Partners: Amazon Web Services Faces Tough Challenge With 'Sentinel' Automated Cloud Offering

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Amazon Web Services partners are wary of the cloud giant's top secret effort to build a self-service managed services platform for enterprises, but several told CRN on Thursday that they believe the project will be tough to pull off.

As CRN first reported Tuesday, AWS is developing a new cloud managed services offering -- code-named Sentinel -- which will let large enterprise customers manage and monitor their public cloud workloads independently. It's seen as a potential threat to MSP partners that currently handle these kinds of customers.

While AWS partners generally understand the cloud giant's motivation for developing Sentinel, some doubt whether MSP automation can work in an enterprise market where organizations have a wide range of different workloads and apps.

[Channel Beat: Verizon Strike, AWS Partners On Sentinel]

"There is definitely a push to create a car that drives itself, and fixes itself," one AWS partner said in describing Sentinel. "But most enterprises don't want a car that is automated -- they need customization."

AWS appears to be recruiting staff to run and support the Sentinel product. Listings posted on job sites in December and January referred to an "AWS Sentinel support product offering" and a "Sentinel operations team," according to cached versions of those pages in Google search results. Those listings have since been edited to read "AWS Services" instead of "Sentinel."

Amazon Job Posting
An Amazon listing posted on in January referred to a "Sentinel operations team" and a "Sentinel support product offering."

AWS is said to be planning to sell Sentinel through a small number of MSP partners around the world, which it has invited to take part in a beta of the product. But sources have also told CRN that AWS intends to sell Sentinel directly to enterprise customers.

AWS spokespeople have so far declined to comment on Sentinel, but a spokeswoman said Tuesday that "we always build services with our partner ecosystem in mind, enabling our partners to leverage and extend whatever we build to create unique value-added solutions for customers."

One source close to AWS said its executives have made no secret of their desire to become an end-to-end managed service provider, because of what they consider to be an unacceptable shortage of skilled partners to serve the enterprise market.

"AWS believes that their MSPs aren't mature enough to handle large customers, so they only really want to work with a few at the top end," said the source, who didn't want to be named because Sentinel is confidential.

Yet several sources acknowledged that many of AWS' current MSPs aren't adding enough value to customers -- in many cases because they haven't adapted to the cloud model and developed skills in areas like orchestration and DevOps, the term for operations teams and software developers working closely to speed cloud software deployment and updates.

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