FortiGate architecture in Google Cloud

Last reviewed 2023-11-21 UTC

Authors: Bartek Moczulski, Sherelle Farrington - Fortinet Inc. | Jimit Modi - Google

This document describes the overall concepts around deploying a FortiGate Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) in Google Cloud. It's intended for network administrators, solution architects, and security professionals who are familiar with Compute Engine and Virtual Private Cloud networking.


The following architecture diagram shows a highly available cloud security solution that helps to reduce costs and to detect threats. The recommended deployment of FortiGate NGFW on Google Cloud consists of a pair of FortiGate virtual machine (VM) instances deployed in an active-passive high-availability (HA) cluster across two availability zones in the same region.

Data flow from the internet through two VM instances to a cluster.

In the previous diagram, traffic is forwarded through the cluster using an external passthrough Network Load Balancer and an internal passthrough Network Load Balancer. The external passthrough Network Load Balancer binds to external IP addresses and forwards all traffic to the external network interface (port1) of the active FortiGate instance. The internal passthrough Network Load Balancer is used as the next hop for the custom static route from the shared Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) in the host project. The load balancer forwards outbound traffic to the internal network interface (port2) of the active FortiGate VM. To determine which instance is active, both load balancers use health checks.

The FortiGate Clustering Protocol (FGCP) requires a dedicated network interface for configuration and session synchronization. Each network interface must be connected to a separate VPC network. Standard deployments use port3 for clustering (HA sync in the diagram). Both VM instances are managed through dedicated management network interfaces (port4) that are directly reachable using either external IP addresses or over a VLAN attachment. The VLAN attachment isn't marked in the diagram. Newer firmware versions (7.0 and later) allow using dedicated HA sync interfaces for management. Use Cloud Next Generation Firewall rules to restrict access to management interfaces.

When outbound traffic originates from FortiGate VMs—for example, updates from the FortiGate Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), or communications with Compute Engine APIs—that traffic is forwarded to the internet using the Cloud NAT service. In environments isolated from the internet, the outbound traffic that originates from a FortiGate VM scan also uses a combination of Private Google Access and FortiManager.

Private Google Access accesses Compute Engine APIs. FortiManager is a central management appliance that acts as a proxy for accessing FortiGuard Security Services.

Workloads protected by FortiGate NGFWs are typically located in separate VPC networks, either simple or shared. Those separate VPC networks are connected to the internal VPC using VPC Network Peering. To apply the custom default route from the internal VPC to all the workloads, enable export custom routes or import custom routes in the peering options for both the internal network VPC and the workload VPCs. Placing security features in this central hub enables different independent DevOps teams to deploy and operate their workload projects behind a common security management zone.

This dedicated VPC forms the basis of the Fortinet Cloud Security Services Hub concept. This hub is designed to offload effective and scalable secure connectivity and policy enforcement to the network security team.

For more details about the different traffic flows, see the Use cases section.

Product capabilities

FortiGate on Google Cloud delivers NGFW, VPN, advanced routing, and software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) capabilities for organizations. FortiGate reduces complexity with automated threat protection, visibility into applications and users, and network and security ratings that enable security best practices.

Close integration with Google Cloud, management automation using Terraform, Ansible, and robust APIs, help you maintain your strong network security posture in agile modern cloud deployments.

Features highlight

FortiGate NGFW is a virtual appliance that offers the following features:

  • Full traffic visibility
  • Granular access control based on metadata, geolocation, protocols, and applications
  • Threat protection powered by threat intelligence security services from FortiGuard Labs
  • Encrypted traffic inspection
  • Secure remote access options, including the following:
    • Zero-trust network access (ZTNA)
    • SSL VPN for individual users
    • IPsec and award-winning secure SD-WAN connectivity for distributed locations and data centers

By combining FortiGate NGFW with optional additional elements of the Fortinet Security Fabric, like FortiManager, FortiAnalyzer, FortiSandbox, and FortiWeb, administrators can expand security capabilities in the targeted areas.

