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Not For The Faint Of Heart: Relus Technologies' CEO Mark Metz Says Success With AWS Means You Have To Earn Customers' Business Every Day

Three decades of channel experience and an eye for disruptive technologies gave Metz the foresight to spin out a new company, Relus Cloud, which focuses solely on AWS and the value of consulting.

Before founding Relus Technologies’ in 2013, Mark Metz helmed three successful solution providers that each grew to surpass $100 million in sales. All of them eventually were acquired.

With three decades of experience in the IT and channel world, Metz has the foresight and expertise to skate where the puck is going. He founded Relus Technologies’ with the idea of selling disruptive technologies. He quickly saw that Amazon Web Services was the answer and created a spin-out company, Relus Cloud, to focus solely on AWS.

"At first, AWS was just another product that our salespeople were selling, but it took on a life of its own," said Metz in an interview with CRN. "The public cloud is a very different business than the traditional VAR business where you're selling solutions and servers that compete against other solutions and servers, and you register deals, and hope to get a footprint. None of those concepts exist within the AWS environment. Your value is really around consulting."

[Related: Cisco Channel Superstar Aqueduct Technologies On Two Biggest Customer Buying Trends: SD-WAN, Hyper-Converged Backup]

Since launching Relus Cloud in early 2015, the company's AWS sales have increased more than 100 percent year over year, with similar bullish sales growth expected in 2018. Relus Technologies’ was a CRN 2017 Triple Crown winner and named one of CRN's Fast Growth 150 solution providers.

Being an AWS Premier Consulting Partner is a different channel world compared with partnering with traditional vendors, Metz said. "We can't rely on deal registrations or locked-in technologies that we know we're going to get renewals on. That makes it challenging," he said. "In a lot of ways, it's the best partnership we've ever had. However, it's also the most unique one."

To be a successful AWS partner, consulting must be top of mind, Metz said. To win business, solution providers need to take a deep dive with their customers on what the return on investment will be by moving to AWS, discuss any potential security issues, create a disaster recovery strategy, and teach them about how public cloud will drive organizational changes.

Peachtree Corners, Ga.-based Relus Cloud generates revenue from up-front consulting, making applications cloud-native or cloud-ready, and migrating apps to AWS.

One big difference between being a AWS partner compared with partnering with traditional IT vendors is you can't rely on refreshes, Metz said. When he was leading Canvas Systems, Corus360 and Optimus Solutions, his companies would earn business doing refreshes. "This is totally a different deal where you're really selling them on the flexibility and scalability of the cloud. You've got to earn their business every day. There is no refresh," he said.

Metz stressed that solution providers need to constantly earn their customers' business in public cloud. When he was CEO of Optimus Solutions from 1998 to 2007, which was one of IBM's biggest resellers in the Southeast, Metz said it was fairly easy to win business each year if you had a footprint and registered the deal.

"As long as you hadn't really messed up or made the customer mad, there was a really good chance you were going to earn that business the following year," said Metz. "It's an advantage to the customer for moving to the cloud that we literally have to earn their business every day."

AWS has helped Relus Cloud on its journey by offering training, cloud sales enablement and providing partner managers that help the solution provider navigate around everything within AWS. The Seattle-based public cloud behemoth also helps Relus organize events to drive interest while being on-site to co-present.

AWS also introduced a channel program, the AWS Solution Provider Program, last week that delivers greater financial incentives to all categories of resellers for investing in their AWS practices.

Metz said transforming into a successful public cloud channel partner isn't for the "faint of heart."

"I mean that with all sincerity," he said. "Let's say you’re a Cisco partner and wanted to add Juniper Networks to your line card – that's pretty simple to do. You say, 'We’re going start selling Juniper. We're going to try find opportunities.' This is totally different," he said.

"You better be ready to put on your swimsuit and jump in with both feet. If you're not ready to do that, maybe it's a better idea to ride out the infrastructure tail end. Nobody thinks [infrastructure] will completely go away, but this is a different ballgame that requires significant investment and fortitude to go after."

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