CLOUD COMPUTING

Amazon certification program builds partner network

Smarter partners mean more business for Amazon Web Services

It seems these days that any and every organization is making the migration to the cloud, and the high demand is creating urgency around technical competency in cloud solutions.

In an industry like federal contracting, where the mission is critical, your cloud solutions provider better know their stuff.

That explains the current rise of cloud authorization and accreditation programs, such as the General Services Administration’s FedRAMP, but it’s not just the government that’s working to benchmark competencies; Amazon Web Services is also making an effort, and just recently launched a cloud certification program of its own.

Meant to accredit individuals who demonstrate knowledge, skills and proficiency with Amazon’s cloud services, the certification fits into the company’s other cloud competency offerings.

“We’ve announced a number of programs to help our partners to become capable, qualified and prepared to deliver cloud computing solutions on Amazon Web Services for government and education,” said Max Peterson, director of partners, capture and contracts, Global Public Sector at AWS.

These programs are categorized into three broad tiers, Peterson said, which are all offered through the company’s AWS Partner Network, or APN, which is focused on helping Amazon’s partners build AWS-based businesses.

The first tier is called APN Partner Training and Accreditation, through which partners can deepen their knowledge of AWS services through two online courses, Peterson said.

One is tailored toward business professionals, who are responsible for articulating the business benefits of AWS services; the other is for technical professionals, who make decisions about IT solutions based on customer business requirements.

Whereas the first tier is focused on expanding knowledge of AWS's services, the second tier is a little more "hands on," focusing on being proficient with them.

The second tier, called AWS Training, is comprised of courses that are targeted toward the three primary roles of the engineering teams who are actually delivering AWS cloud-based solutions—the solutions architect, the systems operator/administrator––SysOps, for short––and the developer. 

Each role represents the kind of people who might “need deeper detail on how they use Amazon Web Services to build cloud solutions for their customers,” Peterson said, and each has a specific competency.

For example, the solutions architects are people who should “know how to design cloud-scale distributed applications and systems,” Peterson said.

“It’s fundamentally different when you’re leveraging an elastic cloud than when you’re designing an in-house, vertically integrated solution,” he said, and that’s why it’s important that the solutions architect’s competency include knowledge of a range of disciplines.

The SysOps administrator should have an understanding of how their application or system operates.

“When you implement large cloud-scale solutions, it requires the knowledge of how applications operate in the cloud versus how they would operate in-house,” Peterson said, which is why the SysOps administrator’s competency includes knowing how their application is constructed, deployed and automated.

Finally, the developer is involved with the operation of the application on the AWS platform.

“That’s equally important, too, because when you learn how to develop the cloud-based solutions, you learn how to specifically design your applications to take advantage of this elasticity,” Peterson said, so the developer’s competency should include the operation of the application.

The third tier is an actual competency certification. Right now, these competency certifications are aimed at technical professionals, but Peterson said that the company will be expanding them to include business professionals, as well.

Like the second tier, Amazon's certification program is also centered around the three main roles of the solutions architect, the SysOps administrator and the developer, and will demonstrate that an individual is has one of three levels of proficiency within their particular role: associate, professional and master.

Right now, Amazon Web Services offers one certification: the associate level of proficiency for the solutions architect. Later, it will offer the other two proficiency levels for the solutions architect, and will eventually expand to offer each of the three proficiency levels for each of the three roles.

All of Amazon's partners and customers have access to these offerings, Peterson said, and a broad range of companies already use them. On one end of the spectrum are companies like Booz Allen Hamilton, with tens of thousands of employees, Peterson said.

In the middle are cloud integrators, service providers and professional service firms, such as Smartronix or Aquilent, he said, and the other end of the spectrum includes small and small disadvantaged businesses, Peterson said.

And these accreditations don't just help APN partners; they are crucial to Amazon Web Services’ business, as its partners “have the contract vehicles that are necessary for the government to acquire the Amazon cloud computing services,” Peterson said.

Additionally, these firms have the professional services needed to help customers migrate their in-house applications to the cloud, he added.

That’s why Amazon has invested so much into its offerings to its partners; the company wants to make sure they are well-equipped to do their own business, he said.

“Building trained and capable federal partners and customers through these competency and accreditation programs will have immense benefits for government and education programs,” Peterson said.

That’s where the certification program comes into play.

“It gives the government customer the confidence to know that when they select a partner, [the partner] is qualified to help them move to the cloud efficiently, quickly, and securely,” Peterson said.

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at mhoover@washingtontechnology.com, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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