Fortinet FortiManager Review

Powerful management for deploying configuration to multiple environments with a single click


What is our primary use case?

We use it on a virtual machine in our data center. We are not using a box.  

We have many types of clients so there are many types of use cases for our clients who we are deploying FortiGate for on-site to create the local network. Many sites are using FortiGate firewalls like 60E, 100E, 200E and 500E and some 3100D.  

We are using what we call zero-touch deployment. It is a very important technology or process that helps us to make the deployments efficiently. It is called zero-touch deployment or ZTD. It helps us to implement our configuration on these client sites by using FortiManager. Zero-touch deployment is the central piece here and it is made possible by the use of FortiManager. What happens is we prepare our configuration in the FortiManager. After that, the technicians who are doing the installation just need to connect the instance of FortiGate to the internet. They only have to do that and FortiGate automatically downloads the configuration from FortiManager. So this is the way we can optimize the implementation and reduce the duration of the setup time involved.  

It would normally take us a handful of days to install one FortiGate instance on one site. But with this technology, zero-touch deployment, we need just one hour or maybe as little as 30 minutes to install one site. It is much more efficient. We reduce the time further by installing the configuration in all the FortiGate instances that we are managing at the same time. For example, say we need to install a new policy to deny or to allow something to connect to the internet. We can create this configuration in the FortiManager and we can push it out to 100 or 200 FortiGate instances at the same time. So it helps us to reduce the time it takes to install and to perform maintenance as well as to minimize the errors. We are human so errors are more frequent than a deployment managed by a machine. With this process, if anything is wrong it is also easier to correct.  

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature in FortiManager is the ability to automate the deployment processes and maintenance.  

What needs improvement?

Not just in FortiManager, but in any Fortinet project in general, the troubleshooting is very hard. If you compare it with other products from other vendors like Cisco or like Palo Alto, it is just more difficult. Say we are in a situation where we need to do some debugging. It is very hard to understand and to use the CMD and the CLI commands because there is not very much documentation. There is no description when you are using the CLI and there are no examples to follow. So it is hard to do some troubleshooting to find a problem. There is FortiAnalyzer that can help with this but it is not real-time. It is too hard to view real-time inbound and outbound traffic. Because we are network engineers and network administrators, we always need to have some time real-time traffic to view what is happening now, as it happens, to know what is really going on.  

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Fortinet FortiManager for about two years.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I would say that the product is not stable all the time. Sometimes, I need to reboot the virtual machine after we do some configuration. The configuration changes will only take place after a reboot. It is something that should not normally happen this way. We should not have to reboot it, but sometimes it happens that we are forced to.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I think the product is very scalable. We can add a new instance of FortiGate with a simple click. We can configure it with high availability using two VMs active-backup. It is a very good product from the scalability point of view.  

There are now more than five people who are currently using FortiManager in our company and we are counting on more as we grow. We are a growing company of integrators. We have been on a mission for three years in our region to service our clients — all of them have more than 500 employees. We also have built up to more than 5000 employees total. These same five people using FortiManager are also what we need for the maintenance of the systems.  

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is very good when I work with them. In reality, I give them seven or eight-out-of-ten. This is because sometimes you have a very good engineer; sometimes you do not get a very good engineer. This is the reason for the lower score. Last time we created a ticket, it took two months to resolve the problem. For the first month, I was working with someone who did not have a very good understanding and methods for resolving the problem. But, after that, I was allowed to work with another engineer who was very good. He was very good both technically and his methods.  

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I work mostly with Fortinet now. I work with FortiGuard and FortiGate firewalls. I work with FortiExtender to connect with the 4G network. I work with FortiAnalyzer and FortiManager to manage the FortiGate firewalls. I use FortiManager with the network administrator on top to manage many firewalls at the same time. I can use FortiAnalyzer to analyze our network, to give us a lot of information about the stability of the network. And also to get reports like what are the top 10 hosts who are using the network.  

Before using FortiManager, generally, I worked with other vendors like Cisco, with FireSIGHT to manage the Firepower firewalls from Cisco installations. It was essentially the equivalent to FortiManager. It managed Firepower firewalls. I worked with around 700 Firepower firewalls and one other FireSIGHT appliance which was not VMware. But I found that Cisco was a little bit hard to manage. It is not very stable and we had some problems with it. We opened a ticket and I could see now that we did not get a good solution from the technical support. We just made a workaround which is not a good way to resolve issues. But in general, FortiManager is better than the FireSIGHT as a technology and as a solution.  

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is simple. It is not complex at all. We are using Fortinet FortiManager in our main data center and it publishes via virtual IT, or VIT, to our facility to connect to us from our spoke site. It is very simple, I think.  

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Generally, what I know about the pricing is that Fortinet FortiManager is not expensive at all if you compare it with other vendors like Check Point and like Cisco. Fortinet products are the least expensive on the market in the category of firewalls.  

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Really, it is not me who chose this solution. It was the staff before I come here. I do know the staff chose it as one of many potential options to be presented to the clients.  

I personally have a specialty using Fortinet but also SolarWinds — although not so much. But I am quite a bit more familiar in working with Cisco and Fortinet.

What other advice do I have?

My advice to other people considering this solution is that they have to read about the product and they have to make an effort to pass the NSE 5 (Network Security Analyst) certification. It is for FortiAnalyzer and FortiManager products. Fortinet NSE 4 (Network Security Professional) certification talks about FortiGate and prepares your solution in a global sense. It is also very good to have. The main certification to have in my opinion is to pass the NSE 7 (Network Security Architect) certification because it talks about what I think is the negative part of Fortinet products, the troubleshooting. So my advice is that it is very important to pass the minimum of these three certifications to manage the solution with some level of expertise.  

On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate FortiManager as an eight. Additional features I would like to see included in the next release of FortiManager to make it a nine or a ten is to be compatible with the management of other products like not just FortiGate. For example, it might work with FortiExtender.  

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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