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Google's Upstart Cloud Certification

My colleague Lee Pender had the story Wednesday that Google is launching a certification for partners. As Lee said, this is a big deal for the fledgling Google Apps Authorized Resellers program, because providing certifications that distinguish partner companies that get their engineers trained from those partners that don't is an important mark of maturity for any channel program.

As Microsoft and Google are fighting over who will dominate business productivity apps in the cloud, it's interesting to look at how the two companies are going about attracting partners.

Google's initial approach has been to make the process of joining the Google Apps reseller program practical, with the main requirement being that a partner actually makes a sale. That's probably part of the reason the number of Google Apps resellers is lower. Google on Wednesday said it had 2,500 partners in 70 countries. Meanwhile, Microsoft has claimed 16,000 resellers for its comparable Business Productivity Online Suite, although even Microsoft executives have acknowledged that many of those partners aren't doing much selling yet.

Where Microsoft has huge advantages is in the infrastructure of partnering. The company has been aggressively spinning up cloud programs this year, from the Cloud Champions program in the United States to the Cloud Essentials and Cloud Accelerate programs from the Worldwide Partner Group. Over the years, the company has spun up literally hundreds of specialized partner programs on this scale.

For Microsoft, getting individual certifications going for cloud specialists is simply a matter of slotting new courses and tests into the existing certification machinery.

Google needs to build everything from certification courseware to a certification program to a testing infrastructure to community awareness. Starting from scratch, while tough, also has advantages. As Google got its cert program going, it was able to make the program 100 percent Web-based. The company's test cost is $100 and, interestingly, requires a particular Webcam for $45 that allows a test proctor to watch the candidate take the test.

Meanwhile, Google's test is launching in English, with more languages rolling out later. Microsoft, of course, has years of experience in the process of rolling out courseware and tests in multiple languages.

Certification advantage: Microsoft by a long shot for now, even if it's slow off the blocks on cloud specifically. (I suspect Microsoft will really get its act together with cloud certifications around the time of the Office 365 launch.) If you've taken Microsoft's tests and tried Google's, I'd be interested to hear what you make of the difference.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 23, 2011


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