinet. Fortinet was one of the first vendors who looked at compiling the various security solutions into one appliance or into one solution.
How do you see the changing nature of the engagements with CISOs?
One of the significant paradigm shifts that we have seen is that irrespective of the nature of the business a lot of companies are looking at enhancing the work from home solutions. These include what they already have or what they have temporarily setup to regularise or build a rugged work from home solutions. Based on nature of business it could be 50% of their workforce or 70% of their workforce, how they could work from home in the future. This is the scenario of what we have seen across the globe, across different verticals.
Even Fortinet did a survey on this regard and what we have seen is that in terms of the investments that is happening or going to happen, majority are going to enhance the work from home solution in terms of network VPN solutions, cloud infrastructure etc. Where we see that in terms of investment towards on-prem solutions, the budgets are going to be less which will be allocated for on-prem infrastructure enhancements. More than 50% of the companies were talking about investing more than $250,000 or more. In that 50%, around 30% were talking about investment of more than $500,000 to build a rugged work from home solution.
When we talk about work from home solutions, cloud adoption is one of the key criterias what CISOs are looking at. Then from an access perspective or improving the network performance perspective, SD WAN and secure SD-WAN is another area CISOs are looking at. Another area they are looking at is SASE or secured access service edge which includes SD WAN, firewall service, zero trust etc. It is a composition of the next generation firewall, whether it is in the form of firewall, or VM as a service.