Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) vs Fortinet FortiAuthenticator comparison

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Comparison Buyer's Guide
Executive Summary
Updated on Sep 5, 2022

We performed a comparison between Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) vs Fortinet FortiAuthenticator based on our users’ reviews in five categories. After reading all of the collected data, you can find our conclusion below.

  • Ease of Deployment: Users of Cisco ISE report an array of experiences with deployment, with some mentioning it is straightforward and many others saying that it is complex. Fortinet FortiAuthenticator users report straightforward and simple setup and deployment.
  • Features: Users of both products are happy with their flexibility, stability, and scalability.

    Cisco ISE users like its ability to integrate their Cisco AnyConnect connections to the active directory. They also appreciate its integration with StealthWatch and DNA as one fabric. Some users mention, however, that the product is not user friendly and should be simplified.

    Fortinet FortiAuthenticator users mention that its two-step authentication provides a higher level of security and is one of its best features. Some users would like to see more integration, automation, and customization capabilities.
  • Pricing: Many Cisco ISE users report the pricing as being expensive. A few reviewers say that the price is justified. Fortinet FortiAuthenticator users mostly report the price as being fair, competitive, and affordable.
  • ROI: Users of both products report seeing an ROI.
  • Service and Support: Cisco ISE users mention that some support seems to be outsourced. They say the support could be more knowledgeable at times. Fortinet FortiAuthenticator users feel the support is good when you get through to the right person. Some users say their support could be better.

Comparison Results: Fortinet FortiAuthenticator has an edge in this comparison because it received higher marks in the ease of deployment and pricing categories, and users are more impressed with its features.

To learn more, read our detailed Network Access Control (NAC) Report (Updated: April 2024).
772,127 professionals have used our research since 2012.
Featured Review
Quotes From Members
We asked business professionals to review the solutions they use.
Here are some excerpts of what they said:
"The return on investment we have seen is related to time in terms of troubleshooting. The logs, such as the security logs, inform us of the issues that people have had. ISE has been very instrumental in helping isolate those issues. We've seen a lot of cost savings because we don't have to pay an IT person to waste time doing something that should be instantaneous.""When we use ISE, one of the helpful things is that I can go through the dashboard and get every step along the way of how a device was authenticated. If it's failing, why did it fail? Why is it unauthorized? If there's an error, what is the error and how can I fix that error? If it's something that, if they should be passing, why are they failing?""The most valuable feature of Cisco ISE is its seamless integration with the switches and the entire suite, enabling wireless access and smooth client information retrieval.""Cisco ISE scales exceptionally well.""The most valuable features are authentication, we have more granular control on the access policies for the administrators. The solution is easy to use, has a center point administration, and has a good GUI.""At the moment, ISE seems to integrate very well with a number of other technologies.""For my use cases, the in-depth troubleshooting into why a client can't connect or why they failed, is very valuable. I can go back to someone and say, 'Hey, it's not my network. It's their certificates or user error,' or something else.""The first benefit is that we can implement zero trust architecture because of Cisco ISE. I can assure my CISO in my company that my network is such that nobody can just bring in their laptop, desktop, or any sort of mobile device and can directly get connected to my network. That is a benefit that I can only allow people who I trust on the network."

More Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) Pros →

"The most valuable feature of the solution is RADIUS service and the social network integration feature.""The product is stable and reliable.""The most valuable feature is the OTP on the mobile phone.""The logs have great detail that make it easier to evaluate and control the security environment.""The two-step authentication provides a higher level of security.""The most valuable feature is the flexibility in using the SMS messages.""The initial setup is very easy.""The initial setup is a valuable point on Fortinet products. Most of the time, putting the theory into practice on the devices is quite friendly and straightforward. As long as you can read English you can find your way around the solution and make it work. This is a high value point on Fortinet - the way everything is laid out in the web UI is user-friendly and quite straightforward. The UI is quite simple."

