Fortinet brings HP ProCurve to the table

Privately-held Fortinet has named ProCurve Networking by Hewlett-Packard to its global alliance partner program. This is good news for Fortinet. It should help HP, too, although the ProCurve security story is by no means complete.

Fortinet’s country manager for Canada, Graham Bushkes, says the two companies complement each other. “This results in an end-to-end networking solution with HP, which is No. 2 in switches, and Fortinet, which is No. 1 in the unified threat management (UTM) security space,” Bushkes said.

HP is indeed a strong No. 2 to Cisco Systems and, according to IDC, Fortinet is out in front in the US$271-million-per-year UTM market. The alliance with HP is intended push Fortinet into larger enterprise accounts presently missed by its value-added reseller and systems integrator channels.

However, the Fortinet alliance may not completely round out HP’s security offering.

“Up until recently HP hasn’t had any kind of security play whatsoever,” says James Quin, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. “They’ve been notable for their absence.”

Pro-Curve business manager Darren Hamilton begs to differ.

“We’ve been working on the ProCurve networking architecture for over five years,” Hamilton says. “We decided to put all authentication and challenges, all rights and actions, at the perimeter.”

Quin agrees that HP has been using the ProCurve brand as a jumping-off point, and that the alliance with Fortinet gives them credibility in the UTM space. The problem is it might not be enough.

“The security tools in the HP suite are pretty limited compared to networking folks like Cisco and Juniper,” says Quin. “However, the alliance with Fortinet does give them the roster for UTM without acquiring or building.”

And it is an impressive roster. The FortiGate multi-threat security system covers eight essential security applications and services: antivirus, firewall, VPN, intrusion prevention, anti-spam, anti-spyware, Web filtering and traffic shaping. As well, the FortiGuard subscription service provides around-the-clock automatic updates.

The partner program was built by Fortinet and has three tiers: strategic, solution, and technology. HP is part of a select group in the strategic tier that includes Unisys and Alcatel-Lucent.

HP’s Hamilton says that customers are looking for choice. This may be the key to HP’s long-term strategy, and one reason why they may hold back on buying a UTM vendor. “Our message is: Here is an industry leader that integrates well in a ProCurve environment,” Hamilton says. “It allows for jointly designed solutions, and fits well in the channel. There’s opportunity for cross-training, better assessments and deployments.”

Hamilton may be right when it comes to customer choice. More elaborate and interoperable partner ecosystems do offer upside for the customer, and solution providers can forge whatever relationships they wish.

“This puts some heat on Cisco,” says Quin. “It is great news for Fortinet. The addition of Alcatel-Lucent means they have two very significant networking providers as partners. Fortinet is now in the networking space, and offering choice, too.”

The Fortinet appliances certainly have the capabilities for providing UTM across networks. They should also work well with ProCurve’s network immunity manager.

“The ProCurve management platform can pull logs and alerts from the Fortinet appliance,” says Hamilton. “This can come from whoever is supplying managed services, and has great integration of wired and wireless.”

For the past couple of years ProCurve has had a single network ID for wired and wireless, thus simplifying identity management.

“It’s easier to look at it through a single pane of glass at the perimeter,” explains Hamilton. “Before we had big iron at the core that was responsible for security and traffic. Now we are proactive, pushing off the perimeter, so that we can identify problems right at the point of connection.”

The strategy certainly fits with Fortinet’s, which is filling out a gaping hole in HP’s security portfolio. The two companies can go to market together, bringing each other’s reps into large account calls, and cover off security concerns for enterprises with big switches.

“These would be 1,500 seats and up,” says Fortinet’s Bushkes. “This is a multi-appliance approach. The Fortinet ASIC chip appliance can reassemble packets on the fly. This is high speed pattern matching that takes a load off the general purpose CPU.”

The question remains, is this enough for HP? It seems everyone is in the security game now. EMC has rebranded with the purchase or RSA, networking companies like Cisco, Juniper, and Nortel are de-facto security vendors, and Microsoft has gone from a security pariah to diving into anti-virus and SSL-VPN.

“It might not be enough for HP,” says Quin. “Fortinet is a great choice of partner in this space, and it would be a great way to round off an offering. But it might be too little too late.”

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