Business & Technology

Q&A: Defining a Holistic Strategy for Customers

By John Welton | November 28, 2016

Collaboration and partnership are hot topics in the industry today across the IT stack. Fortinet’s John Maddison offers some perspective following our Security Fabric and Fabric Ready announcements earlier this year.

Can you talk about why “open” is such a critical element of our GTM selling strategy?

An “open” strategy demonstrates the maturity of a vendor in their evolution towards developing a complete ecosystem of partnerships. This has been clearly expressed in the meetings I have participated in with Gartner analysts as well as when speaking with our larger enterprise customers. That said, it is also important in practice in every forward-looking datacenter project we are working to get into.

We cannot just rely on larger appliances and VMs to be enough without integration into the underlay (Cisco ACI, for example) and the overlay (VXLAN VTEP Support) network, as well as support for other cloud/SDN enabling technologies (Nuage, Plumgrid, etc.) As we expand our support for these and other emerging technologies, we are going to be more interesting. And at the same time, we will need the support of more sophisticated partners in large SDDC/Private Cloud deals.  

We are also seeing a market-wide adoption of SDN/NFV from almost all partners. An open platform is critical to fit into today’s new framework, regardless of whether it’s hardware or software. Our partners demand flexibility and customization to ensure the ability to build and deliver automated solutions.

From a customer and partner POV what is truly “open” - what are they asking for when they discuss open security solutions?

Partners and customers alike are demanding robust API support and documentation, formal vendor partner agreements, and proven solutions. Organizations have already invested in an infrastructure of networking and security tools and platforms. These products are an essential part of their security strategy and defense capability. Extending the functionality and intelligence of the Fortinet Security Fabric to leading third-party solutions allows enterprises to maximize their existing investment in security technologies even further by bringing them together in a cohesive, integrated security strategy.

How are we enabling our partners with new business and technology opportunities with our open approach? What’s “in it for them”?

One key requirement for partners with mature integration and professional service practices is support for true multivendor solutions. They can then position themselves as a trusted advisor, and build the security part of their practices with Fortinet as their solution of choice. Our integration into existing and new solutions in the market prevents partners from looking to other security solutions to support their enterprise and datacenter practices. 

If you look at it from their perspective, the security component is going to be a small percentage of the overall deal size for a large datacenter builds. But it is also one of the more complex pieces. The easier and more “open” we are to implement as part of the larger solution, the more deals we will be positioned in. 

It is also important to understand that the security solution provider is not driving many of these large datacenter deals. This requires us to have formal relationships with infrastructure vendors and other manufacturers that assist our partners and customers with including our solutions. When we started developing our API & VM products, our relationship with those vendors was solid, and as a result we have had some great successes. And we are currently the preferred AT&T and Verizon choice on a universal premise because of our approach. But these relationships can age quickly, which is why we are committed we to continuing to invest in emerging technologies and adapt to the new ideologies and strategies that the market demands.

What do you think is unique about what Fortinet is doing in terms of being open and collaborative, and how does this resonate with customers?

Our uniqueness is in our fabric message as a holistic “security provider,” and not just as a firewall vendor. On the technology side of the “open” question, our recent Fabric-Ready Partner Program announcement is unique, and we are excited to see that continue to grow. The Security Fabric is a great message that already resonates well with the market, partners, and customers. Building off that framework and creating even more ‘open’ interoperability will be key for our partners going forward. Less bespoke solutions and more common API language for automation will be a strategy that serves us well.