Channel partners are teaming with Amazon Web Services with increasing frequency at a time when customers seem more willing to commit critical apps and data to the public cloud.
Resellers, systems integrators, independent software vendors (ISVs) and even hosting companies are building products and services around AWS. Amazon's allies provide migration services, implementation support and security features, among other items. Channel executives deem Amazon a solid partner, noting that the company provides ample technical and marketing assistance.
It's a big challenge for [customers] to manage the Amazon environment. The tools and models are different.
senior vice president, Cloud Technology Partners
Partners look to benefit from the Amazon partner network in another way: The cloud provider represents an enormous number of potential customers for their wares. In the public sector alone, AWS, in a recent financial statement, cited more than 2,400 educational institutions and 600 government agencies as clients. Overall, Amazon has "hundreds of thousands" of customers in more than 190 countries, according to its website.
Amazon stands to benefit from the linkups as well. Partners can offer custom features and specialized hardware/software systems that fall outside AWS' standard cloud products. In some cases, they lend a level of comfort to enterprise customers still wary of the public cloud.
John Treadway, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners Inc. (CTP), a Boston-based cloud consulting firm, said Amazon has invested in its partner ecosystem to support enterprise clients transitioning to the cloud. In turn, CTP finds itself working more closely with AWS, as more of its clients tap Amazon for public cloud services.
"We have been ... stepping it up lately and getting more engaged with Amazon," Treadway explained.
CTP, for instance, offers application development services to Amazon clients seeking to run new apps in the cloud. The company also takes a customer's existing applications and modernizes them for migration to the AWS cloud. Treadway said the objective is to rework existing applications so they become more closely aligned with a cloud-native application architecture.
CTP also offers managed services, maintaining customers' apps running in the AWS environment. Treadway said some clients are ready to deploy apps in the public cloud, but aren't ready to manage them. CTP will manage service-level agreements and help customers make their apps more efficient in the consumption of Amazon's resources.
"It's a big challenge for [customers] to manage the Amazon environment," Treadway said. "The tools and models are different."
Connectria Hosting, a St. Louis-based cloud computing and managed hosting company, also targets managed services. The company in October launched its Managed Amazon Web Services offering, which includes AWS architecture support, 24/7 monitoring and technical support, performance optimization, and security management, among other services.
"We can layer those managed services on top of what AWS is delivering," said Richard Waidmann, president and CEO of Connectria.
AWS, he said, rolls out an array of innovative cloud services, but they can prove extremely complex to manage. He said customers may find it complicated to establish an AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) or set up AWS' elastic capabilities for scaling capacity up or down, for example. Connectria will implement and manage such AWS features, Waidmann said, noting little overlap between his hosting business and AWS.
"They are not in the implementation business, and they are not in the 24/7 operations business either," he said.
ComputerSupport.com, a managed services and cloud provider based in Boston, last month announced a package of cloud services for AWS. Those offerings include migration, 24/7 monitoring and cost optimization, among other services. Kirill Bensonoff, founder of ComputerSupport.com, said the idea is to manage and monitor customers' AWS deployments.
Software products also revolve around the Amazon cloud. Unisys Corp. debuted its Stealth Solution for AWS earlier this year. Stealth encrypts communication traveling between a customer's enterprise users and the cloud, according to Unisys.
Rod Sapp, vice president of products and technology in Unisys' technology, consulting and integration solutions organization, said the technology is geared toward shared-infrastructure cloud environments.
Stealth lets organizations create a virtual machine in the public cloud and deploy a software agent to that virtual machine. With the agent deployed, the virtual machine and its workload become invisible to all other user communities on that public cloud, Sapp said.
Unisys' approach aims to address a reluctance among some enterprises to put sensitive data in the public cloud, Sapp noted.
"AWS has a great offering but there is a perception ... that there is a security risk when you begin to share infrastructure with other companies and you don't know who your neighbor is on that infrastructure," Sapp said.
Benefits of partnering
AWS rolled out its AWS Partner Network (APN) in 2012, cultivating ties with APN Technology Partners and APN Consulting Partners. Technology Partners include ISVs, SaaS providers, PaaS providers and security vendors, among others, while Consulting Partners include VARs, systems integrators and consultants. Channel executives contend that AWS has continued to bolster its partner outreach since the program's debut.
"They've done an excellent job of building out the partner organization," Treadway said. "They dig in and work with us."
Treadway said the Amazon partner network support ranges from certification and training to help in sales situations. He said CTP has been working with a variety of people throughout AWS, noting that Amazon has invested heavily in its enterprise sales organization.
AWS sales assistance extends to getting partners in front of potential buyers. Amazon's Test Drive program, for example, lets customers deploy a test environment equipped with preconfigured ISV applications. The free Test Drives provide a half day of AWS server time for kicking the tires.
Metalogix, an APN Technology Partner, plans to join the Test Drive program. The company this month announced its Total Email Management and Migration suite for AWS. The offering lets customers migrate and archive their email and user data into the AWS VPC environment, according to the company.
Hudson Casson, Metalogix's director of product marketing, said the Test Drive effort helps people become comfortable with the cloud. He said the arrangement gives companies the opportunity to test Metalogix's email archiving product in the AWS environment.
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"If they like what they see, we can go ahead and migrate them into the environment," Casson said.
Unisys is interested in Test Drive as well, Unisys' Sapp said.
AWS, meanwhile, also provides technical support for its channel allies. Sapp noted that Amazon architects vetted Unisys' Stealth technology and its virtual machine-concealing capability.
"They helped us to prove that out," he said.
At Connectria, the company provides the first line of technical support for its AWS managed services customers. But Waidmann said his company can tap into high-level support from Amazon if it needs to escalate a particular customer issue.
Partnering with Amazon also opens a vast supply of potential customers.
Unisys plans to put Stealth in front of those customers on the AWS Marketplace. Sapp said Unisys has been selling Stealth to its clients and through the Unisys sales channel with some help from Amazon. But AWS now encourages Unisys to move to the Marketplace, where its product will gain more exposure.
"That is where you really get that visibility," Sapp said.
Unisys will first have to develop an all-software version of Stealth, Sapp added. Currently, Stealth requires a physical appliance that resides at the customer's data center.
AWS' partner network also represents a potential customer set. Treadway said CTP will market its recently unveiled PaaSLane for AWS product to other Amazon integrators. PaaSLane is a software tool that analyzes an application's source code to suss out issues that could hinder how the app performs in the cloud.
Amazon, for its part, is growing its channel to spur its pursuit of enterprise customers, according to some channel executives. But customers of all sizes are doing cloud business. IDC pegs worldwide spending on public IT cloud services at $47.4 billion in 2013 and forecasts an annual growth rate of 23.5% through 2017.
As more companies entrust more workloads to the public cloud, AWS will need plenty of support to make those migrations happen.
"They are leveraging the partner channel to bring in the next wave of business," Waidmann said.
This was first published in November 2013