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New ASIC bolsters Fortinet SD-WAN performance

Fortinet claims it has given its FortiGate SD-WAN and security appliance a boost. The vendor said a more powerful ASIC improves the performance of key Fortinet SD-WAN features.

Fortinet has introduced a software-defined WAN and firewall appliance with a new ASIC that the vendor claims delivers a winning price-performance ratio for branch networking.

Fortinet debuted its SOC4 ASIC in the Fortigate 100F appliance, which provides 1 Gbps of firewall throughput and 12 Gbps of VPN overlay traffic. Fortinet, which plans to ship the new product at the end of the month, did not provide additional technical details.

The Fortinet SD-WAN was introduced in 2018 as a downloadable feature for the vendor's FortiGate next-generation firewall. More than 300,000 organizations worldwide use Fortinet firewalls, which are available as a cloud instance and as a physical or virtual appliance.

The new ASIC, which Fortinet designed, bolsters the key SD-WAN capabilities within the FortiGate 100F. Those features include WAN application visibility, policy-based traffic steering, encrypted packet inspection, and VPN scalability.

The vendor also claims the ASIC lets the appliance's network access controller manage more wireless access points than competing products. That's done through more processing power to drive the CAPWAP protocol. CAPWAP, which stands for Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points, enables an access controller to manage a collection of access points.

FortiGate 100F
Fortinet's new FortiGate 100F SD-WAN and security appliance

The Fortinet SD-WAN challenge

Confident in the performance of its new ASIC, Fortinet will likely encourage tech buyers to test its appliance against competitors' offerings, said Joe Skorupa, an analyst at Gartner.

"If that test forces the competitor to bid a more expensive platform, it's a big win for Fortinet, and it can be argued it's a win for the buyer if it avoids a [performance] problem down the road," Skorupa said.

However, it's not clear whether many companies will need the processing power Fortinet is offering.

"I'm not sure it moves the needle a ton in the market," said Andrew Lerner, another Gartner analyst. "We don't see performance being a huge factor because most branches are constrained by bandwidth at a gig [gigabit] and usually lower."

Fortinet's weakness in the market is less about technology than its "limited experience supporting large and complex enterprise WAN deployments," Gartner said in its October 2018 Magic Quadrant report for WAN edge infrastructure.

"Fortinet has minimal exposure as a networking vendor, and this can limit its ability to deliver advanced WAN capabilities compared to more focused network competitors," the research firm said.

Based on revenue, Fortinet ranked sixth in the SD-WAN market in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to IHS Markit.

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