AWS re:Invent Kicks Off With Amazon Pledging Greater Support For Partners

Amazon Web Services kicked off its 2014 AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday with a keynote to the company's partners informing them that 2015 will bring twice the spending on its partner ecosystem, ramped up business support for partners and a number of new technological training opportunities.

Terri Wise, AWS global partners and alliances chief, told the Amazon Partner Network (APN) -- ISVs and solution providers -- that AWS will double its investments in its partner ecosystem in 2015. The bulk of that additional funding will be in the form of go-to-market programs that offer potential customers free usage to "test drive" their workloads on Amazon's infrastructure, as well as in subsidizing professional services efforts focused on customer engagement.

APN members also heard that Amazon plans on expanding partner programs in 2015 with new certifications, specialized competencies and global growth.

[Related: AWS Adds New Certification For DevOps Pros]

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Wise told CRN after the keynote that Amazon is "evolving our programs," both in requirements and in support, especially for higher-tier partners.

"We're putting much more of an emphasis on certifications. No surprise, customers want partners to show up with deep skills," Wise told CRN.

SVP Andy Jassy, in the keynote, told partners, "this is the biggest technology shift in our lifetimes, what's going on with the cloud."

Jassy, who more than eight years ago wrote the AWS business plan, and in a sense crafted the blueprint for the public cloud market, thanked attendees of the APN keynote for "how strategic to our business and our customers our partner ecosystem is."

"We always envisioned having a vibrant, large ecosystem of system integrators and technology partners was going to be critical to our business" because Amazon knew customers would need help in planning and executing their moves to the cloud, Jassy said.

He recounted 14 leadership principles that guide the AWS business, one of which is to think broadly and strategically "and look around corners and see the way in which things are headed."

APN has grown 75 percent in the last year. Growth goals for the current year are focused on partner competency, commitment and innovation with the platform, and not just on increased numbers, Wise said.

"The channel is becoming super important in this space. I really want to make sure it's the value-added channel," Wise told CRN.

Solution providers can't count on subsisting on revenues from margins, which are dropping continually along with prices, and must deliver new capabilities on top of the platform.

NEXT: An Evolving Partner Program

The channel reseller program updates planned for 2015 include billing enhancements, lead-generation programs, web promotions and more resources for partners in the APN portal, Wise said. Amazon plans on better enabling system integrators to accelerate training and certification and will help its channel partners build their businesses faster by offering credits to those who are taking on unique customer engagements.

Amazon will add seven new competencies: security, cloud migration, financial services, digital marketing, health care, mobile and Internet of Things. The cloud provider will direct specific business customers to solution providers who earn those competencies.

Amazon also in the next year will add a full-fledged certification program for managed services providers, replacing what is currently just a competency.

"We don't have enough partners in the ecosystem that really understand and can deliver managed services," Wise said, adding that partner MSPs need to offer customers orchestration, migration and automation skills, as well as DevOps competency.

"We're turning this into a full-blown managed services partner program," Wise said.

Amazon will train and enable MSPs who obtain the certification, help them with SLAs and with DevOps best practices, management and monitoring skills, and best practices with security. The partners meeting the new requirements will also be rewarded with recognition from Amazon and several market benefits, including referrals to the AWS field sales organization to help them win business.

Aater Suleman, CEO of Flux7, a solution provider based in Austin, Texas that focuses on helping customers build AWS architecture they can internally support, told CRN the day's partner announcements reinforce his company's strategy.

As an architecture consultant, Flux7 is selling "Amazon the way it was meant to be used" Suleman told CRN.

"Automation is the name of the game with us" and Amazon is starting to push that type of approach more with a focus on DevOps, Suleman said. He cited the recently announced AWS DevOps Professional certification as an example.

"We are definitely glad to see that because we have been doing DevOps with Amazon for the last three years and have had tremendous success doing that," he said.

Suleman was also happy to hear about the test-drive program, which will help transition customers more smoothly into the marketplace by allowing them to see what it would be like to run an application with Amazon.

"That we envision as a big part of our strategy going forward," Suleman said.

He was also pleased to hear Amazon share the criteria for becoming a Premier Tier partner, which provides companies like Flux7 a chance to measure their competencies and plan how they can achieve that status.

"You always wonder when is the right time to ask about being a premier partner," he said.

Finally, Suleman said "it's about time" Amazon introduced new competencies, such as health care, where customer demand is spiking.

As it makes new commitments to its partners, Amazon execs said they also want those partners, both on the technology and on the channel side, to be fully committed to their infrastructure -- preferably going all-in, striving for training and certification goals and working with AWS proactively in the field.

Wise said the coming changes to the partner programs are the result of years of experience supporting a channel and learning what it takes to help partners succeed.

"We've built up enough intellectual property from all of our engagements so now we can bundle this all together," he said.

Jassy read off the names of all partners in the AWS Premium Consulting Tier as examples of companies leveraging the Amazon cloud and driving revenue by moving up the stack to offer infrastructure managed services, application managed services and other services.

"We are at the dawn of the biggest technology shift in our lifetimes," Jassy told attendees.

The next eight-and-a-half years "will be at least as exciting and momentous in that space" as the last eight, "and you will be a very large part in making that happen," he told the company's partners.