The coronavirus pandemic has prompted Amazon Web Services to step up with new online training and certification offerings, fee waivers and other concessions for its AWS Partner Network members dealing with remote work environments and unprecedented times for them and their customers amid an economic downturn.
When the cloud provider recently asked AWS partners for feedback on their business needs and how it could better support them during the pandemic, it found some common threads, according to Rima Olinger, global alliance lead at AWS.
“They asked for guidance on adjusting their digital marketing approach to be sensitive to the current environment,” Olinger said. “They also asked for expansion of virtual training and for extensions on deadlines to meet their AWS competencies.”
AWS delivered on those fronts by providing on-demand webinars and guidance on digital marketing, Olinger said.
“We have also increased virtual training and added relevant content to help our partners guide their customers with business continuity solutions and extended deadlines for AWS certifications as well as competencies,” she said.
Here’s a look at how AWS is helping its APN partners weather the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Ninety-one percent of AWS partners planned to increase their virtual and digital staff training during the next 60 to 90 days, according to results released last month from an informal poll by AWS, which developed new training and certification resources for remote learning by AWS Partner Network (APN) members.
All of AWS’ regional solutions training courses are available for free through virtual instructor-led training. They range from business courses to learn about AWS services and core business value propositions, to technical courses to gain a fundamental technical knowledge of the AWS cloud platform, to courses for partners that want to develop and extend their professional services competencies. Also included is AWS’ weekly interactive PartnerCast, its training webinar series on AWS products and services to help partners in business and technical roles “create new customer opportunities, enhance professional relationships and develop training interests.”
AWS also has 500-plus digital training courses covering its services and solutions that are available for free for partners to build their AWS cloud skills, including partner-exclusive content such as accreditation courses, according to the cloud provider.
AWS automatically extended expiration dates for its certifications globally by six months for those set to expire between Feb. 16 and June 30 to allow more time for partners to schedule and take exams. It also extended applicable certification program benefits tied to active certifications. A further extension is not expected.
For those holding certifications in the greater China region, AWS extended certifications that had been set to expire between Jan. 17 and Feb. 15.
AWS also extended expiration dates for certification exam vouchers. Vouchers with Feb. 1-July 31 expiration dates have been extended through Sept. 30. Updated expiration dates for vouchers purchased through the third-party Xvoucher platform are available to candidates and administrators in their Xvoucher accounts.
For partners interested in certifying or recertifying on retiring certifications, AWS extended the retirement dates for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam (SAA-C01) and practice exam (SAA-P01), and the AWS Certified Big Data - Specialty (BDS-C00) certification exams until July 1. It previously planned to retire the exams in March and April.
The new, updated replacement exams are available as planned -- the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C02) and the AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty exam (DAS-C01).
Partners now can access AWS-led virtual certification preparatory classes and digital preparatory classes online and take all AWS certification exams remotely through computer-based testing company Pearson VUE.
Partners typically take AWS certification exams at testing centers with on-site proctors, but AWS last year started offering the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam online through Pearson VUE. Online proctors remotely monitor the exams for those that want to take the texts from their homes or offices.
New Tier Support
AWS is offering new tier support for APN partners impacted by the coronavirus by allowing partners to maintain their 2019 APN tier status through 2020.
“Enhanced tier requirements came into effect in 2020 that required additional investments from participating APN Partners,” AWS said in a blog post. “By extending APN tier status through 2020, we are enabling APN partners to focus on supporting their customers rather than meeting program requirements during this difficult time.”
In March, AWS evaluated partners’ tier status and said any tier changes that resulted from upgrades would remain in place and must meet established program criteria. Tier changes that were the result of compliance reviews were restored to their Dec. 31, 2019, status. AWS said it plans to resume its normal compliance review on Jan. 1, 2021.
AWS IQ Fees
The accommodation was made to help partners and customers stand up and scale remote work initiatives, according to AWS.
AWS last month waived AWS IQ’s 3 percent fee charged to buyers and the 15 percent fee charged to experts for all approved payment requests until June 30, and said 100 percent of all AWS IQ payments would go to the experts performing the work. The offer doesn’t include service fees charged by the experts.
“Many skilled workers are facing new hardships,” Jay Allen, an AWS IQ director, said in a blog post. “AWS IQ offers experts the opportunity to earn income using your AWS skills. The scope of the work varies from small jobs, such as configuring an AWS service, to large-scale projects such as developing end-to-end applications.”
AWS IQ experts must be based in the United States and have verified AWS certifications.
Stand for small
As a partner in American Express’ Stand for Small program to help small businesses, AWS extended the free use of its business applications including Amazon Chime, Amazon WorkDocs and Amazon WorkSpaces.
Amazon Chime is AWS’ unified communications service for users to meet, chat, and place business calls inside and outside their organizations using the Internet. AWS is offering free use of all Amazon Chime Pro features for online meetings and video conferencing through June 30 for all new Amazon Chime customers that join using their AWS account. Public switched telephone network (PSTN) services or charges related to PSTN services, such as Amazon Chime Voice Connector, call-me or meeting dial-in, are excluded.
Customers that already are using Amazon Chime could be eligible for usage credits for the period from March 4 until June 30.
AWS is offering new customers of Amazon WorkDocs free use of the fully managed content creation, storage and collaboration service for up to 50 users through June 30.
It’s also providing free use of Amazon WorkSpaces, which allows users to provide Windows or Linux desktops virtually to employees anywhere. New customers can use the desktop-as-a-service solution for up to 50 users through June 30.