The following screenshot displays FortiGate firewall policies using geolocation and Google Cloud network tags.

FortiGate firewall policies with geolocation and Google Cloud network tags.

Use cases

You can deploy FortiGate to secure your environment and apply deep packet inspection to both incoming, outgoing, and local traffic. In the following sections, the document discusses packet inspection:

North-south traffic inspection

When you're running your workloads on Google Cloud you should protect your applications against cyberattacks. When deployed in a VPC, a FortiGate VM can help secure applications by inspecting all inbound traffic originating from the internet. You can also use a FortiGate VM as a secure web gateway that protects the outbound traffic originating from workloads.

Inbound traffic

To enable secure connectivity to your workloads, assign one or more external IP addresses to the external passthrough Network Load Balancer that forwards the traffic to FortiGate instances. There, the incoming connections are:

  • Translated according to DNAT (Virtual IP) configuration
  • Matched to the access policy
  • Inspected for threats according to the security profile
  • Forwarded to the workloads using their internal IP addresses or FQDN

Don't translate source IP addresses. Not translating a source IP address ensures that the original client IP address is visible to the workloads.

When using internal domain names for service discovery, you must configure FortiGate VMs to use the following internal Cloud DNS service ( instead of the FortiGuard servers.

The return traffic flow is ensured because of a custom static route in the internal VPC. That route is configured with the internal passthrough Network Load Balancer as a next hop. The workloads might be deployed directly into the internal network, or connected to it using VPC Network Peering.

The following diagram shows an example of the traffic packet flow for inbound traffic inspection with FortiGate:

Traffic packet flow for inbound traffic inspection.

Private service access

You can make some Google Cloud services accessible to the workloads in a VPC network using private services access (PSA). Examples of these services include—but aren't limited to—Cloud SQL and Vertex AI.

Because the VPC Network Peering is non-transitive, services connected using PSA aren't directly available from other VPC networks over peering. In the recommended architecture design with peered internal and workload VPCs, the services connected to the workload VPCs aren't available from or through FortiGate NGFWs. To make a single instance of the service available through FortiGate NGFWs, connect it using PSA to the internal VPC. For multiple service instances, connect each instance to workload VPCs and create an extra FortiGate network interface for each instance.

The following diagram shows additional network interfaces for PSA in a network security project:

How to make a single instance of the service available through FortiGate NGFWs.

Outbound traffic

Any outbound traffic initiated by workloads and headed to the active FortiGate instance uses a custom route through an internal passthrough Network Load Balancer. The load balancer forwards the traffic to the active FortiGate instance.

FortiGate inspects the traffic according to its policy and source-NATs (SNATs) to one of the external IP addresses of the external passthrough Network Load Balancer. It's also possible to SNAT to an internal IP address. In that case, Cloud NAT handles the translation to an external IP address. Using IP address pools in FortiGate for SNATing offers better control over the external IP addresses assigned to individual groups of outbound connections when compared to using directly attached external IP addresses or first-party NAT solutions.

East-west traffic inspection

East-west traffic inspection, or segmentation, is a common requirement for three-tier architecture (presentation, application, data) deployments that are used to detect and block lateral movement, in case one of the tiers is compromised. It's also commonly used to provide control and visibility of the connections between multiple internal applications or services.

Each tier must be put in a separate VPC and peered with the firewall's internal VPC to form a hub-and-spoke architecture with an internal VPC in the role of a hub.

To make connections between the spokes to be passed through FortiGate for inspection, perform the following steps:

  1. Create a custom route in the internal VPC.
  2. Apply the custom route to the spokes.
    1. To apply the route, use the Export custom route and Import custom route options in the peering settings for both the hub and the spokes.

You can add and remove workload VPCs at any time. Doing so doesn't affect traffic between the other spoke networks.

If the peering group size limit enforced by Google Cloud is too low for a specific deployment, you can deploy FortiGate VMs with multiple internal network interfaces. You can group these interfaces into a single zone to simplify the firewall configuration.

