One of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of Hadoop in the enterprise is the shortage of professionals trained to work with it. According to job posting aggregator, there’s been as much as a 225,000 percent growth in demand for the big data crushing skill since 2009 — and no one is schooling engineers at that rate.

Learning Hadoop, until recently, has been something that passionate, self-directed computer engineers did alone, at leading edge technology-oriented schools like Stanford or as part of the Apache Hadoop community. Some chose a slightly easier way, by paying for training from individual distro vendors like Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR or a few third-party providers.

While it’s not impossible to find “free,” self-paced training  online, most of it is delivered via a freemium model and doesn’t cover the material broadly or deeply enough to pass certification exams. That kind of training often costs hundreds or thousands.

Up until today, that is. This morning big data software and Hadoop distro provider MapR announced free Hadoop On-Demand Training for developers, analysts and administrators that meets certification requirements.

Get It While It's Hot Free

That’s right, anyone who wants top-shelf Hadoop training can now gain professional big data skills via video lessons, hands-on exercises, labs and quizzes and so on.

MapR has gone as far as to arrange for the administration of certification exams by a third party, Innovative Exams, a leading certification and training proctoring company. Those who successfully complete the coursework can then take exams for full certification as a Hadoop Developer, Hadoop Data Analyst and Hadoop Administrator. There is also a separate certification track for HBase.

The courses revolve around Apache Open Source Hadoop and HBase versus MapR’s distro or proprietary software. If you’re a geek who wants to get going with a big data career, this could be your entry point.

What’s the gimmick? Giving to the “community” is the spiel. Jack Norris, MapR’s chief marketing officer, said that the company aims to educate 10,000 people. That will do a lot toward closing the big data skills gap. He doesn’t fail to mention that MapR’s education initiative represents a $50 million in-kind contribution to the community.

Ulterior Motive

It also goes to follow, of course, that well-trained Hadoop engineers will be instrumental in helping Enterprises get started with big data and to realize value from their investments. In an ideal scenario, these 10K MapR-trained Hadoop pros would all get big data related jobs, feel an allegiance for MapR (for giving them their starts ) and recommend that MapR be used by the enterprises they work in.

If that worked out, then MapR would gain a substantial, ever-growing footprint for years to come. Especially as the MapR-trained Hadoop pros move from job to job.

If individuals who trained on MapR’s dime fall in love with some other Hadoop distro, “then at least we have helped someone get started in a good career” said Norris.

Why is MapR doing this now? One reason is that it literally took them this long to get the coursework together. “Preparing the curriculum for on demand training is very different from doing it for the classroom,” said Norris.

But we suspect that it’s about something more than planting seeds, preparing content and good will. There also MapR’s IPO that the company anticipates happening this year.

When will that be? We told Norris that we’ve heard it will be in the second half of 2015 (that’s what MapR CEO John Schroeder told Fortune Magazine). Norris told us that MapR is on record saying it would probably be in 2015, but he backed away from the idea that way were targeting the latter half of the year.

This, no doubt, makes us wonder if it will happen sooner. While Norris wouldn’t comment on that, he did say, “The market looks pretty good.” It likes enterprise software.