A Cloud Services Culture War: Dimension Data Vs. AWS


If you were pulling together a business plan to make Amazon Web Services irrelevant to corporate customers, it would be hard to beat Dimension Data's deadly combination of robust end-to-end cloud services combined with multivendor integration skills from a 21,000-strong tech-elite workforce.

The $6 billion CRN Solution Provider 500 global systems integrator, which is looking to double its revenue over the next five years, is doing what every solution provider on the planet should be doing: making big investments to build out its own branded cloud services anchored by its own multivendor systems integration portfolio.

So how fast is the Cisco enterprise partner moving to provide monthly subscription-based offerings within its traditional systems integration legacy business? The South African company on May 7 unveiled a tiered storage services that compares favorably to Amazon Web Services and then, just three days later, acquired managed security services provider Earthwave.

[Related: Dimension Data Joins Amazon, Rackspace With Three-Tiered Cloud Storage]

Both moves are game-changers for the company, which is adding 3,000 new employees a year as it moves to deliver a next-generation consulting/IT outsourcing/managed services portfolio. Think of Dimension Data as the ultimate business solution provider delivering a blend of off -premise, on-premise infrastructure and applications aimed at providing customers maximum performance and competitive advantage.

One big advantage as Dimension Data expands its cloud computing services footprint is the financial muscle of its parent company, Japanese telecommunications giant NTT. To its credit, NTT realized that the company's services culture was what set it apart and has built up, not torn down that culture. NTT has, in fact, provided financial firepower to dramatically increase Dimension Data's services footprint.

Amazon Web Services fancies itself as the "buy-infrastructure-on-your-credit-card" company for the "do-it-yourself" generation. Dimension Data, on the other hand, can provide self-provisioning, but it's a "get-it-done-for-the-customer" company.

The technology products, solutions and services have changed, but Dimension Data's people are what sets the company apart. Case in point: When Hurricane Sandy struck New York last October, Dimension Data was called in to restore voice service for a government agency. Dimension Data rushed into action, providing a critical "link up" that restored service in just two hours. It also was Dimension Data that kept the call centers for the New York Housing Authority up and running with additional capacity when Hurricane Sandy began racing up the coast. The team on that engagement worked 36 hours straight to get the job done.

"You have to have people that are prepared to go the extra mile," said Dimension Data CEO Brett Dawson. "It's not about just technology. It's about people."

It's about people. That's something that Amazon Web Services just does not get as it moves to grow beyond its infrastructure-for-startups heritage. That makes Dimension Data its worst nightmare come true.

BackTalk: Steve Burke writes a monthly opinion column on CRN.com. You can reach him via email at steve.burke@ubm.com.