Valued Friend of the College

Ken Zie, a seasoned and successful entrepreneur and cofounder of Fortinet, expressed in an interview with NetworkWorld that “This is an exciting time to be in security and network management…the market is approaching a major  inflection point… and Fortinet is at the forefront of this field.”

Fortinet, which pioneered Unified Threat Management (UTM) and was lauded by Renaissance Capital as “2009 IPO of the Year,” is a leader in this critical market segment ; indeed, recently the company’s market share rivaled Juniper Networks. Certainly, Mr. Xie’s vision and foresight have certainly contributed to the company’s success and reputation.( Mr. Xie holds an MS in Electrical Engineering  from Stanford, a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering  from Tsinghua University and is a member of the US National Academy of Engineers.)

 And Mr. Xie fervently believes that the future successes in cyber security will be underscored by collaborations with educational institutions and researchers. He comments that “The endpoint security market is in an interesting transition period. Today’s rapidly evolving threats-changing market needs-mobile, social, big data and cloud—these are the areas of opportunity and future developments will revolve around ensuring that data, networks, and applications are protected.” And utilizing the skills and creativity of researchers at educational institutions makes perfect sense. He is a firm believer in R&D spending; in terms of Fortinet’s global employee footprint segmented by function, 31 percent is allocated to R&D. But, the greatest challenge facing his company is the speed of innovation occurring in their market. “We need to develop creative solutions by reaching out to not only our in-house developers but to also innovative academic researchers,” adds Mr. Xie.

This is indeed the fundamental reason Fortinet has funded the Fortinet CyberSecurity laboratory at the College of Engineering.  By collaborating on many levels with CoE faculty and students, “it enables the company to hold an ideal position of driving innovation, balanced by having breadth and depth of solutions to lead the market.”

Drs. Eric  Rozier and  Saman Zonouz (Assistant ECE Professors) are directing this Lab, whose mission critical is to foil the ever increasing attacks on personal and corporate data bases. Both professors concur, “A research institution like ours has the freedom, the capacity, and the assets to do things that the profit-driven private sector can’t.”

David Redberg (Product Manager at Fortinet) agrees that these professors “have some ingenious ways to do encryption for keeping data safe, yet accessible and that is the key issue in this rapidly growing market.”

When discussing what else can be done, beyond the research collaboration, Mr. Xie cites the recent Capstone Partnership between Fortinet and the College. “The Capstone projects will allow seniors to participate in real-time problems we are facing daily. They will benefit from the opportunity to work with leading professionals and we will have the opportunity to recruit savvy practitioners. It’s definitely a win-win proposition.” The relationship will certainly grow to be multi-faceted, with the Lab being the focal point for not only Capstone-related activities, but also dedicated research projects with immediate industry usefulness.

 As Dean James M. Tien emphasizes, “With an investment of $2.8 million in both the Cyber Security Lab and the Capstone Partnership, Fortinet and Ken Xie certainly believe in the capabilities of the College. We deeply appreciate the confidence and backing of Ken and will unquestionably dedicate resources and faculty to justify his continued support.”

President Donna Shalala echoes this sentiment. “The impact the College of Engineering and Fortinet can make together on a crucial national issue is extraordinary.”

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