Partners Voice Differing Opinions on AWS Support

Some partners of Amazon Web Services (AWS) claim that the Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider has a long way to go in bringing effective channel support to the table.

"Getting attention from them is a major headache," said one partner, who asked not to be identified. "If you need help from an SE, you're probably going to have to wait a very long time. Maybe it's because of all the people who are jumping on the bandwagon. It could be a matter of growing pains."

Other partners acknowledged the issue, but added that Amazon is forging its own path in a cloud-based channel strategy.

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"I'm not surprised you are hearing that," said Ed Laczynski, senior vice president of cloud strategy at Datapipe, a Jersey City, N.J.-based managed service provider that has been working with AWS since the early days of the program. "We feel like we know this stuff really well, and we rarely need support. But the few times that we didn't need support, it was sometimes hard to get the right people on the phone because they are stretched very thinly in that area."

"They're a unique company with a unique market position and a unique approach," continued Laczynski. "They are not necessarily following the book of prior successful, channel-based organizations. They are doing it their own way."

Laczynski stressed that he is pleased with his overall level of support from AWS, which has been attempting to upgrade its channel offerings over the course of time. AWS executives say that the need for a solid channel ecosystem has always been clear to them, and that they have been working diligently to improve the support offerings wherever possible.

"We've evolved pretty significantly over the last couple of years," said Terry Wise, general manager, global partner ecosystem and channels at AWS. "We've invested in technical training for registered partners who can log in to our partner portal to gain access. We've also invested significantly in our field teams to further assist the partners."

Wise declined to disclose the number of people who deliver this assistance except to say that a "significant portion of his field team" is available for these types of functions. Wise also explained that additional support is available to advanced partners who have access to a named partner development manager. Partners can also use a web interface to submit engagement information and questions that Wise says will be answered within 24 hours.

"The emphasis always is on responding to partners who are bringing a qualified opportunity," said Wise. "The more information they can provide, the more likely they are to get a quick response."

But such responsiveness seems to be tightly linked to partner status within the AWS program, as well as their willingness to share engagement information.

NEXT: Some Prices Are Still 'Very High'

"We get very little support from [Amazon]," said Bob Koche, vice president of business development at SeeVogh, a Silicon Valley, Calif.-based company that specializes in cloud-based video conferencing. "It took a lot just to get access to a sales engineer. If you invest the time, you pretty much don't need that much support anyway, but you definitely want to know that people can be made available when you need them. It is a little nerveracking when you can't get a sales engineer to take a call to ask a technical question while you're trying to implement something. Presales technical support is virtually nonexistent. If it's not on the website, you're on your own. I don't think they really understand the channel, in general."

Although Koche says that his company has been working with Amazon for three years, Amazon claims that SeeVogh does not appear on its list of registered partners. Koche also believes that he's paying very high packet transfer rates for data that crosses the demarcation points of multiple ISPs.

"They're not even close to competitive in that situation," he said. "Inter-ISP transfer fees are typically one penny per gigabyte, and they are charging the channel 12 cents per gigabyte. They've cut every other cost parameter, but that one still remains very high."

Responded Wise: "He's probably quoting our list price, but there is special pricing available to registered partners with discounts of up to 83 percent for data transfer pricing. We have a number of mechanisms that will help partners bring their overall price down on a variety of things. We also have a trusted adviser program that looks at customer spend, and makes proactive recommendations on how to optimize their dollars."

Meanwhile, Garret Carlson, director of strategic alliances at Seattle-based Slalom Consulting, says that he's been seeing a lot of improvement on how AWS works with the channel.

"They've made unbelievable strides in a short amount of time," said Carlson. "They're doing a great job of combining program structure with the business aspects necessary to get the job done. They're connecting their account teams with our account teams and aligning the two groups to create solid solutions."