AWS Expands Think Big, ATO, AI/ML Rapid Adoption Programs

The increased offerings come as the AWS Public Sector Partner Program is swelling from a 45 percent increase in membership, which now exceeds 1,600 partners.


Amazon Web Services is ramping up offerings for its public sector partners with the expansion of its Think Big for Small Business, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) Rapid Adoption and Authority to Operate on AWS programs.

“We put a lot of energy and time and thought into really expanding our program,” said Sandy Carter, AWS’ vice president of global public sector partners and programs, who participated in the partner keynote session at the AWS re:Invent 2020 conference and followed it with her own leadership talk.

Carter recently took a virtual trip around the world to talk to partners amid travel restrictions and safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Since I couldn’t get on an airplane, I just completed talking to 100 partners globally over 100 days,” Carter said. “It was probably one of the most powerful things that I’ve done, because I talked to so many more partners in such a short period of time. I really developed a strong sense of what it would take to help our partners differentiate themselves, add more value and really deepen their specialization.”

The AWS Public Sector Partner Program’s growth in the last year has exceeded expectations, according to Carter.

AWS saw a 45 percent year-over year increase in the number of businesses joining the program, which now has more than 1,600 partners.

“This is obviously a great time to be in public sector,” Carter said. “We‘ve seen growth in public sector as a whole. If you look at any of the numbers out there, they’ll say that…the pandemic has really spurred a lot of digital transformation in the space.”

Here’s a look at the program updates announced by Carter at AWS re:Invent 2020.

Think Big For Small Business

AWS will expand its Think Big for Small Business Program globally next year.

The program launched as a pilot in July to help small, medium, minority- and veteran-owned and other diverse public sector partners in the AWS Solution Provider program as they work toward their competencies.

Partners in AWS’ Registered and Select tiers get provisional access to Select and Advanced tier benefits based on requirements that are proportional to their sizes, giving them more time and resources to achieve AWS Partner Network (APN) requirements. Partners also can get a limited-time technical capability discount while working on an AWS competency.

“You can use both benefits – go-to-market and technology -- but we are seeing a lot of partners either say, ‘Yep, I really need to go-to-market help,’ or ’Yep, I really need the technology help,’” Carter said.

MFT is a Johannesburg, South Africa-based AWS Select Consulting Partner that provides cloud solutions and digital risk management.

“They are a husband-and-wife team, and they qualified for diversity ranking because of the Black Economic Empowerment rating used in South Africa,” Carter said. “They‘re really leveraging Think Big for Small Business for go-to-market access…taking advantage of some of the APN benefits around how they get opportunity acceleration and how they focus on their go-to-market.”

Cloudprime, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner in Seoul, South Korea, also took advantage of the program. The cloud-managed services provider provides government-funded projects to support other small and medium businesses, particularly edtech and fintech companies, in their cloud migrations.

“As a small business in the Korean market dominated by big conglomerates, Cloudprime has been struggling to balance our limited staff force and resources to advance on our APN journey,” Jungsik (David) Hwang, Cloudprime’s CEO, said in a statement. “The provisional tier upgrade through the Think Big for Small Business program unlocked many useful benefits, especially giving us access to programs and the technical capability discount, allowing us to offer a more competitive service to our customers.”

AI/ML Rapid Adoption

AWS will expand its Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) Rapid Adoption program outside the United States in 2021.

“We will now leverage this initiative in Europe -- (which) is our biggest demand right now-- but also Latin America and Asia-Pac,” Carter said.

The program launched in September to help public sector partners accelerate the use of AI and ML in their solutions, so they can provide government agencies assistance including hands-on technical enablement and architectural guidance from AWS.

“We wanted to provide them with AWS expertise in a couple of areas: One to help them envision what they could create, the second to help them focus in on a prototype or a beta or an alpha and then, finally, to help them deliver that,” Carter said. “We have now worked with partners like…Deloitte, Attain, ArdentMC and Infinitive.”

Authority To Operate On AWS Expansion

Carter also outlined the expansion of the Authority to Operate (ATO) on AWS program, initially launched in 2019 to help reduce partners’ time to meet security and compliance authorizations for programs including FedRAMP (the U.S. government’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program).

“When solutions pass that FedRAMP audit, a lot of doors open up for that partner where they can now sell,” Carter said. “So we focused that program on developing a set of assets, artifacts and templates that were based on best practices…and we share those out with our partners to cut their time to market down. We now have used and leveraged that program to drive over 129 solutions in totality for FedRAMP accreditation, which is three times that of Azure and Google combined.”

AWS subsequently expanded the ATO program to cover the GDPR (the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation), PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) and HIPAA (the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).

The program also supports other U.S. frameworks, including HITRUST (Health Information Trust Alliance); CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services); IRS 1075, a set of security control standards to protect the confidentiality of federal tax information; and the U.S. Department of Defense’s IL4, IL5, IL6 and CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification). Internationally, the ATO program supports IRAP (Australia‘s Information Security Registered Assessors Program) and Protected B (Canada).

“Authority to Operate for AWS has a lot of value,” Carter said. “For our technology partners, it really reduces your time to compliance by providing you best practices. For our consulting partners, you get access to all of those authorized third-party technologies. And you can take our best practices and start your own ATO program. This means that you can use our proven architectures, our artifacts, our templates (to) help you deliver customer solutions even faster.”


AWS has migrated more than 350,000 databases since its start – a new figure released by the cloud provider – and it continues to make migration a big priority.

The AWS Migration Competency launched in 2016, and AWS now has more than 100 public partner programs that have earned the designation.

“That number has doubled over the past calendar year,” Carter said. “Whether it is SAP or Microsoft or Oracle, migrating those workloads has a lot of demand today, because it is...the first step that a company has in becoming a digital entity. With 80 percent of the workloads still being on prem, that migration space across all of those workloads is very essential.”

The cloud provider also offers the AWS Migration Acceleration Program (MAP).

“MAP 2.0 has really taken off with our partners,” Carter said. “MAP provides funding at each stage of the migration -- from the assessment, where you build your business case; to the mobilizing, where you‘re really looking at how you project project costs; to actually the migration and modernization itself.”