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Providers weigh in on value of AWS Consulting Partner status

Cloud solution providers that have made a commitment to AWS say it was an easy choice, though one expert cautions that Amazon's channel is immature.

As solution providers in the IT channel make their foray into cloud computing, they have a choice to make: Which public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider do they partner with? For those that are "born in the cloud" or have a significant portion of their go-to-market strategy staked on the cloud, the choice is obvious: Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"[Amazon is] a leader in this market. Our entire focus as a company is cloud computing, and naturally we want to spend time with the leaders. The No. 1 leader in the cloud space is Amazon Web Services, so that was a straightforward decision and didn't require a lot of thought in terms of where we were going to invest," said John Treadway, senior vice president of Boston-based Cloud Technology Partners Inc., a service and software provider specializing in enterprise cloud implementations. Cloud Technology Partners is an Advanced AWS Consulting Partner.

The AWS Partner Network (APN) encompasses Consulting Partners and Technology Partners. Consulting Partners include VARs, systems integrators and consultants, while Technology Partners include ISVs, software as a service (SaaS) providers, platform as a service (PaaS) providers and security vendors, among others.

Joel Davne, CEO of Cloudnexa, a Philadelphia-based cloud management solutions provider and Premier AWS Consulting Partner, agreed. "When you think of cloud computing, you think of Amazon first. It would be very difficult to find a commercial public cloud-computing partner that offers such a high degree of innovation at a price point that can't be matched, especially when you consider the amount of innovation they release on a regular basis. AWS is the right cloud choice."

Amazon is trying to build a channel, but they have a long way to go. They [have] a tiny, tiny fraction of the maturity and breadth of Microsoft channel-wise.
Terry HeddenCEO, Cloud Guru

Analyst firm Gartner Inc. named Amazon Web Services the No. 1 leader in its May 2014 Magic Quadrant for Infrastructure as a Service. According to the report, "[AWS] is a thought leader; it is extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile, and very responsive to the market. It has the richest array of IaaS features and PaaS-like capabilities, and continues to rapidly expand its service offerings."

It is hard to argue with such high praise, but according to Terry Hedden, CEO of Cloud Guru, an advisory services firm based out of St. Petersburg, Florida, this leadership comes at a cost for IT solution providers. "Amazon is trying to build a channel, but they have a long way to go. They [have] a tiny, tiny fraction of the maturity and breadth of Microsoft channel-wise. But they have price on their side, objective analysts like Gartner on their side, and they have a lot of money to throw at this."

Still, not everyone sees it this way. "We do work with Microsoft, so I don't want to say we don't work with [Microsoft]," Treadway said. "We haven't invested as much with them and some of that has to do with where we see our customers. We frequently see a lot of interest in AWS, and not so much in other cloud platforms. The second part is really the willingness of these cloud partners to invest in a relationship with us. … We get the right level of support and commitment from AWS, and that makes a huge difference."

Treadway added that Cloud Technology Partners does more work with Amazon because Amazon brings Cloud Technology Partners more work. "We're large enough to support multiple relationships, but we don't have unlimited resources," he said.

That said, the AWS Consulting Partners we spoke to are careful to keep their eye on other IaaS providers to ensure that they continue to provide customers the best service available. "We do look at the other clouds out there as we get customer inquiries. Everybody wants to exercise their skills, so the tech team is constantly looking at options both from a possible consumption and a competitive analysis point of view. But at this point, based on the data we've seen, AWS is still our No. 1 choice," Davne said.

Treadway said Cloud Technology Partners is also careful to avoid limiting its market by being a specialty provider focused on one vendor. "This is a very large market, and it's an early market. Our focus is on having relationships with [cloud providers] we expect to be leaders and up and coming and that we can grow with. There's more than one of those, and not every provider is going to meet the needs of every client," he said.

In establishing and building an AWS practice, both Treadway and Davne stressed the importance of certifications and training. "I have taken several courses and every staff member that comes in is expected to do so as well, from admins to senior management. It's important as a company to embrace the culture because you never know when you'll have a customer interaction and when you'll be asked AWS-specific questions," Davne said.

Treadway agreed: "If you don't have people who are competently skilled at leveraging the portfolio, leveraging the technology and deploying that technology on the cloud, it's hard to deliver those services. There's a lot of specialized knowledge that's required to do that well."

That training must be continually updated. "It's a perpetual training cycle to prepare yourself to maintain competency on the platform. And probably for Amazon it's especially important given the level of innovation they drive. What you learned last week constantly needs to be refreshed," Davne said.

Crystal Bedell is a freelance writer specializing in B2B technology.

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