Amazon Security Boss: Why AWS Partners Are The ‘Backbone’

Jenny Brinkley, director of Amazon Security, talks to CRN about how channel partners are the ‘backbone’ of AWS and why the AWS Marketplace is ‘the future.’

AWS Partners ‘Are The Backbone Of How We Function And How We Operate’

When the COVID-19 pandemic initially hit and businesses across the globe quickly began transitioning to the cloud for their new remote workforces, AWS partners played a critical role in the cloud giant’s success.

“When the pandemic first started and then we started seeing the uptick of customer inquiries related to this digital transformation they wanted to take, and how do you build teams to be able to help scale and educate them as they make these lifts and shifts—it really did come down to our partners, because we couldn’t move that fast,” Jenny Brinkley, director of Amazon Security, told CRN.

With channel partners’ deep knowledge of AWS customers and their challenges, the Seattle-based cloud market leader was able to win more customers mindshare and help take AWS to the next level.

[Related: AWS re:Inforce Keynote: 7 Big Security, Ukraine, Ransomware Remarks]

“Partners are really going to be that lifeblood component that’s going to help not only drive some of the new services that get created, but then also help customers feel confident as they’re building on cloud—especially if they’ve been in an on-premise environment,” said Brinkley.

Brinkley spoke to CRN this week at the AWS re:Inforce security conference in Boston, where the company’s security leaders unleashed new cybersecurity products and enhanced partner programs.

AWS security leader also talked about the huge and growing importance of the AWS Marketplace.

“I’m pumped about the Marketplace. That’s the future,” said Brinkley.

“For partners that might see any concern with that, I think the pandemic did nothing but demonstrate: we have to be able to move faster, we have to be able to remove any type of friction on being able to build as fast as what the business is going to demand and what it’s going to need,” she said.

In an interview with CRN, Brinkley talks about why partners are the “backbone” of AWS, why the AWS Marketplace is the future and how AWS is stepping up to the plate to help Ukraine during Russia’s invasion.

AWS CEO Adam Selipsky

AWS CEO Adam Selipsky

How important are partners to AWS’ future in regards to MSPs, resellers and system integrators who have placed their cloud bet on Amazon?

[Amazon CEO] Andy Jassy and [AWS CEO] Adam Selipsky talk about this a lot: we’re just at the beginning days in cloud.

So we don’t know what we don’t know in terms of the breadth and the depth and the scope. Partners are really going to be that lifeblood component that’s going to help not only drive some of the new services that get created, but then also help customers feel confident as they’re building on cloud, especially if they’ve been in an on-premise environment.

What I appreciate about companies like Accenture is they can go in, roll up their sleeves, work with the customer to understand where the gaps are, and what they need to be able to scale and build effectively in cloud.

Then come back to us and give us that feedback of, ‘Hey, we ran this assessment. Here’s where we believe the gaps are. Here’s where we believe we can partner effectively to go and build,’ either something that’s new for a customer, or give them the education of what is missing.

We rely heavily on people like Accenture and Capgemini to be able to do those things for us.

How much is AWS relying on channel partners today?

We rely on that group to give us feedback because they’re out there being able to have a very different conversation than I can go and have with a customer being that I’ve worked inside of AWS.

They can talk about so many different types of needs and resourcing and pick up different trends in the market based on just the business that they’re in.

I mean, they’re there to give feedback, guidance and education to the customer, and partner and engage with AWS to tell us what they’re hearing?

That’s the stuff that I want to know. Like, what are the customers sharing with you that maybe I’m not seeing. Or what do you think their biggest business challenges are? Or what kind of resources should we be providing that we don’t have today?

So that’s where I would really challenge back to that group to give us that guidance and feedback.

How important is the AWS Marketplace to your future?

I am pumped about Marketplace. That’s the future.

The value and the interest by having Marketplace is about the choice and speed to be able to try.

If you think about reducing the amount of time it is to go through an assessment, go through service terms—the fact that you would have a centralized environment where you can try things quickly, without having to take a large investment right out of the gate—that speed blows my mind. Also, the amount of choice that’s available.

