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Microsoft offers free Azure training

Microsoft said it has some 20,000 partners selling cloud through the company’s Cloud Solution Provider program.

Now, Microsoft wants to get more partner personnel up to speed on cloud technology. In a briefing this week, Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, unveiled free Azure training. Schuster, citing a shortage of technology professionals with the skills to capitalize on the cloud opportunity, said six Azure training modules are available at no cost today and six more will be added in the next few weeks.

Currently available courses include Azure Fundamentals, which provides an overview of how Azure works and the services it provides, and Azure for AWS Experts, which aims to draw parallels between the infrastructure as a service technologies used in Amazon Web Services to those Azure employs. You can take a look at the current course offerings here.

Schuster said the new courses will typically take four to 16 hours to compete. The courses include online videos, hands-on labs, office hours and graded assessments.

Channel partners can take advantage of the free Azure training or pony up for a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam. Microsoft is offering an exam, retake and practice test at $99 for technology professionals who want to prove their mettle in one area of cloud. Alternatively, they can purchase three exams, retakes and practice tests for $279 to demonstrate broader cloud knowledge.

Microsoft said the test fees represent a sizeable discount, describing the three-test package as a $1,287 value. In addition, Microsoft will partner with the Linux Foundation to provide an optional add-on discount that may be applied toward Linux certification. That offer will launch in January 2017.

Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation as a platinum member in November 2016. That arrangement reflects Microsoft’s expanding role in open source, which extends to the cloud. About one-third of the virtual machines running on Azure are Linux, according to Microsoft.

Schuster, meanwhile, cited some stats she said point to Microsoft’s cloud momentum and partner involvement.

  • A year ago, 3,500 partners were transacting business through Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Today, more than 20,000 partners are transacting via CSP, a 470% year-over-year increase.
  • The number of partners with a Gold or Silver cloud competency has seen an 86% year-over-year increase.
  • The number of Microsoft partners that possess three or more cloud competencies has increased 53% year over year.

Microsoft’s plan to train more partners in cloud technologies isn’t ending with free Azure training and MCP exam discounts. Partners can expect to see the company make additional training investments in 2017.

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