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Fortinet Expands Training Platform to 500,000 Users on Amazon Aurora

2021

The training arm within Fortinet, a leader in cybersecurity solutions, operates under the guiding principle of closing the cybersecurity skills gap. With that mission, the company established the Fortinet Network Security Expert (NSE) Training Institute in 2015. In 2016, the team was poised to transition from its off-the-shelf, solution-as-a-service (SaaS) application to building an in-house learning platform, but it first needed a managed infrastructure solution to support the platform. Fortinet turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to identify a managed solution, ultimately choosing to build on Amazon Aurora MySQL-Compatible Edition and the open-source Moodle learning management system (LMS), secured by FortiWeb Cloud WAF-as-a-Service, a solution that defends web applications and the API attack surface. The move to a managed infrastructure, while maintaining robust cloud security, freed up Fortinet’s training systems team to focus on product development and roll out the first build in just 6 months—twice as quickly as planned. With more time to innovate, Fortinet was able to create the on-demand, hands-on labs portion of its learning platform, using Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL-Compatible Edition to reduce costs by 50 percent.

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With Aurora, we were able to expand exponentially, and as a managed service, we didn’t have to allocate any resources to database upgrades, management, and optimization. It was exactly what we needed.” 

Tristan Roscoe
Manager of Training Systems, Fortinet 

Extended Learning Platform to 500,000 Users on Amazon Aurora

As a vendor-run SaaS application, the old LMS posed challenges to the training systems team cost-effectively scaling the application to Fortinet’s current volume of 500,000 users, ensuring a low-latency experience, and handling spikes in demand—such as when Fortinet opened its entire training catalog for free use in 2020 and new users registered every 7 seconds. “With Aurora, we were able to expand exponentially, and as a managed service, we didn’t have to allocate any resources to database upgrades, management, and optimization,” says Tristan Roscoe, Fortinet manager of training systems. “It was exactly what we needed.” The ability to bring on more users has also enabled Fortinet to strengthen its Engage Partner Program and certify more partners who sell Fortinet products.

Expanded Reach with Partners as a Content Provider

A benefit to building the Fortinet learning platform in house is that the training systems team can now easily integrate with partners’ systems. Companies are working with Fortinet as a content provider to initiate cybersecurity training for their own audiences, including IBM for its SkillsBuild program. “Building on Aurora has opened up unlimited possibilities as it gives us root access to all of our data without all the overhead typically required,” Roscoe says. “We’ve been able to turn into a content provider for major names—it’s increased our reach, visibility, and solidified our spot in the training education industry.”

Automated Manual Tasks Reduce Certification Time from Weeks to Hours

By building the learning platform on Amazon Aurora MySQL, one system captures all the information the Fortinet team needs. Now, when a student achieves a certification, it is automatically sent to them within 24 hours. Before, it used to take the team weeks to export data from the exam center, import it into the LMS, and manually confirm that the student should receive a certification. “With automation, we’ve saved close to 9,600 hours a year on what used to be manual tasks,” Roscoe says. “Instead of having manual work dominate our time, we can now collaborate on projects, interact with customers, and have a larger impact on success.”

Freed Up Staff to Build Innovative Lab Platform that Cut Costs by 50%

With more developer capacity devoted to innovation, Fortinet was able to build its own centralized lab platform—something that used to be administered through a vendor. By deploying the lab platform on Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Fortinet cut costs in half and reduced management overhead. Instead of paying for the entire length of a 2-day lab, which may take only 7 hours to complete, Fortinet now only pays for infrastructure used when users are active, minimizing costs when students are not in the lab.

Made Courses Globally Accessible Without Slowing Performance

Because Amazon Aurora stores copies of Fortinet’s data in database clusters replicated across multiple Availability Zones, the lab platform is readily accessible from almost anywhere at any time. “With Aurora, we’ve achieved the scale to provide the level of service our global user base expects,” Roscoe says. “We’re confident in its Auto Scaling of replicas to handle large read traffic, automatic failover, and continuous backup and recovery.” As the program becomes more widely used internationally, the training systems team is also exploring Aurora Global Database, allowing a single Amazon Aurora database to span multiple AWS regions and bring data points closer to the end user for even faster service.

Fortinet Reference Architecture

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About Fortinet

Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated, and automated cybersecurity solutions, empowers customers with complete visibility and control across their entire digital infrastructure. As both a technology company and a learning company, the Fortinet Network Security Expert Training Institute has one of the largest and broadest cybersecurity training programs in the industry.

Benefits of AWS

  • Reaches 500,000 Network Security Expert certifications
  • Accelerates certification issuing from weeks to 24 hours
  • Saves 9,600 hours a year in manual tasks with automation
  • Reduces lab costs by 50%


AWS Services Used

Amazon Aurora

Amazon Aurora is a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database built for the cloud, that combines the performance and availability of traditional enterprise databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open source databases.

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