For partners that might see any concern with that, I think the pandemic did nothing but demonstrate: we have to be able to move faster, we have to be able to remove any type of friction on being able to build as fast as what businesses are demanding and what they’re going to need.

Talk about the new AWS Marketplace Vendor Insight tool and why partners should be pumped?

One of the core components of what I really appreciate about Marketplace is it gives all of that choice, it gives that visibility, and the new Vendor Insight piece is bananas.

Because think about it this way, now you’re not having to spend the time to do all that research. You have something that is there and the research has been done for you to really give you ultimate ownership on how you’re building, creating, shipping and deploying with confidence. That’s the fundamentals of what we want inside of AWS. We want our customers to feel and know they have choice, they have selection, but confidence and how they’re building and growing their environment.

The complexity of when we think about compliance frameworks, and how we want to remove that pain for a customer and give them that tool and give them that visibility— that’s what we’re really trying to accomplish. Also make it not so complex.

I don’t want to dismiss it and make it sound like it’s not complex, because it really is.

The teams that work to solve for some of these challenges, even like on AWS services like Audit Manager or Control Tower to give you some visibility into your compliance framework, we really want to provide a lot of that tooling.

But that comes back down to the partners and working with people like Capgemini and Accenture, because that’s a huge area of growth in how you’re going to navigate as they build those regulated workloads.

AWS on stage at re:Inforce explained how on day one of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, you began working to help Ukraine. Can you talk about that?

Normally, we don’t talk about these things.

The reason why we wanted to do it is that people need to know that, collectively: we want to work with the community; we want to work with partners; we want to work with others in the cloud computing space to share information to make the cloud safer.

So we don’t necessarily talk about these things, because you want security kind of humming in the background.

You don’t want to hear security because it’s working.

But I think there’s some moments that people need to understand how there’s some really good stuff going on and we’ve got to probably start telling those stories more effectively.

It was really cool to be a part of it. We have people across the business that care.

I think that the past couple of years have just also drawn out this element, hopefully in each of us that, we’re kind of in it together. And how are we going to do this and how are we going to help each other and how are we going to make things better.

AWS unveiled security partner program enhancements at re:Inforce around specializations, certifications and competencies. Talk about better enabling AWS partners for today’s market?

We get feedback from them of what they feel that they need to establish a footing.

With our Security Competency program, I’m excited to see the evolution because we hadn’t updated that program for a while. That group is really there to help extend the use cases of AWS as you’re building on cloud. Also help give advice and guidance.

What I appreciate about partners is so much of it is a two-way dialogue.

They’ll definitely give us feedback on gaps that we have within our services or what should be built, but then also how they’re working with customers.

One of our customers was talking about this concept of co-development and how we can really rely on our partners in that competency program to give feedback and guidance on different ideas and concepts.

It could be something little to something major on how you would think about digital transformation, or how to experiment as you’re building different concepts when leveraging the AWS infrastructure.

So I really look to a lot of that partner group to give some of those market signals, but then also challenge us and how we can more effectively partner to ship services that matter—whether it’s our services, or its partners building on AWS to go solve those needs for customers.

The partners are what gives me a lot of not only hope, but perspective about what should we be doing more effectively. And what are our customers really asking for, and then how can we show up and build something that makes sense for their end needs.

What’s your message to AWS channel partners?

Obviously, they are the backbone of how we function and how we operate.

When I think about from a security lens, I’m so excited to see the startup community on how they’re thinking about the next big security challenges, and getting into areas around building new technologies and resources that we haven’t even thought about today.

And being able to leverage a lot of the AWS infrastructure to build those services.

The concepts that they’re working on right now is really exciting. Also making it really user-friendly, beautiful user interfaces.

If you look from a different verticalization or specialization or need, we really rely on that partner ecosystem to be able to create that lift and shift. And also give customers additional resources and tooling, and things that are more specialized, that maybe within the AWS toolkit don’t exist.

A lot of it that’s done with intent because that partner ecosystem will help extend how they can operate, what they can do, and how they can consider as they’re moving into cloud.

It’s just the beginning. You have a lot of different resources and people that want to help, do the right thing, and want to partner more effectively together.