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News & Articles

November 13, 2019 |

Tech Data Cuts Ribbon on “Cyber Range” Training and Demo Facility

The new resource is designed to help partners and end users hone cybersecurity skills and test cybersecurity solutions in an immersive, interactive environment stocked with state-of-the-art hardware and software.

Tech Data has officially opened its Cyber Range, a hands-on cybersecurity education and demonstration facility for its partners and their customers.

Located in Tempe, Ariz., the facility’s debut coincided with the opening day of the distributor’s Security Enforce conference in Chandler, Ariz., as well the blockbuster announcement this morning that Tech Data has agreed to be acquired by private equity investor Apollo Global Management for roughly $5.4 billion.

The Cyber Range is the first resource of its kind in distribution, according to Francisco Criado, Tech Data’s senior vice president for global security solutions.

“It’s going to arm our partners and their end customers with the skills they need to develop the best and optimal security posture and depth in defense against these bad actors,” he says.

The 4,500 square foot facility will fulfill that mission by enabling both in-person and remote visitors to experience and defend against simulated security attacks in an immersive, interactive environment stocked with state-of-the-art hardware and software, according to Alex Ryals, Tech Data’s vice president of security solutions for the Americas. Ryals first disclosed the forthcoming arrival of the new site in May and showcased it for attendees of the company’s Partner Summit in Chicago three months later.

“This is a place where you can literally feel and touch cybersecurity,” he says. “All those things you can’t do in your own corporate network and you don’t have the resources to do in your house, you can log in and do here.”

Training programs available through the Cyber Range include pre-recorded courses from open source educator Cybrary, as well as instructor-led classes from both Tech Data learning partner Cloud Range and Tech Data itself. Jason Norred, senior director of security at Solutions II, a Tech Data partner headquartered in Littleton, Colo., is eager to begin utilizing those offerings.

“Not only is it going to be an interesting value prop for us to provide through Tech Data to our end users and clients, but I’m most excited about the onboarding and training capabilities it’s going to give us [internally] as a solutions provider,” he says.

Those capabilities differ from what’s available elsewhere, Norred continues, because they allow partners to train on products from multiple suppliers at once. Many vendors provide in-person instruction, he notes, “but they’re all very focused on their niche and their product, where the Cyber Range is multivendor [and] multiplatform.”

Fortinet, a sponsoring vendor of the Cyber Range, plans to educate its current and aspiring MSSP partners at the facility. Though most of the security operations personnel at such companies have classroom experience with cyber assaults, few have ever experienced one, according to Stephan Tallent, Fortinet’s senior director of MSSP service enablement.

“For the most part, you’re dealing with a workforce that has a great deal of responsibility but that has never gone through responding to an actual attack,” he says. “You don’t want to be learning on the job.”

Resellers and end users aren’t the only people Tech Data plans to educate at the Cyber Range, however. Inspiring high school and college students to pursue careers in cybersecurity is a key mission for the facility as well.†

“We’re trying to be a part of the solution to the skills gap that we’re seeing in the industry,” Criado says.†

Nearly two thirds of organizations worldwide have unfilled security positions at present due to a shortage of experienced candidates, according to research published last week by cybersecurity non-profit (ISC)≤. The deficit of skilled professionals in the U.S. alone, that study found, stands at nearly half a million people.

Channel pros can use the Cyber Range for demonstration as well as education purposes. With assistance from Tech Data, partners can subject complete cybersecurity solution stacks to live malware in a safely isolated environment, either onsite or over the web. Ryals encourages partners to use the Cyber Range as a venue for lead-generation activities as well.†

“This is a great place for vendors and partners to spend MDF dollars and have an event, because it’s fun and it’s interactive,” he says.†Sara Boddy, director of the F5 Labs application threat intelligence facility at Tech Data partner F5 Networks, agrees.

“It’s a much more immersive environment than a boring hotel room somewhere,” she says.

Tech Data’s security services organization, which provides outsourced assistance with tasks like vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, will utilize the Cyber Range as well to deliver offerings not previously available.

“Being able to hire the talent it takes to run a place like this is giving me access to additional incredible resources that we can use for all sorts of things,” Ryals says.

Recently added security services, which partners can resell to their customers, include “attacker’s insight” engagements in which Tech Data experts help end users identify weaknesses in their current defensive posture, full-scale attack simulations, and “incident response experiences” that let partners and customers hone their post-breach remediation and communication skills.

“It’s a build your own adventure type of activity,” Ryals says.

Any Tech Data reseller, or customer served by a Tech Data reseller, is eligible to book resources at the Cyber Range using a public calendar showing available timeslots. Tech Data account reps can visit the site without an appointment as well.

“Our sales team can bring by our partners any time they’d like,” Ryals says.

Planning and constructing the Cyber Range was a year-long endeavor, Ryals says. Equipment in the facility was donated by Cisco, Cyber Power, Dell, HP, Intel, and Lenovo, among other vendors. Tech Data won’t disclose what the entire project cost except to say that it was a seven-figure amount.†

Global security spending will total $106.6 billion this year and reach $151.2 billion by 2023, according to IDC. Tech Data’s Cyber Range is part of a larger, strategic campaign to capitalize on that trend. Other elements of that effort include assigning global security oversight duties to Americas President Joe Quaglia, appointing Criado to his current position, adding eight new account reps to the security sales team, and signing new security vendors, such as SOC-as-a-service vendor StratoZen early this year and endpoint security vendor Carbon Black last month.

Being acquired by Apollo will enable Tech Data to pour even more money into cybersecurity products, services, and resources in the future, according to Kevin Kennedy, the company’s senior vice president of advanced solutions.

“We believe this is going to be an excellent opportunity for us to accelerate our investments in things like the Cyber Range,” he says.

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