By Ethan Butts
This October, I was lucky enough to be accepted to the Fortinet XTreme Team conference that was held in Dallas. I had never been that far south before, so I was enthused to partake of the scenery. I had to prepare to ensure that I was up to the rigors of the training. This preparation included refreshing my Fortinet knowledge; namely in the IPSec VPN portions, as I had heard there would be a class pertaining to troubleshooting IPSec VPNs, and we have had more than a couple of clients experiencing issues with these.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I was immediately taken in by its beauty. It appears to be an older Dallas fixture, though that could have been through artistry. I was met at the door by a Fortinet representative, who gave me my welcome bag and had me sign the necessary paperwork for receiving the NFR Hardware/VM licenses we were receiving for attending. After this, I was allowed to go to my room and prepare for the night’s festivities, which would namely be a Meet and Greet for all those attending.
All told, there were 66 attendees, all of whom were in higher positions in their respective companies, immediately showing me the think tank that Fortinet had assembled here. The layout for the conference would be a single day (Monday) of presentations about the Fortinet security Fabric as a whole, the next steps in designs and developments, as well as how to better position units when selling to a client, followed by three days of hands-on labs. These would be rotating, with assigned static stations for each attendee, and the room being adapted each day to fit the class.
The first day went well, with presentations meant to inform us on the current direction and future of Fortinet. While they were interesting, the main ones I liked were the explanation of the Fortinet Security Fabric vision, as well as the presentation about the behind the scenes work of FortiGuard. I can only divulge a certain amount of what was taught here, as we were informed that some of what we were learning was actually a proprietary process, held close by the FortiGuard team. There were also the sales presentations about how to better position the units for sale to a client, and how to play on the price to compete and exceed others in the market. These were nice but were aimed more at the larger resellers.
The second day, at least for my particular class, started with Brian Page’s “An Introduction to Wireshark,” then moved into other presentations, like “Troubleshooting IPSec VPN’s” and “Configuring OSPF between multiple units,” which focused on configuring OSPF routes and conditions between 4 FortiGates. This day of class was pretty cool, and we got to play with the FortiADC, a newer appliance with some MAJOR specs.
That night, FineTec hosted a fantastic dinner which provided a great chance to network with the other attendees. This happened (pretty much) every night, just with a different locale. All meals were covered in cost of attendance.
The second day, we actually had access to a physical lab per station. This lab included:
- A FortiSwitch 108-D POE
- A FortiGate 60-D
- A FortiAP 221-C
- Access to the FortiCloud to test management (free account)
This day, we configured 9 SSID’s to broadcast, all with various configurations and security options. The best portion, for me at least, was physically being able to play with the devices, changing ports, controlling access using controls on the ports, not via FW rules, it was an entertaining and informative exercise. Dinner was sponsored by IngramMicro, who also had a Cigar roller on site to supply and light the troupes’ finer smokes, paired with a very nice open bar.
The final day was truly a rigorous one, as it was the Fortinet ATD day, during which we dealt with the FortiSandbox, and its integration into all things Fortigate. There was some AMAZING functionality, such as being able to have the FortiGate use a signature block generated by the FortiSandbox due to a SPAM message received on a FortiMail. Basically, the FortiSandbox is an interesting appliance with which I would like to become more familiar. Its integration of all the data points to provide a security “fabric” as it’s called, and it’s vendor-neutral approach to security push it to the top of my personal favorite security appliances. There was plenty of information, and the instructor was passionate about his devices and ensuring that we were able to competently use them.
After the final classes, the group adjourned to the dining area to enjoy some drink and food, and to go over the week’s events. We all got to see the pictures we had taken, many of which will never exist outside the phones of those who were there, and the email of Emily Nelson, the Fortinet coordinator who kept all the engineers on task and kept track of everything. While we waited on the meal and enjoyed our drinks, Noah Perlite stepped up to announce the winners of the contests held throughout the week. There was the best picture, which won a nice Bluetooth Speaker, and then there was the Most Xtreme award, which I had the honor of receiving, that also came with an Apple Watch. I was honored (and a bit shocked) to learn that I received the award for being focused and ready in the labs, excelling in the application of Fortinet technologies, and for participating heavily in events, and networking with everyone at every chance I had.
I would say that overall, this experience was amazing and something that anyone who receives the offer to attend should seriously consider. The learning opportunities, while vast, paled in comparison to the chances to network with fellow engineers. This assembly of varied skillsets led to some revelations on my part, and I hope that I contributed to a few of the ones I was able to share. I’m very much looking forward to next year’s event!