FortiGate NGFW inspecting traffic using policy-based routes.

In the preceding diagram, the connection initiated from the Tier 1 VPC toward the Tier 2 VPC matches the imported default custom route. The connection is sent through the internal passthrough Network Load Balancer to the active FortiGate for inspection. Once inspected, the connection is forwarded by FortiGate using the same internal port2, that matches the peering route. That route is more specific than the default custom route and is sent over VPC Network Peering to its destination in the Tier 2 VPC.

Additional use cases

This section contains some additional use cases for deploying a FortiGate NGFW in Google Cloud.

Secure a hybrid cloud

Because of regulatory or compliance requirements, you might be required to perform a thorough inspection of the connectivity between an on-premises data center and the cloud. FortiGate can provide inline IPS inspection and enforce access policies for Cloud Interconnect links.

To avoid direct traffic flow between Cloud Interconnect and your workloads, don't place VLAN attachments in the workload VPC networks. Instead, place them in an external VPC that's only connected to the firewalls. You can redirect traffic between Cloud Interconnect and the workload VPCs by using a set of custom routes that point to the two internal passthrough Network Load Balancers placed on the external side and the internal side of the FortiGate cluster.

To enable traffic flow, and to match the IP address space of the workloads, you must manually update the custom route (or routes) on the external (Cloud Interconnect) side of the FortiGate cluster, and the custom advertisement list of the Cloud Router. While organizations can automate this process, those steps are beyond the scope of this document.

The following diagram shows an example of the packet flow from an on-premises location to Google Cloud, when those packets are protected by FortiGate:

The packet flow from an on-premises location to Google Cloud.

A network packet sent from the on-premises location is directed by the custom BGP advertisement configured on the Cloud Router to a Cloud Interconnect link. Once the packet reaches the external VPC, it's sent using a custom static route to the active FortiGate instance. The FortiGate instance is located behind an internal network pass-through load balancer. FortiGate inspects the connection and passes the packet to the internal VPC network. The packet then reaches its destination in a peered network. The return packet is routed through the Internal Network Load Balancer in the Internal VPC and through the FortiGate instance to the external VPC network. After that, the packet is sent back to the on-premises location through Cloud Interconnect.

Connect with shared VPCs

Larger organizations that have multiple projects hosting application workloads often use Shared VPCs to centralize network management in a single host project and extend subnets to individual service projects. In projects used by DevOps teams, this approach helps increase operational security by restricting unnecessary access to network functions. It's also aligned to Fortinet Security Services Hub best practices.

Fortinet recommends using VPC peering between FortiGate internal VPC and Shared VPC networks within the same project. But only if those networks are controlled by the network security team. And only if that team also manages network operations. If network security and network operations are managed by separate teams, implement the peering across different projects.

Using individual FortiGate NICs to connect directly to the Shared VPCs–while necessary in some architectures to access services attached to different Shared VPCs using PSA–negatively affects performance. This performance issue can be caused by the distribution of NIC queues across multiple interfaces and the reduced number of vCPUs available to each NIC.

Connect with the Network Connectivity Center

To connect between branch offices and to provide access to cloud resources, Network Connectivity Center (NCC) provides an advanced multi-regional architecture that uses dynamic routing and the Google backbone network. To manage SD-WAN connectivity between Google Cloud and on-premises locations equipped with FortiGate appliances, FortiGate NGFWs are certified for use as NCC router appliances. FortiGate clusters, as described in this document, are deployed into NCC spokes to form regional SD-WAN hubs that connect on-premises locations in the region. Locations within the same region can use FortiGate Auto-Discovery VPN technology to create on-demand direct links between each location. This practice can help deliver minimum latency. Another advantage is that locations in different regions can connect over the Google backbone to deliver fast and stable connectivity that's constantly monitored by FortiGate SD-WAN performance SLAs.

Design considerations

This section discusses the Google Cloud and FortiGate components that you need to consider when designing systems and deploying a FortiGate NGFW in Google Cloud.

