New Kid On The Block: Onica Out To Dominate AWS Consulting Space With IoT, App Development Additions


Onica might be a new name in the world of public cloud integrators, but the Santa Monica, Calif.-based solution provider is quickly becoming a heavyweight in Amazon Web Services consulting.

A $20 million growth investment made by private equity firm Sunstone Partners spurred longtime IT services firm CorpInfo – No. 350 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500 – to spin off its AWS consulting and managed services division as a stand-alone company in late October. By that point, Onica CEO Stephen Garden said the business was already accounting for the "lion's share" of revenue at CorpInfo.

Fast forward about two months and Onica has taken another major step on its fast-growth journey with the acquisitions of Sturdy Networks and NetBrains, two fellow AWS consultancies that effectively operate as one company within a family structure. The deal combines two AWS Premier Partners to form a powerhouse that now holds more than 250 certifications and nine competencies from the public cloud giant.

[Related: Sturdy Networks On CRN's 2017 IoT Innovators Awards]

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"We've seen other Premier partners merge, but they haven't been all-in AWS partners," Tolga Tarhan, Sturdy founder and now Onica CTO, told CRN. "We think this is a really big deal, and we think we'll be one of the strongest partners in the country."

Before acquiring Sturdy and NetBrains, Onica largely focused on AWS migration and data engineering, many of them large-scale moves for enterprise customers. But the solution provider's base of 200-plus active clients also includes public sector institutions like universities and Bay Area tech startups concentrated around Silicon Beach.

Startup clients naturally tend to adopt higher-level AWS services and features, such as Lambda and Kinesis, which often allows Onica to test those launches in practice, Garden told CRN.

"We'll be getting familiar with AWS beta products with private customers and getting an early look at these things, which makes us attractive to larger enterprises who are slightly slower to embrace and take a more mature path to rolling out changes, given their scale," Garden said.

Now that many Onica customers have completed their AWS migrations, Garden said they're looking for "what's next" with regard to legacy application configurations, cloud-native app development and IoT integration.

That cloud services demand in turn fueled the acquisitions, which add NetBrains' cloud-native app development skills and Sturdy's IoT and migration support expertise to the Onica profile. Garden said his company grew to respect their "forward-thinking" technical skills and praised Tarhan for his well-regarded reputation in the industry.

"Bringing the three companies together would really help us get further scale and a broader skill set," he said.

As other cloud consultancies seek to add cross-platform capabilities to their teams, embracing Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure along with AWS, Garden is more than content to keep Onica laser-focused on Amazon as a top consulting partner. He called the expertise an important differentiator among integrators, as the rapid pace of technology evolution makes it increasingly difficult to maintain mastery around multiple platforms.

While Onica, NetBrains and Sturdy all do similar work, Tarhan said Onica was playing in a different market segment and lacked the app development and IoT capabilities that Sturdy and NetBrains hold. Sturdy’s software and hardware development prowess also made them a natural fit, giving Onica the capability to deliver infrastructure, cloud application and data engineering solutions.

Moving forward, one of Tarhan's top priorities will be integrating the technical power of all three companies to create a cohesive set of technical skills and offerings. He pointed to the large number of artificial intelligence-related AWS announcements made at re:Invent as an area worth exploring around app development.

The AI push, Garden said, has "huge implications" for end customers that deal with high volumes of customer interaction and services. As Onica pursues more strategic initiatives in 2018, including personnel training and investment, its team is excited to continue chasing a deeper understanding of AI and leverage Amazon's internal machine learning team via the Machine Learning Solutions Lab.

"[Our goal is to] go beyond being their more traditional application hosting provider, which is not what the cloud is about but how a lot of people leverage cloud today," Garden said. "Get out of the capex world and run their own data centers and embrace the cloud as a landing point. AI and [machine learning] provide a road map for how partners will work with AWS over the coming years."