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Microsoft Commercial Sales Chief Judson Althoff Slams Amazon For Competing With Its Cloud Customers

Wade Tyler Millward

Customers ‘need to be able to trust that their cloud provider won’t partner with them one day and compete with them the next,’ Judson Althoff, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Microsoft, wrote on LinkedIn.

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A Microsoft executive has taken a swipe at Amazon’s alleged anti-competitive practices when it comes to cloud computing.

Judson Althoff, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Microsoft, posted a link on LinkedIn to an article about the Amazon Care telehealth service rolling out nationwide and brought up repeated criticism of how Amazon treats partners.

“Trust is a top priority for our customers,” Althoff wrote on LinkedIn, a social media network focused on professionals and owned by Microsoft. “In industries like healthcare, financial services, and retail, they need to be able to trust that their cloud provider won’t partner with them one day and compete with them the next. At Microsoft, it means something that we are, and have always been, an enterprise technology company.”

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When asked for additional comment, Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft Communications’ corporate vice president, attributed Microsoft’s success to an “unmatched global partner ecosystem.”

Shaw said in an email that “enterprises across industries are looking for more than a cloud vendor; they’re seeking a comprehensive and trusted cloud partner that can meet their unique business needs. Along with our unmatched global partner ecosystem, we are co-developing, co-innovating and co-engineering digital solutions that help our customers succeed and create lasting value. Our customers’ success is our success.”

CRN has reached out to Amazon Web Services for comment. In September, AWS CEO Adam Selipsky spoke about the affiliation between AWS and Amazon.com during an event.

He said that customers declining to work with AWS due to Amazon.com is “a meme that’s out there, and, honestly, it’s very infrequently true.”

“Amazon’s a big company now, and of course we’ve got competition — as we should — in every business,” Selipsky said at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. “But if you look at digital entertainment, for example, AWS has big and deep relationships with folks like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO, even though there are other parts of Amazon that might compete against them. Or if you look at retail, for example, you’ve got Nike and Brooks Brothers, Shop Direct, Instacart, Zulily. I could go on, but many of these different sectors where Amazon has businesses, we have really long-term, deep, strong partnerships with these external companies.”

He continued: “The world is complicated, and I think we’re all used to cooperating in some areas. There might be some competition in other areas, but the reason it works is because of trust. It works because all of these external companies know that AWS has one mission only and that is to enable their success. And there’s never any compromising in any dimension on that.”

Althoff’s post had received 697 positive reactions and 11 comments by Thursday morning. Employees and executives from Microsoft reacted to the post, but so did the global channels and alliances director at future Microsoft acquisition Nuance, a technology director from PwC, an Accenture managing director, employees from Meta, a Google enterprise account executive, a Twitter technical sourcing manager and an IBM Consulting senior partner.

Zach Guthrie – a Microsoft sales director who’s worked at the company for more than seven years, according to his LinkedIn – commented on Althoff’s post, saying that Amazon’s attempt to attract employers away from health care providers “must hurt if you are one of those providers and your IT department was trusting them as a hosting partner or the Marketing department was leveraging them as an advertising partner.”

Althoff’s words reflect reports from multiple news outlets that Amazon allegedly uses data from customers and partners to create competing products and gives its own brands a competitive advantage.

When it comes to Amazon’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, multiple outlets reported on Amazon allegedly using AWS as leverage for a distribution deal with WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service. Before giving WarnerMedia – which is owned by AT&T – a distribution deal on Amazon’s Fire TV devices, WarnerMedia needed to extend its AWS contract, according to reports.

Amazon began piloting the Amazon Care virtual health clinic in 2019. As part of its investments in entering health care, Amazon bought PillPack, a pharmacy that delivers medications in pre-sorted dose packaging, for $750 million in 2018.

Kelly Yeh, president of Chantilly, Va.-based Microsoft partner Phalanx Technology Group, told CRN in an interview that although Amazon can’t compete with Microsoft on productivity applications such as the Office 365 suite, Microsoft has had to evolve its cloud products to keep up with AWS’ cloud innovations.

“Amazon’s competition to Microsoft has made Microsoft a better cloud hosting company,” Yeh said.

Although Phalanx does some AWS training work, Yeh said that he prefers Microsoft’s much more matured channel partner program. “Microsoft is much more channel friendly,” he said.

Ethan Simmons, managing partner at Norwood, Mass.-based AWS partner Pinnacle Technology Partners, told CRN in an interview that both companies have their strengths, with AWS’ life science applications services bringing PTP plenty of business.

Ultimately, customers are increasingly seeking multi-cloud environments, Simmons said. He wants to see Microsoft and AWS do more partnering and less sniping, given how many businesses still have to move workloads to the cloud.

“Instead of bashing the competition, customers would appreciate more integration,” Simmons said.

In December, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission contacted companies to learn more about any competition issues from AWS.

Althoff’s post also comes as Microsoft invests in industry-focused packages of cloud-based tools and services for businesses and organizations in health care, retail, manufacturing, sustainability and nonprofits.

This is the second direct shot in a week by Microsoft at a fellow cloud giant. On Friday, Microsoft announced a promotion to help users of Google’s G Suite legacy free edition move to a Microsoft 365 subscription.

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