More Fortinet FortiAuthenticator Pros →

"The initial setup was a little bit complex. It's not that simple because it requires a lot of prerequisites for the solution to get a hold on.""I'd like to see an easier way to upgrade to larger versions, as well as more best practices that are easier to locate on their support page.""Cisco ISE's real-time data analytics for database logging could be improved.""We would definitely like to see a little bit of an improvement in the web GUI navigation. Some of the things are a little bit hidden in the drop-down menu. If we could get a way to get to those quicker, it'd be much more useful.""There are issues with respect to the posture assessment function. It's been observed that customers are not receiving total access to the network because the assessment agent is glitchy and malfunctions from time-to-time. I would like to see refining of the compliance assessment and adding more detailed compliance of endpoints on the user end.""The compliance and posture don't always work. They should make it more stable. With each upgrade, we lose some functionality. We have to wait for another upgrade.""Cisco ISE is very complex and not very easy to deploy.""Deploying to a machine, as opposed to a dedicated appliance, can be a bit difficult."

More Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) Cons →

"The product must provide 2FA for applications.""The customization capability of Fortinet FortiAuthenticator is not very flexible.""Integration with some other enterprise applications could be improved.""No SMS gateway from the ISP""I would like to see more security features in reference to identity login or identity identification.""I would like to see more support from Fortinet with tech support people who have as much expertise on the authenticator as they do on their firewalls.""We've had some issues with integration.""The only issue I encounter is that when not using FortiAuthenticator for an extended period, it's typical to encounter some obstacles in the configuration process that you need to address."

More Fortinet FortiAuthenticator Cons →

Pricing and Cost Advice
  • "There are three levels of pricing: basic, plus, and apex. Basic satisfied our needs."
  • "If you go directly with Cisco for the implementation it's very, very expensive."
  • "The SMARTnet technical support is available at an additional cost."
  • "For the Avast virus scan, we pay around USD $95 per machine for five years which includes all updates and technical support."
  • "The price for Cisco ISE is high."
  • "The price can be lower, especially for subscriptions. It should be a lot cheaper to have a wide range of customers. The price should be comparable to competitive products like Forescout or Fortinet FortiNAC. Forescout is cheaper for customers looking for a cloud solution."
  • "There are other cheaper options available."
  • "The price is okay."
  • More Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) Pricing and Cost Advice →

  • "I would start off with a VM including the base license and scale according to the number of users you need to authenticate."
  • "You can pay as you go with them. You purchase a base license and add to it as needed."
  • "The product could be more competitively priced."
  • "It costs more to license the high-availability option."
  • "The licensing structure is cost-effective for us compared to some of the other solutions that have recurring monthly costs."
  • "FAC is an affordable solution for Middle Range (200E/400E) and also needs a package of mobility agents (2,000) perpetual."
  • "The cost of the license could be less expensive. The license is paid on a yearly basis."
  • "We pay for licensing on a yearly basis."
  • More Fortinet FortiAuthenticator Pricing and Cost Advice →

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    Questions from the Community
    Top Answer: Aruba ClearPass is a Network Access Control tool that gives secure network access to multiple device types. You can adapt the policies to VPN access, wired, or wireless access. You can securely… more »
    Top Answer:OK, so Cisco ISE uses 802.1X to secure switchports against unauthorized access. The drawback of this is that ISE cannot secure the port if a device does not support 802.1x. Cameras, badge readers… more »
    Top Answer:Cisco ISE uses AI endpoint analytics to identify new devices based on their behavior. It will also notify you if someone plugs in with a device that is not allowed and will block it. The user… more »
    Top Answer:The price is fine. I rate the pricing an eight and a half out of ten.
    Top Answer:The security space is changing. The product must provide passwordless and seamless connectivity. If a particular user is identified automatically, they should not be authenticated repeatedly with… more »
    Average Words per Review
    Average Words per Review
    Also Known As
    Cisco ISE
    Learn More

    Cisco ISE is an all-in-one solution that streamlines security policy management and reduces operating costs. Cisco ISE delivers visibility and access control over users and devices across wired, wireless, and VPN connections.

    Identity Services Engine enables enterprises to deliver secure network access to users and devices. It shares contextual data, such as threats and vulnerabilities, with integrated solutions from Cisco technology partners. You can see what is happening in your network, which applications are running, and more.

