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Palo Alto vs Fortinet Networks: Comparing Top NGFWs

by Team Nuggets
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Updated on January 24, 2024

Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) are important products for both large-scale and enterprise networks. They provide capabilities that are greater than those of stateful firewalls. NGFW adds more features such as URL filtering, intrusion prevention (IPS), application control, and capabilities such as advanced threat prevention.

Both Palo Alto and Fortinet networks have ranked as the top NGFWs in recent years. Additionally, both have the most NGFWs capabilities. However, they have several key differences in features, performance, security, and pricing.  

Palo Alto NGFW Features Breakdown

Palo Alto's NGFW is an award-winning firewall. The platform offers a range of features, including threat prevention, URL filtering, traffic visibility, malware analysis, fail-safes, and detailed reporting. It also offers four major features: App-ID, Content-ID, User-ID, and Device-ID. Here's a quick breakdown of each one:

  • App-ID: Application-based policy enforcement controls access according to application type. This service blocks high-risk applications and behavior, such as file sharing, and can decrypt SSL traffic to inspect it. 

  • Content-ID. This feature technology in Palo Alto inputs several advanced threat prevention technologies that conduct a single scan in all allowed traffic. With the content-ID feature, Palo Alto can also block buffer overflows and vulnerability exploits, protect against external attacks, and perform port scans.

  • User-ID: The featured technology is useful in defining policies that can safely enable individual users or groups of users in inbound or outbound directions. For instance, the user can only allow the IT department to use the FTP tools and SSH telnet on standard ports. With this feature, the policy follows the user’s clients in all the devices they use, and their location does not matter, i.e., branch office, home, or headquarters.

  • Device-ID: This feature enables administrators to write policies based on a device’s characteristics. The features allow security teams to write policies related to devices instead of the location or IP addresses, which can easily change with time and also help them understand how events relate to devices.

The Palo Alto NGFW also features an intuitive web and command-line interface, making it easier to use. 

Fortinet NGFW Features Breakdown 

Fortinet FortiGate is the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant leader among the network firewall leaders due to its outstanding features. It delivers great enterprise security for all edges at all scales with threat protection and full visibility. FortiGate has several great features and benefits.

  • Full Visibility and Protection: This feature commands and controls attacks, stops ransomware, automated threat protection, and other threats that are hidden with SSL inspection (i.e., TLS 1.3)

  • Hyperscale Security: Due to the demand for security, this feature enables the building of ultra-scalable, driven security networks that satisfy all clients.

  • Security Fabric Integration: The feature enables the sharing of actionable intelligence on all threats across the attack surface, creating a coordinated and consistent end-to-end security posture.

  • Natively Integrated Proxy: This feature adds FortiClient and provides a smooth user experience and great security to all hybrid personnel with Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

  • Automation–Driven Network Management: The feature helps build efficient and large-scale operations with a user-friendly centralized management console.

  • FortiGuard Security Service: The feature concurrently runs DNS security service, IPS, and consolidates run IPS, video, and web filtering to manage risk and reduce cost.

Evaluating Palo Alto vs. Fortinet NGFW Performance

So which is better? Both Palo Alto and Fortinet are among the highest-performing NGFWs, as Palo Alto recently topped all the tested firewalls in the NSS labs with a performance of 7888 Mbps, and Fortinet recorded an impressive performance of 6753 Mbps, considering it is a low-cost solution. Below, we'll consider each platform's performance in more depth. 

Palo Alto Security 

Palo Alto suits all areas requiring the best network security and is extremely effective in reacting to malware threats. Palo Alto scored a rating of 97.87% NSS exploit block rate. 

The following are some security features that Palo Alto firewalls offer:

  • DNS Security: They have high-security measures, starting with DNS security. More than 80% of malware uses DNS to create a command-and-control channel. Because the traffic volume is extremely high in DNS, attackers can easily hide there. Most organizations lack the right tools to properly monitor their servers. Palo Alto provides a DNS security that can prevent DNS attacks and applies machine learning and predictive analytics. It also eliminates the need for other independent tools and DNS routing.

  • Data Loss Prevention: The other security tool from Palo Alto is Networks Enterprise Data Loss Prevention (DLP). It is the first cloud-delivered security in the industry, and it easily discovers, monitors, and protects all sensitive data across all users, networks, and the cloud.

  • URL Filtering: It enables its users to use their web for business needs safely. It does this uniquely by identifying threats from a combination of machine learning and static analysis.

  • SD-WAN: SD-WAN enables users to simply adopt an end-to-end SD-WAN architecture with world-class connectivity and security.

  • 5G-Native Security: Enterprises are looking to 5G networks to push the industries to the age of AI, automation, and cloud leveraging. Users will highly rely on cloud and edge computing — and Palo Alto 5G-native security provides a safe environment for distributed edge clouds, enterprise 5G networks, and cloud-native 5G core.

FortiGate Security 

Regarding security, Fortinet's FortiGate 500E had a recent rating of 99.3% security effectiveness. As the network edges emerge and increase in popularity, people need reliable and effective security. FortiGate's security tools include:  

  • Web Security: They are optimized to mainly protect and monitor data against web-based attacks, which assists users in meeting their compliance requirements.

  • Content Security: These security tools are optimized to monitor and protect against attack tactics that target files.

  • Device Security: These security tools are optimized to monitor and protect against attacks that target devices.

  • Advanced Tools: Advanced security tools secure hybrid, multi-cloud, which weaves deep security into hybrid data networks to secure good end-to-end security across multiple clouds.

How Much Do Palo Alto and Fortinet NGFW Cost?

Both Palo Alto and Fortinet offer a range of NGFW solutions at several price points. Exact costs vary depending on the VM size, number of users, appliance, and whether you choose an annual or hourly plan. Palo Alto Networks NGFW starts at around $3,500, depending on the appliance. Higher-end appliances and plans can go up to $200,000. 

For Fortinet entry-level hardware appliances, prices start at $700. Their high-end enterprise solution can reach a price of up to $350,000 for 7060E-8. The pricing covers services and hardware, including FortiCare support and FortiGuard subscription options.

Users can purchase both services and bundles individually or in bundles. Cloud and virtual offerings also follow the same price model. The NSS-tested 500E sells from $7,000 to $23,000 depending on both support level and warranty.

Which Next Generation Firewall is Right for You? 

After our in-depth comparison of Palo Alto and Fortinet, it is evident that Palo Alto is better in a few aspects. First, it has a security measure that doesn't majorly consume the user's bandwidth. In some cases, Fortinet firewalls report slow rates without enabling security protection, and in other instances, disable configuration security features. However, Palo Alto has a single-pass architecture that enables it to protect and inspect traffic at higher rates.  

Secondly, Palo Alto has an extended life and usability. Some of the products offered by Fortinet at a low cost have average firewalls that fail between 3-5 years and can no longer be reprogrammed with a new OS and protect a user’s network. Palo Alto, however, is well-architected with a highly flexible chipset that can be easily updated, which increases the lifespan of its firewall solutions. 

However, Fortinet is often a more affordable solution, so it may be worth considering depending on your budget and needs. 

Want to learn more about Palo Alto and Fortinet's NGFW? Sign up for CBT Nuggets today. 


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