Fortinet Denies IBM Acquisition Rumors

Fortinet is shooting down rumors the company is in talks with IBM.

Fortinet is refuting rumors that the company is in acquisition talks with IBM.

Officials at both companies initially declined to comment about the rumors Nov. 1, but Fortinet later published a press release stating the following: "Bloomberg News cited sources incorrectly indicating that Fortinet is in acquisition discussions with IBM...[Fortinet] is focused on building a strong independent company and is not in acquisition discussions with IBM."

The rumors caused Fortinet's stock to jump, with the price closing today up 6.2 percent despite the company's denial. In addition, Fortinet's rebuttal to the news reports has not kept analysts from speculating on what the deal would mean for both vendors.

Andrew Hay, an analyst with The 451 Group, said his firm had been discussing it internally and was not sure "if there is a fit for Fortinet within IBM." Eric Ogren, founder of the Ogren Group, however, was more optimistic.

"Fortinet has proven that their UTMs [unified threat management appliances] can satisfy enterprise-scale markets, which would add a nice capability for IBM," Ogren said. "I wouldn't worry too much about a Proventia overlap - in fact Proventia may even create extra drag for IBM security appliances. And I'm sure that Proventia has taught IBM that the value of the security device is the multi-year revenue stream generated by the subscriptions for continual pattern updates. Perhaps Fortinet has something to offer IBM for securing virtual data centers."

He noted, however, that there are some sizable risks.

"The first is retaining key contributors of a hardware security product in an enterprise software and services company may be a challenge," Ogren added. "Proventia has been hurt deeply by loss of key people because of culture and 'fit.' The second is that most of IBM's security acquisitions integrate with enterprise software, which is not something that could happen with Fortinet. For instance, Watchfire and Guardium are assimilating into business units, ISS Proventia leverages global services - not at all clear where Fortinet would find a nurturing organization."