    Features of Cisco ISE

    • Centralized management helps administrators configure and manage user profile characteristics - a single pane of glass for integrated management services.
    • Contextual identity and business policy: The rule-based attribute is a driven policy model. The goal is to provide flexible access control policies.
    • Wide range of access control options, including Virtual LAN (VLAN) URL redirections, and access control lists.
    • Supplicant-less network access: You can roll out secure network access by deriving authentication from login information across application layers.
    • Guest lifecycle management streamlines the experience for implementing and customizing network access for guests.
    • Built-in AAA services: The platform uses standard RADIUS protocol for authentication, authorization, and accounting.
    • Device auditing, administration, and access control provide users with access on a need-to-know and need-to-act basis. It keeps audit trails for every change in the network.
    • Device profiling: ISE features predefined device templates for different types of endpoints.
    • Internal certificate authority: Qn easy-to-deploy single console to manage endpoints and certificates.

    Benefits of Cisco ISE

    Cisco’s holistic approach to network access security has several advantages:

    • Context-based access based on your company policies. ISE creates a complete contextual identity, including attributes such as user, time, location, threat, access type, and vulnerability. This contextual identity is used to enforce a secure access policy. Administrators can apply strict control over how and when endpoints are allowed in the network.
    • Better network visibility via an easy-to-use, simple console. In addition, visibility is improved by storing a detailed attribute history of all endpoints connected to the network.
    • Comprehensive policy enforcement. ISE sets easy and flexible access rules. These rules are controlled from a central console that enforces them across the network and security infrastructure. You can define policies that differentiate between registered users and guests. The system uses group tags that enable access control on business rules instead of IP addresses.
    • Self-service device onboarding enables the enterprise to implement a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy securely. Users can manage their devices according to the policies defined by IT administrators. (IT remains in charge of provisioning and posturing to comply with security policies.)
    • Consistent guest experiences: You can provide guests with different levels of access from different connections. You can customize guest portals via a cloud-delivered portal editor with dynamic visual tools.


    You can get ISE as a physical or virtual appliance. Both deployments can create ISE clusters that create scale, redundancy, and requirements.


    Cisco ISE has four primary licences. Evaluation for up to 100 endpoints with full platform functionality. The higher tiers are Partner, Advantage and Essential.

    Reviews from Real Users

    "The user experience of the solution is great. It's a very transparent system. according to a PeerSpot user in Cyber Security at a manufacturing company.

    Omar Z., Network & Security Engineer at an engineering company, feels that "The RADIUS Server holds the most value."

    “Whether I deploy in China, the US, South Africa, or wherever, I can get all the capabilities. It allows me to directly integrate with 365, and from a communications point of view, that is a good capability," says Rammohan M., Senior Consultant at a tech services company.

    Hassan A.,Technology Manager at Advanced Integrated Systems, says that "The most valuable feature is the integration with StealthWatch and DNA as one fabric."

    Fortinet FortiAuthenticator is the primary secure point of approved access into the Fortinet network, authorizing users, reviewing access permissions, and relaying the information to all Fortigate devices for comparison with identity-based protocols. Fortinet FortiAuthenticator is a top-ranked authorization and SSO solution.

    Appropriate secure access is fundamental to every role in an enterprise ecosystem. It is an integral function of every organization to ensure that every access and privilege is secure and to mitigate any possible risk to an organization. Approved users should only have access to the necessary information when they need it, from the appropriate location(s) to safeguard an organization's security at all times.

    Fortinet FortiAuthenticator is available as an appliance, virtual machine, or in the cloud.

    Fortinet FortiAuthenticator Methods

    • FSSO: FortiAuthenticator Single sign-on user will easily identify users and assign role or group access based on preset identity-based protocols. FortiAuthenticator integrates well with third-party LDAP or active directories, is very flexible, and combines these methods to provide effective security.

    • Active Directory Polling: Active directory access is securely identified by consistent polling of domain controllers. As users log in, username, IP address, and other details are logged into the database and can be shared across devices as directed by FortiAuthenticator protocols.

