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AWS Launches 2nd Phase Of Think Big for Small Business Pilot

AWS will be talking a lot about the program as part of its focus on inclusion, diversity and equity, according to Sandy Carter, AWS’ vice president of worldwide public sector partners and programs. ‘Because so many of these businesses are women-owned businesses, black-owned businesses, brown-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, you will hear us talk a lot about it, because we do believe that having a set of requirements proportional to a partner‘s size is a great equalizer,’ she says.

AWS says the first round of its new Think Big for Small Business Program progressed so rapidly and smoothly that the cloud provider has started a second phase of the pilot program that gives smaller and minority-owned partners more time and resources to achieve AWS Partner Network (APN) requirements.

The program, launched in July, provides participating small, medium-sized and minority-owned public sector partners in the APN’s registered and select tiers temporary access to select and advanced tier benefits based on requirements proportional to their sizes. Partners in the AWS Solution Provider Program also can get a limited-time technical capability discount while working on an AWS competency.

“The Think Big for Small Business pilot is going really well,” said Sandy Carter, AWS’ vice president of worldwide public sector partners and programs. “We weren‘t planning on doing phase two (so fast), but the response that we received was...many more partners than we had expected.”

More than half of AWS’ public sector partners are small and medium-sized businesses and/or women-, black- and veteran-owned businesses, according to Carter. Many have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which has made it harder to maintain their APN tier requirements and access business development benefits including skills enablement, marketing funding, AWS promotional credit and sales engagement.

“Those (partners) are a really important part of our community overall, and that was really the big impetus for launching Think Big for Small Business,” Carter said.

AWS will be talking a lot about the program as part of its focus on inclusion, diversity and equity, according to Carter.

“Because so many of these businesses are women-owned businesses, black-owned businesses, brown-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, you will hear us talk a lot about it, because we do believe that having a set of requirements proportional to a partner‘s size is a great equalizer,” she said.

Partners are nominated by their AWS partner development managers to participate, but small and medium-sized businesses also can reach out to AWS themselves, according to Carter.

AWS is accepting 50 partners at a time for the program.

“It enables a partner to come in and get some of the benefits that they would normally get as being part of APN but, because they‘re smaller, it takes them longer to get up to those benefits -- maybe being able to earn a competency, maybe being able to take advantage of some of the credits that we have for migration,” Carter said. “They still have to meet requirements, of course, but… instead of saying you might have to have a certain number of people, we’ll do it as a percentage of their company or really make sure that it meets the needs of them where they are in their business.”

AWS’ theory is that once the partners are given a helping hand, many will progress in the official APN program and tiering.

Public Sector Areas Of Focus

The Think Big for Small Business program is open to public sector partners globally, and countries have different focus areas. AWS’ public sector program covers partners catering to local, state and federal governments, healthcare, not-for-profit entities, the space industry and, when it comes to international partners includes telecommunications, the oil and gas industry, and financial services.

“And across all of those different verticals, we‘re seeing a big focus on migration, especially post-pandemic,” Carter said. “As many customers had to move to the cloud, they thought, ’Wow, this is easier than I thought to scale up. It does have the agility that I was told. It has the cost savings. So now how do I migrate the rest of my business over?’”

Discounts, credits or technical help given to partners varies, according to Carter.

“It‘s by area,” she said. “For migration, we provide discounts for each phase of the migration, and it varies by those phases. In the assessment phase, (it’s) based on size of deal…what you’re trying to accomplish, which workloads you’re bringing forward. In the assessment phase, sometimes you have to do presales, so we help out on the pre-sell side. And then it goes into the deployment, and then it goes into post(-sales) as you’re doing part of that DevOps work. There are different pieces of the discount or credits or technical help that they get based on the phase.”

AWS’ public sector program also is seeing a bigger focus on security and the internet of things (IoT), including IoT for smart cities in some parts of the world according to Carter.

“Given that smart city is really a newer concept, we‘re seeing a lot of them be SMEs, kind of in that startup phase where they’re really the experts in a particular area,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of agencies, governments, healthcare providers, reach out to them for help, and they would become part of this Think Big for Small Business program as well.”

AWS could make the Think Big for Small Business Program permanent.

“Part of the Amazon philosophy is we work backwards from the customer,” Carter said. “In part of doing that, typically we’ll always go out with a beta or a pilot first, and we‘ll learn from that -- what worked, what did our partners really love about that, what do they need us to improve? If the results are good, the goal is always to make it a permanent part of what we’re doing.”

ByteSpeed’s Experience In The Program

Among the program participants are DLZP Group, a woman- and minority-owned cloud consulting partner in Richmond, Texas, and ByteSpeed, a Moorhead, Minn.-based company that’s primarily been a systems integrator focusing on K-12 education and a value-added reseller for 21 years.

ByteSpeed builds its own brand of personal computers, servers and laptops, and provides schools with a “one-stop shop” for their IT needs, according to Lucas Hulne, the company’s chief technology officer.

When schools started making more long-term plans for remote learning to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, one of ByteSpeed’s customers that went 1:1 with Chromebooks for its students still needed to deliver high-end applications such as AutoCAD for specific classes. It used Amazon AppStream, a fully managed application streaming service that lets customers stream desktop applications to users without rewriting applications.

“We found a few other customers who had done this exact same thing, but to them, AppStream wasn’t perfect, and they were stumbling along with it,” he said. “This is where we wanted to come in and help.”

ByteSpeed wanted to build a managed solution so it could spin up an AppStream environment for schools and take away the headaches by managing the billing, AWS setup, setup and management of the image, and creating a per-user usage dashboard.

“Amazon has very robust standards for its partners and as a business, you have to make a big commitment -- especially public sector -- if you are going to become a partner and sell their cloud solutions,” Hulne said. “ByteSpeed is a company of 60 strong, but we had no one with AWS experience and not enough people to commit time to work on the required training and certifications. With school starting in a month or two, we didn’t have much time to figure out a game plan and get the requirements needed for the select tier partner.”

When ByteSpeed’s AWS public sector representative told the company about the Think Big for Small Business Program launch, joining was a “no-brainer,” Hulne said.

“There’s only six months of grace they give you, but that extra six months will allow us to hit the requirements and spin up all of these schools with AppStream in time for school start,” he said. “If not, we would be looking at a much longer time to hit the requirements, and the schools would more than likely moved off to another solution or cut the programs.”

Now ByteSpeed – which was able to move from a registered AWS Consulting Partner to a Select Consulting Partner through the program – is fine-tuning its offering for the next set of schools that will need the solution for distance learning, Hulne said.

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