Amazon's cloud is looking at building a corporate training service

Key Points
  • Some companies with learning management software, like Workday, pay Amazon Web Services for cloud computing resources.
  • Amazon's cloud already offers tools for non-technical business users, like video conferencing and file sharing.
Andy Jassy, CEO Amazon Web Services, speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., October 25, 2016.

Amazon's cloud business is considering a service for companies to show training content to their employees, according to two people familiar with the plans and job listings.

The move suggests Amazon Web Services sees ready-to-use services, rather than raw computing and storage resources for roll-your-own application development, as vehicles for maintaining the rapid growth of its cloud and keeping its lead ahead of the likes of Google and Microsoft. With learning-management software, individuals can go through collections of content such as videos to gain skills, and managers can track progress.

Amazon already has online training programs for partners to train their employees on how to use AWS offerings. This would be a broader general-purpose service that companies could use to manage all kinds of corporate training and learning programs.

Amazon explored the learning-management field and concluded that none of the available tools were just right for its own workers, and executives decided the company would build its own system, one person familiar with the matter told CNBC. The idea was to build something "commercializable," the person said. It's not clear when the service could become available publicly.

Amazon declined comment.

Key people in the initiative include general manager James Urquhart, who joined Amazon last April and soon began advertising job postings for people who could help build a "learning platform."

"Have you led a new SaaS product from concept to delivery?" Urquhart wrote in one tweet.


When Urquhart -- a veteran of Cisco, Dell and Sun -- arrived at Amazon in 2017, he joined a spin-out of AWS's training and certification team, a second person said.

A job opening for a solution architect that appeared in December hinted how things could play out. "This is an opportunity for an experienced technologist to be on the ground floor of building a learning platform that will enable hundreds of thousands of businesses in 190 countries around the world to transform and scale their learning initiatives," Amazon wrote.

Amazon appears to be keen on ensuring that the underlying software looks sleek. "In this role, you will design innovative, globally-minded web, mobile, and emerging UX/UI for our digital learning products," Amazon said in a different job posting.

In recent years Amazon has kept its $5-billion-per-quarter cloud unit growing in part by tacking on new software services that companies don't need to buy or build themselves -- including tools for non-technical workers. Today's Amazon cloud offers a video conferencing service, a file sharing tool and an email app, for example.

"If you see Amazon take a strong step into this space, then it's recognition of 'lifelong learning' and career-centric up-skilling," said Tory Patterson, co-founder and managing partner of Owl Ventures, an education tech fund in San Francisco.

Cornerstone OnDemand, Instructure, Oracle, SAP and Workday are among the companies offering so-called learning management software for work (as opposed to schools).

Instructure, whose Bridge corporate learning management tool boasts Scripps Networks Interactive and Tesla as customers, relies on Amazon Web Services' core computing services to operate its software. Cornerstone operates its own data centers but is an AWS customer and aims to move more of its software to AWS, according to a filing. Workday announced in 2016 that AWS would be its "preferred" cloud provider.

-- CNBC's Lora Kolodny contributed to this story.