Microsoft Rolls Out Free Azure Training To Partners, Customers

Microsoft is offering free Microsoft Azure training courses and discounted Azure certifications, which will be made available to both partners and customers, the company's global channel chief, Gavriella Schuster, announced Tuesday.

The free offer will include 12 new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) courses for IT professionals, each of which will take four to 16 hours to complete, said Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group.

"These courses are so much more than online video learning," Schuster said during a conference call Tuesday.

The MOOCs will include hands-on labs, graded assessments and office hours in addition to video lessons, she said. The aim will be to "focus development where [professionals] need it most," Schuster said, with options that will allow a registrant to start with an Azure fundamentals course and move on to more advanced subjects such as multi-cloud and Azure storage.

Six of the courses are available now, with the remaining six courses to be made available in coming weeks, according to Microsoft.

"These courses are designed to help partners respond to the surging demand, realize positive returns, and grow their market opportunity," Schuster wrote in a blog post, published Monday on Microsoft's website.

Microsoft said it's also now offering a "major discount" on Microsoft Certified Professional exams that are focused on Azure, costing $99 for a single Azure-focused exam - down from $165 - and $279 for three Azure-focused exams.

Microsoft partners are encouraged to bring the trainings to customers as part of helping customers grow their technical literacy, Schuster said.

The new training offers come as Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft reported substantial growth in its Cloud Service Provider (CSP) program. The company said 20,000 partners are now transacting through the CSP program, compared to just 3,500 at this time last year.

Carl Gersh, director of sales and marketing for Forthright Technology Partners, a Microsoft partner based in Miramar, Fla., welcomed the announcement.

"We are seeing a ton of interest in Azure," Gersh told IT Best Of Breed, especially in the second half of this year. "We absolutely believe that the appetite for [cloud] consumption is very, very much being driven by the desire [among businesses] to pay for IT from an OPEX perspective."

(Rick Saia contributed reporting to this story.)