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IT pros value cloud certification, training from service providers

Cloud certification and training tools offered by cloud providers are becoming valuable to customers who are lacking cloud-related expertise.

Many cloud buyers believe moving to the cloud is as simple as swiping a credit card and spinning up their own cloud instance, but enterprise IT organizations need cloud expertise to take full advantage of the capabilities that different cloud offerings can provide.

While cloud services can take many daily, administrative tasks off administrators' plates and free up a business' internal IT team to focus more on innovation, an enterprise shouldn't hand off all control and become blind to its own cloud environment. By offering cloud certification and training, providers can help IT pros understand and manage their entire IT infrastructure.

"The early assumption made by enterprise [customers] is that they won't need any training when adopting cloud and they are offloading their headaches onto a cloud service provider," said Lynda Stadtmueller, program director of cloud computing services for San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc. "There aren't enough cloud-savvy IT [professionals] to fill the need yet, so a lot of businesses are turning to outside consultants or cloud providers who offer training or education."

Cloud certification programs for enterprise IT professionals, channel partners

Providers are increasingly offering certification programs and an ecosystem of training organizations are forming around them. CBT Nuggets, a provider of IT training videos, announced two new online video training series designed to help IT pros prepare for the Amazon Web Services (AWS) certification program, as well as to provide administrators with cloud-based IT skills.

The first video series -- AWS Certified Solutions Architect: Foundations -- can help any user, even those with no experience with AWS, administrate Amazon's services, said Jeremy Cioara, series creator and CBT Nuggets instructor. The second series -- AWS Certified Solutions Architect: Architecting -- focuses on more advanced design of AWS cloud environments. The two series are broken up into short videos and a table of contents, which users can pair with tasks they are working on within their AWS environment.

"Right now, there is a lack of cloud-related talent because the cloud is changing IT skill sets -- IT professionals now have to know a little bit about everything," Cioara said. "There really hasn't been too many measures that say how qualified an individual was to work with [cloud offerings]," he said.

Enterprise IT teams aren't the only professionals struggling to understand cloud services. In addition to third-party IT training companies, many cloud providers have also begun offering cloud training and education programs for technology partners, value-added resellers and managed service providers who are in front of customers, Frost's Stadtmueller said.

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IBM's cloud business unit offers cloud training to its channel partners. "IBM has a lot of partners whose business is built on traditional software licensing, and they're struggling to move to consumption-based licensing," said Amy Anderson, manager of the cloud partner center of excellence for IBM.

Not every IT team will struggle with the technology, but the cloud still poses a very different business model that is unfamiliar territory for many IT pros. IBM uses its own collaboration software to help its channel partners access the education they need to sell IBM's cloud offerings to their own customers.

"[The cloud provider is] not just training people on a new programming technique or a new systems configuration. You have to train people to think differently about how IT gets delivered," Anderson said. "That training must include dimensions of business models, financing and organizational dynamics."

Cloud training versus cloud education

While it's important for providers to keep their cloud offerings simple in order to attract business users, many are intensifying their online, canned education programs, like webinars, Frost's Stadtmueller said.

Providers should also strive to offer cloud training that mirrors the self-service nature of the cloud, she said. "These tools should be of minimal investment to the provider -- tools they create once and put online for users to dip into when need be."

While the number of free cloud training tools that help customers understand their selected provider's offerings are growing, there is still a great deal of room in the market for additional cloud certification and training programs, she said. There is also an important distinction between cloud training and cloud education, she said.

"Whitepapers and webinars about the cloud are education," Stadtmueller said. "There is a shortage of actual training tools and step-by-step programs for IT professionals looking to incorporate cloud into their IT environment."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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