Channel chiefs, Channel partner programs, CSPs, MSP

Azure vs AWS: Microsoft Bolsters Cloud Partner Certification, Training Initiatives

Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster
Gavriella Schuster

Microsoft is doubling down on its cloud partner initiatives -- extending beyond Office 365 to announce new Azure skills training and certification offers. At the same time, Microsoft is seeking new ways to engage and promote its MSP relationships vs. Amazon Web Services (AWS), multiple sources tell ChannelE2E. 

Among the key themes from Microsoft: Training AWS partners and professionals to master Azure. According to Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster, partners can start with Azure Fundamentals or Azure for AWS Experts courses, or dive right in to more specific courses like Azure Storage or Azure Networks.

Moreover, partners will have access to the full Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) catalog and can receive digital certification for free, she adds, or they can make a small investment to receive additional Azure-focused Microsoft Certified Program (MCP) exam vouchers and practice tests.

Behind the Azure Partner Push

Many partners don't quite realize just how long Microsoft has been building and refining its cloud platforms. Azure was announced in October 2008 and released in February 2010 as Windows Azure, before being renamed to Microsoft Azure in March 2014. Moreover, Office 365 began beta tests in 2010 before an official June 2011 launch. 

Former CEO Steve Ballmer was "all in" with cloud services but he was slow to embrace cloud partner models during his tenure. Early versions of Office 365 lacked billing management capabilities for partners. And Azure didn't have much of a partner focus during that platform's early years.

Fast forward to present day and Microsoft has addressed many of the technology and business gaps for partners. Some of those gaps were addressed once Microsoft's CEO position transition from Ballmer to Satya Nadella in 2014. Among the cloud partner milestones to note, according to Microsoft:

  • More than 20,000 partners are now transacting through the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) program – up from 3,500 a year ago.
  • The number of partners with a Gold or Silver cloud competency increased 86% year-over-year.
  • The number of partners with 3 or more cloud competencies has increased 53% year-over-year.

Azure for AWS: MSP Land Grab

Still, I suspect the majority of Microsoft's cloud partners are SaaS- and Office 365-centric. As partners look to further differentiate, they're studying workload migration and management opportunities atop Azure and/or AWS.

The recent Amazon re:Invent conference in Las Vegas attracted roughly 32,000 attendees. Some where MSPs, but the overall crowd demographics showed that it's early in the MSP game for AWS. The same is likely true for Azure.

No doubt, Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster wants to tip the IaaS partner scales in her company's favor. 

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.