    • FortiAuthenticator Portal and Widgets: If a user system does not support AP polling, or for other reasons it is not feasible, FortiAuthenticator offers a unique secure authentication portal. Users can be manually authenticated and, to diminish the effect of numerous logins, an intuitive set of widgets is available to integrate into an organization's ecosystem that will automatically grant access to users when they access the organization's intranet homepage.

    • RADIUS Accounting Login: For organizations that use RADIUS authentication, RADIUS Accounting is available for user identification. This process will prompt user access information (IP and group, etc.) and eliminate the need for multiple levels of authentication.

    Reviews from Real Users

    Ernesto C., Presales Engineer at a comms service provider, shares,

    ”Key Features and Benefits

    1. Two-factor/OTP Authentication with FortiToken: Enforce user-based policies. Fortitoken is available in soft and hard versions for flexible usage. Most Valuable in Mobile Phones App for OTP.
    2. Integration with LDAP and AD: This solution integrates with existing enterprise systems and technologies from diverse vendors of user information management systems.
    3. LPAD/AD/RADIUS/SYSLOG/KERBEROS/REST API/FSSO and Web Portals: There is flexible integration with these services.
    4. It is usable in network, WAN, wireless, and VPN Scenarios.
    5. The domain and guest-users support are good.”

    Ibrahim M., Senior Network & Security Engineer at a tech services company, relates, "The initial setup is a valuable point on Fortinet products. Most of the time, putting the theory into practice on the devices is quite friendly and straightforward. As long as you can read English you can find your way around the solution and make it work. This is a high value point on Fortinet - the way everything is laid out in the web UI is user-friendly and quite straightforward. The UI is quite simple."

    Sample Customers
    Aegean Motorway, BC Hydro, Beachbody, Bucks County Intermediate Unit , Cisco IT, Derby City Council, Global Banking Customer, Gobierno de Castilla-La Mancha, Houston Methodist, Linz AG, London Hydro, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Molina Healthcare, MST Systems, New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Reykjavik University, Wildau University
    Black Gold Regional Schools, Amadeus Hospitality, Jefferson County, Chunghwa Telecom, City of Boroondara, Dimension Data
    Top Industries
    Financial Services Firm14%
    Comms Service Provider11%
    Computer Software Company11%
    Educational Organization23%
    Computer Software Company16%
    Financial Services Firm7%
    Computer Software Company28%
    Comms Service Provider16%
    Healthcare Company8%
    Computer Retailer4%
    Computer Software Company20%
    Comms Service Provider9%
    Manufacturing Company7%
    Company Size
    Small Business25%
    Midsize Enterprise20%
    Large Enterprise55%
    Small Business16%
    Midsize Enterprise32%
    Large Enterprise52%
    Small Business57%
    Midsize Enterprise26%
    Large Enterprise17%
    Small Business32%
    Midsize Enterprise19%
    Large Enterprise50%
    Buyer's Guide
    Network Access Control (NAC)
    April 2024
    Find out what your peers are saying about Cisco, HPE Aruba Networking, Forescout and others in Network Access Control (NAC). Updated: April 2024.
    772,127 professionals have used our research since 2012.

    Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) is ranked 1st in Network Access Control (NAC) with 137 reviews while Fortinet FortiAuthenticator is ranked 6th in Single Sign-On (SSO) with 52 reviews. Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) is rated 8.2, while Fortinet FortiAuthenticator is rated 8.0. The top reviewer of Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) writes "Gives us that extra ability to assist the end user and make sure that we are making them happy". On the other hand, the top reviewer of Fortinet FortiAuthenticator writes "A reasonably priced solution that can be scaled toward different functionalities and offers flexible SMS messaging". Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) is most compared with Aruba ClearPass, Fortinet FortiNAC, Forescout Platform, CyberArk Privileged Access Manager and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security, whereas Fortinet FortiAuthenticator is most compared with Fortinet FortiToken, Fortinet FortiNAC, Cisco Duo, Microsoft Entra ID and CyberArk Privileged Access Manager.

    We monitor all Network Access Control (NAC) reviews to prevent fraudulent reviews and keep review quality high. We do not post reviews by company employees or direct competitors. We validate each review for authenticity via cross-reference with LinkedIn, and personal follow-up with the reviewer when necessary.