Strange Bedfellows: AWS And Rackspace Tie The Knot At Re:Invent

Rackspace and Amazon Web Services tied the knot Tuesday on the first day of the AWS re:Invent conference, consummating a relationship that was one of the worst-kept secrets in the cloud industry.

The San Antonio, Texas-based hosting company, once considered a serious threat to Amazon's public cloud business, is now an AWS Managed Service Provider.

The partnership enables AWS customers to hire Rackspace to provide its distinct customer support platform -- branded as Fanatical Support -- to managing workloads running on Amazon's infrastructure.

[Related: AWS, Rackspace Deal Is Imminent]

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Terry Wise, AWS' channel chief, told CRN that Amazon approached a partnership with its rival cautiously, but ultimately recognized the opportunities it represented and Rackspace's commitment to its success.

"It brings a company with scale and a lot of experience around managed services and cloud services to a broader set of customers," Wise told CRN.

The partnership comes less than three months after Rackspace entered a similar arrangement with Amazon's closest challenger, Microsoft Azure, at Microsoft's partner conference. At that time, CRN reported that the AWS deal was in the works.

The AWS partnership germinated earlier this year, Wise said, when Rackspace struck up a discussion with its longtime rival.

"When they originally approached us, we were certainly curious and intrigued," Wise told CRN. "We were optimistic but also skeptical based on natural past history."

But Rackspace delivered on its commitments to building out an AWS practice, Wise said.

"The investments they've made in service and delivery are up there with many of our top partners," Amazon's channel chief told CRN. "They were willing to look at how to evolve their managed services offering to fit AWS."

And the partnership can satisfy tremendous demand among Amazon customers for a differentiated level of customer service. As enterprises scale their cloud usage, they increasingly need deep expertise in managing those resources, which Rackspace has in droves.

The talent, tools and techniques Rackspace has cultivated for assisting businesses will enable large customers to further scale their cloud usage, Wise said.

Tom Bressie, director of product and solution marketing at Rackspace, told CRN the demand for a union came from customers on both sides of the fence, with Rackspace users wanting access to Amazon's cloud while maintaining Fanatical Support, and AWS users looking for that next level of service.

Those customers wanted to see Rackspace address four major areas of cloud adoption: migration, architecture, security and operations, Bressie said.

"They're looking for a managed service provider to come in with a point of view as to how things should be properly done," Bressie said.

What Rackspace brings to the world's biggest cloud provider, just like it did to Microsoft Azure, goes beyond "applying human muscle," Bressie told CRN.

Rackspace has extended its knowledge of best practices for servicing operational workloads at scale into developing tooling and automation technologies, complementing the expertise of its workforce, he said.

Amazon's channel chief told CRN Rackspace deserves to be commended for its methodology for training and enabling support staff. Wise also noted a recently debuted offering from Rackspace that demonstrates the greater potential of the partnership: new Managed Security and Compliance units.

"I think we'll see some more solutions coming out of the Rackspace partnership. They serve the midmarket extremely well," Wise told CRN.