Fortinet claims ‘breakthrough’ price-performance

Unified threat management company Fortinet Inc. is claiming “breakthrough” price-performance for its new security appliance – the first device to offer firewalling at a cost of under $1 per Mbps throughput, according to senior product marketing manager Jason Wright.

The FortiGate 310B is a 10-port security appliance for firewalling and virtual private networking aimed at midsized enterprises. It’s the first mid-tier appliance to use Fortinet’s FortiASIC network processor application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) to accelerate traffic, providing 1Gbps throughput on the accelerated ports. The 310B is expandable through an Advanced Mezzanine Card (AMC slot), which can provide an additional four 1 Gbps ports or an 80 MB hard drive.

Wright lists the advantages of the new box as port density, expandability and performance. “Port count and throughput are particularly a concern,” Wright said.

Larger enterprises have increasingly moved to a layered approach to security, Wright said. The old-school hard perimeter approach doesn’t take into account the fact that mobile devices can bring threats inside the perimeter, or that users on the inside can also be a threat. Segmented security can isolate departments from each other, so a security problem within sales doesn’t affect engineering, and a user from another department can’t hack into finance.

“You get a more granular security policy,” Wright said. But while enterprises can afford this – “They can buy big boxes with lots of ports and lots of throughput” – the midsized company’s IT department often doesn’t have the resources to properly segment. Fortinet hopes to change that by offering the base 310B for under $7,000, or $700 per port. Comparable boxes either don’t offer as many ports (the four-port Nokia IP390, Checkpoint UTM1 450 and Juniper SSG-350M, and the six-port SonicWall NSA5000), cost considerably more, or both (the four-port Cisco ASA 5520 starts at a little more than $11,000), Wright said.

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Measured in cost per Mbps, Fortinet claims a remarkable 87 cents. The other five appliances averaged $11.61, Wright said.

“The price/performance aspect of the mid-market UTM boxes is very important to customers,” said Jon Crotty, IDC research analyst with the security products and services practice, in an e-mail interview. “Vendors will continue to battle for the best price and performance.

“This box in particular is a great addition to the Fortinet lineup as it offers better price and performance than the other boxes they have in this price band. Currently Fortinet has four UTM boxes that fit into the ($6,00 to $10,000) price band. This box will phase those out, thus reducing confusion among customers looking to invest in Fortinet products at the mid-market.”

Only eight of the 10 ports on the base model are accelerated – there are two FortiASIC network processors on board, each handling four ports. The two ports that aren’t accelerated can be used for management or slower network segments, Wright said. Expansion through the AMC slot adds either four more accelerated ports (for a total firewall throughput of 12 Gbps), or an 80 MB hard drive for local logging and archiving. “This allows a little more independence” from complementary software, Wright said.