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CRN Exclusive: Tech Data Beefs Up Technical Training for Cisco Security Products

Tech Data has rolled out a four-hour training program to help partners get more of their existing technical staff up to speed with Cisco's security assessment.

Tech Data has unveiled a four-hour training program to help partners get more of their existing technical staff up to speed with Cisco's security assessments.

The Clearwater, Florida-based distributor said its Security 360 program will augment existing training programs that are focused on the partner's sales organization. This training program shows how to complete Cisco's Proof of Value (POV) security assessments and how to position Cisco Security solutions, such as next-generation firewalls, according to Angie Beltz, vice president of Tech Data's Cisco Solutions Group.

"Even though there's opportunity in security, is the channel ready?" Beltz told CRN exclusively. "There's a big risk to partners who are not expanding and having the conversation with partners around security."

[RELATED: CRN Exclusive: Tech Data, Cisco Join Forces for Free Security Assessments]

Solution providers often struggle to provide technical support around security offerings, Beltz said, with only one or two account managers or systems engineers having obtained the requisite vendor certification. And she said it's very difficult to hire anyone with security certifications since a security-certified engineer commands a 60 percent higher salary than an engineer without security certifications.

"The people who have those are in control of the wheel in terms of what pay they ask for," Beltz said.

For far less money, Beltz said channel partners can hire regular engineers and internally develop their security chops through programs such as Security 360. Tech Data is committed to working with partners to help them build a security practice from scratch, Beltz said, and will augment those partners who don't have enough internal security skills today to have their own practice.

Security 360 is Tech Data's first piece of Cisco-specific technical training, which Beltz acknowledged has been a missing piece in the puzzle. She said Tech Data will offer technical training around Cisco's data center and conducting Cisco assessments in the next six months.

The technical training will complement Tech Data's Boost sales and marketing enablement training, which Beltz said helps solution providers brand their Cisco practice in the community. It includes assistance in creating items as diverse as a go-to-market strategy and events to press releases and case studies. Beltz said she has seen great success from partners who have honed in on business outcome-based selling.

As Tech Data brings on new vendors, Beltz said the distributor collaborates with the new vendor to develop training and monitoring offerings that add more value for partners. Cisco is Tech Data's third largest vendor (behind Apple and HP Inc.), accounting for 11 percent of its sales in the most recent quarter, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Tech Data first teamed up with Cisco in April to offer free security assessments so that channel partners can demonstrate the need for higher-value security solutions. By identifying potential security risks and threats facing end users, Tech Data can help partners get past the initial objections raised by clients and break into new customer pools, geographies and verticals, according to Beltz.


"You can't pitch this," Beltz said. "It has to be a validation; it has to be something credible where an end user can see where their weaknesses are."

With the free assessment and Tech Data's back-end support, Beltz said even smaller partners can gain access to hospital systems, large multi-branch banks and other enterprise companies. And once partners start landing some deals through the security, Beltz said they typically want to invest more into their security practice.

Huntington Technology has in the past taken advantage of Tech Data's Cisco training, and has found that it helped familiarize the solution provider with the latest Cisco offerings, according to William Bluford, vice president of the Southfield, Michigan-based Tech Data partner.

Although Huntington no longer uses Cisco SMB products or solutions, Bluford said he anticipates Security 360 will be beneficial for Tech Data's continuing Cisco partners.

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