FortiGate VMs

FortiGate VMs are configured in a unicast FortiGate Clustering Protocol (FGCP) active-passive cluster. The cluster heartbeat is on port3. Dedicated management is on port4. Port1 and port2 are used for forwarding traffic. Optionally, port4 can be linked to an external IP address unless the internal IP addresses of the interfaces are available in another way—for example, by VLAN attachment.

No other NICs need external IP addresses. Port3 needs a static internal IP address because it's part of the configuration of the peer instance in the cluster. Other NICs can be configured with static IP addresses for consistency.

Cloud Load Balancing

To identify the current active instance, Cloud Load Balancing health checks constantly probe FortiGate VMs. A built-in FortiGate probe responder responds only when a cluster member is active. During an HA failover, the load balancer identifies the active instance and redirects traffic through it. During a failover, the connection tracking feature of Cloud Load Balancing helps sustain existing TCP connections.

Cloud NAT

Both FortiGate VMs in a cluster periodically connect to Compute Engine API and to FortiGuard services to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Verify licenses
  • Access workload metadata
  • Update signature databases

The external network interfaces of the FortiGate VMs don't have an attached external IP address. To enable connectivity to these services, use Cloud NAT. Or, you can use a combination of PSA for Compute Engine API and a FortiManager acting as a proxy for accessing FortiGuard services.

Service Account

VM instances in Google Cloud can be bound to a service account and use the IAM privileges of the account when interacting with Google Cloud APIs. Create and assign to FortiGate VM instances a dedicated service account with a custom role. This custom role should enable the reading of metadata information for VMs and Kubernetes clusters in all projects which host protected workloads. To build dynamic firewall policies without explicitly providing IP addresses, you can use metadata from Compute Engine and Google Kubernetes Engine. For example, only VMs with the network tag frontend can connect to VMs with the network tag backend.


Workloads are any VM instances or Kubernetes clusters providing services that are protected by FortiGate VMs. You can deploy these instances or clusters into the internal VPC that's connected directly to the FortiGate VM instances. For role separation and flexibility reasons, Fortinet recommends using a separate VPC network that's peered with the FortiGate internal VPC.


FortiGate VM for Google Cloud supports both the on-demand, pay-as-you-go model and the bring-your-own-license model. For more information, see FortiGate support.

The FortiGate NGFW uses the following billable components of Google Cloud:

For more information on FortiGate licensing in Google Cloud, see Fortinet's article on order types. To generate a cost estimate based on your projected usage, use the Google Cloud pricing calculator. New Google Cloud users might be eligible for a free trial.

High-performance deployments

By default, FortiGate NGFWs are deployed in an active-passive high-availability cluster that can only scale up vertically and that's limited by the maximum throughput of a single active instance. While that's sufficient for many deployments, it's possible to deploy active-active clusters and even autoscaling groups for organizations that require higher performance.

Using an active-active architecture might enforce additional limitations to the configuration and licensing of your FortiGate NGFWs—for example, requirements for a central management system or the source-NAT. When autoscaling a deployment, NGFW only supports pay-as-you-go licensing.

Fortinet recommends following the active-passive approach. Contact the Fortinet support team with questions.

Because of the way the Google Cloud algorithm assigns queues to VMs and the way individual queues get assigned to CPUs in the Linux kernel, your business can help increase performance by using custom queue assignment in Compute Engine and fine-tuning interrupt affinity settings in FortiGate.

For more information on performance offered by a single appliance, see FortiGate®-VM on Google Cloud.


Standalone FortiGate virtual appliances are available in Google Cloud Marketplace. You can use the following methods to automate the deployment of the high-availability architectures described in this document:

For a customizable experience without deploying a described solution in your own project, see the FortiGate: Protecting Google Compute resources lab in the Fortinet Qwiklabs portal.

What's next



Other contributors:

  • Deepak Michael | Networking Specialist Customer Engineer
  • Ammett Williams | Developer Relations Engineer