When one of the world’s largest food services companies needed a better way to connect its vast distributed network of operations, it turned to Microsoft Azure and Fortinet to “move the entire organization to Azure on a single weekend morning: no issues, no downtime, no fuss!”
The company is a top 5 global food services company that provides food and beverage services for schools, hospitals, and major public venues in dozens of countries. They turned to Fortinet’s suite of virtualized security solutions, including FortiGate, after replacing the hosted VPN service they had been using to securely connect their many sites.
That hosted VPN service “did exactly what we needed it to do, but it just cost far too much,” said a long-time network architect for the company.
The company then began to consider the Microsoft Azure cloud service as an alternative. But Microsoft Azure has limitations on the number of VPN tunnels it allows, which can be a show-stopper for a large company operating across the globe. “It appeared to be a great fit for our requirements, right up to the point when I realized we couldn’t connect all the countries!”, the network architect said.
The food services company already had experience with Fortinet because it had deployed a series of FortiGate appliances to supplement the security measures used by the original VPN service. The company was impressed with the capabilities of Fortinet’s security solutions, and their IT team soon realized that Fortinet “was the perfect answer to our issue with Azure tunnel restrictions,” the network architect continued.
Even the smallest FortiGate appliance can support hundreds of tunnels, with larger models supporting thousands. This flexibility allowed the food services provider to configure a dedicated tunnel into the appliances deployed in each country where it operates. The combined traffic was then routed into a single connection with Azure and linked to the virtualized Fortinet security services.
“The FortiGate gave us a very simple, yet elegant solution and had the benefit of enabling us to continue leveraging all the security features and functionality that we previously utilized in the hosted-service environment,” the network architect said.
In addition to the security benefits, the Fortinet family of physical and virtual solutions are fully integrated through a common operating system, allowing the company to expand into the cloud, while its cross-compatibility actually simplified its IT infrastructure. The company’s business model encourages country-level autonomy to optimize operations for local conditions. That autonomy allows operations in each country to make their own IT purchasing decisions, including the security products they use. Fortunately, Fortinet solutions were able to make these deployments work as an integrated security system.
“We seemed to have firewalls from every vendor imaginable, including some very obscure brands,” the architect explained. “The great thing is that the FortiGate can talk to anything; even firewalls that most people have never even heard of! I’ve yet to come across a single box that I can’t get the FortiGate to connect with.”
Fortinet’s Security Fabric is designed to share intelligence with diverse devices across the company’s widespread environment, enabling control and easy management of cybersecurity services across the company. They also help the food services company manage its Microsoft Azure service. While Azure offers a wide set of tools to monitor and manage their deployments, additional tweaks are sometimes needed to fully optimize the service.
“I really depend on the information provided by my FortiGate devices,” the network architect said. “They give me the granularity I need to see and drill down in order to debug anything I need to. It’s a very efficient way to manage the whole infrastructure.”
He also praised the FortiGate interface, calling it “exceptionally intuitive.” “Its functions are so well integrated that I’m comfortable using the command line interface to make modifications from anywhere in the world,” he added.
“I’ve seen so many other devices where even after lengthy examination of the configurations, it’s really hard to unravel what’s actually going on. Many give the impression that they’re made from two or three separate boxes – like an ISP router and firewall slapped together with a bit of UTM functionality thrown on top – all randomly bolted together. That approach is rarely if ever good enough.”
Fortinet is the veteran network architect’s first choice for enterprise protection. And now, the pairing of Azure and the Fortinet Security Fabric has eased the company’s transition to a cloud environment.
“Azure is definitely the right platform for us, but the size and complexity of our operations nearly made it a nonstarter,” he concluded. “By adding Fortinet’s easily integrated physical and virtualized solutions, we’ve been able to provide each entity with a dedicated tunnel, enhance security, and dramatically improve visibility and control across the whole infrastructure.”
Originally appeared in CSO.
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