As security and networking converge, Fortinet CEO Ken Xie believes the company he co-founded will win this particular $200 billion market with its application-specific integrated circuits, or ASIC chips.
“From day one, 22 years ago, we have taken advantage of ASIC technology to reduce computing costs, increase computing power, and also add extra performance and more functions,” said Xie, s’ speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference this week.
Using its custom ASICs to speed up security and networking tasks reduces customers’ security computing costs by up to 10 times compared to using CPUs, he claimed. This becomes even more important as multi-cloud, 5G with 6G on the horizon, and the convergence of operational IT and technology environments grow, while an onslaught of traffic from applications, users and devices places increased demands on network equipment and defenses.
“Old technology cannot meet all the demand,” Xie argued.
Unlike some traditional switches and routers that cannot determine the context of an application, user, or device, Fortinet’s internal segmentation is context-aware, he added. “So that’s where ASIC basically does the same thing as GPU, TPU or IPU,” Xie said.
This technology segments network and infrastructure assets across multiple clouds and in on-premises data centers, which Xie says better protects customers against ransomware and other threats that spread laterally through networks. Fortinet is not the only designer of networking silicon, it should be noted: it is a competitor in a wide landscape of specialized processing units, including next-generation FPGAs and accelerators attached to host servers.
Essentially, these types of chips offload the work of network packet filtering and policy enforcement from a general-purpose processor, and handle it in dedicated hardware. This can mean more throughput for routing and verifying inbound, internal, and outbound traffic, on the one hand.
“If you want to have this zero-trust environment, you have to have network security inside the enterprise, going inside the data center to handle both north-south traffic and east-end traffic. -west,” Xie continued. “The need is there. And it all depends on who can solve this problem, increase the speed, because there is almost a gap of one to 100.”
Fortinet has a 40% market share in network security, according to Xie. That’s more than the shares of its five closest competitors combined, he claimed. “Last year, overall product revenue grew 47%,” he said. “And in the last quarter, product reservation probably increased more than 60 percent.”
Looking to the rest of the year and beyond, Xie said he expects this network and security convergence to continue to drive Fortinet’s growth.
He cited cloud security market forecasts from Gartner and IDC and estimated the market at $20 billion over the next four to five years.
“Network security is always two to three times greater, and always healthier growth,” he said. “Then if we see the convergence of network and security, for us the total addressable market will be close to $200 billion.” ®