Amazon Web Services entered the managed services market at the end of 2016 with the unveiling of AWS Managed Services. Although there were questions about whether the offering would encroach upon Managed Service Providers' traditional SMB turf, today, partners and industry observers say it has not had a significant impact.
Small Managed Service Providers (MSPs) will always have an advantage when it comes to flexibility, customer service and customizable offerings, and that remains unchanged with AWS Managed Services, which is geared toward larger customers, said Charles Weaver, co-founder of the industry group MSPAlliance. Those features often make MSPs more attractive to customers than larger service providers, he added.
Managed cloud services firm Reliam LLC recently became an audited and approved AWS MSP partner. Chief operating officer Keith Archer said AWS Managed Services focuses specifically on global Fortune 100 AWS customers "that need more than simple enterprise support.
"This AWS service really doesn't compete with our ability to provide cost-effective, next-generation managed services," he said. "And AWS isn't trying to compete with those who are managed service partners of AWS."
The role of an audited AWS MSP goes beyond the scope of the AWS Managed Services offering, helping customers take advantage of cloud-native functionality to drive agility and innovation within their business, Archer said.
Jeff Aden, founder and executive vice president of marketing and strategic business development at 2nd Watch Inc., a cloud service provider and AWS-audited MSP, concurred that AWS Managed Services is "really geared toward a certain configuration and setup. It's something for larger partners, like GSIs [global systems integrators], to leverage and provide to their customers."
Aden said AWS Managed Services is not necessarily competition for them because the customers 2nd Watch typically works with want an MSP that can help them migrate and manage workloads and apps in the cloud.
"AWS Managed Services supports 20-plus services, but an enterprise might use hundreds of Amazon products and services, so they need additional help than what Amazon offers," he explained.
Those services might include configuration, app migration, DevOps, continuous integration and continuous delivery, and security.
"A provider like us provides the whole lifecycle of app development, from configuration to migration to management," Aden said.
AWS Managed Services: No negative business impact
There are several perks to being an AWS partner, Archer said, including participation in AWS programs that benefit both customers and partners, training and educational opportunities, partner funding benefits to accelerate growth and development, and the opportunity to develop expertise across competencies and services.
Being an AWS partner, in general, is beneficial because of the panache of the name, Aden said.
"They're a great brand and the gold standard in cloud computing," he added.
Aden's company has been an AWS Premier partner for several years, and he called AWS a "cutting-edge, innovative technology company. They provide a lot of great products for us to create solutions on top of."
While Reliam has integrated almost all of AWS' offerings into its cloud portfolio, the firm hasn't yet worked with a customer that requires specific AWS Managed Services offerings, Archer said.
"The customers we engage with on a day-to-day basis find significant value in the next-generation managed services that Reliam provides," he said.
Currently, 2nd Watch doesn't leverage AWS Managed Services.
"We provide those 20-plus services in addition to all their other products and services, so we haven't integrated them into our cloud portfolio," Aden said. However, 2nd Watch does use AWS Systems Manager to gain operational insight and take action on AWS resources. AWS Systems Manager "could be perceived as a competing product to AWS Managed Services," he added.
As a result, both Archer and Aden said AWS Managed Services has not negatively impacted their businesses.
"We strongly feel that the [AWS] service complements our overall view of being a customer-driven organization," Archer noted. "If we can provide services -- our own or AWS [services] that present a positive result for our customers -- then it is good business."
AWS MSP partners on strong footing
Customers need partners with deep expertise, Aden said.
"There's so much complexity -- especially with increasing competition from cloud service providers -- that customers need partners to walk them through this journey, whether it's being able to pick up the phone to call us at night or be on site or update automation scripts or build templates."
The only potential drawback of AWS Managed Services that Archer sees is that, because it was developed to meet the needs of Fortune 100 enterprises that require stringent service-level agreements, "this level of infrastructure management is not necessarily intended for smaller business.''
Jeff Adenexecutive vice president of marketing and strategic business development, 2nd Watch
MSPs that provide a personalized level of customer support will always win out against large providers, Weaver said, and that's helping MSPs stay relevant.
"Customers tend to like MSPs that can provide customer service," he said. "Larger providers tend not to deliver customer service in this way due to their inflexible nature. Historically, agile MSPs who understand this will win deals."