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Wickr Acquisition Positions AWS Vs. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom: Partners

“With this acquisition, we may see AWS synthesize the ‘best of (Amazon) Chime’ with the ‘best of Wickr’ to create a next-gen, fully-encrypted communications platform,” says Jonathan Bauer, the AWS alliance leader at Deloitte Consulting, an AWS Premier Partner.

Amazon Web Services partners say AWS’ move to acquire Wickr and its encrypted communications and collaboration platform is a shot at winning over customers not yet ensconced in Microsoft Teams or Slack and those concerned about the security of Zoom.

AWS on Friday said it had acquired New York-based Wickr, a provider of secure communications solutions for messaging, video conferencing and file sharing used by enterprises and government agencies, for undisclosed terms. AWS cited customers’ accelerating need for secure communications to accommodate hybrid work environments across remote locations.

“With Wickr, customers and partners benefit from advanced security features not available with traditional communications services ,” Stephen Schmidt, AWS’ vice president and chief information security officer, said in a blog post today announcing the acquisition. “This gives security-conscious enterprises and government agencies the ability to implement important governance and security controls to help them meet their compliance requirements.”

The acquisition will accelerate the market’s adoption of Wickr around secure messaging, according to Brian Adler, senior director of cloud market strategy at Flexera, an AWS Advanced Technology Partner based in Itasca, Ill.

“This will especially be the case with newer companies that haven’t yet standardized on Microsoft Teams or Slack and in areas where secure messaging is paramount, such as financial, healthcare, military and government,” Adler said. “Wickr has done a good job of positioning itself as the secure alternative.”

The acquisition of Wickr is an interesting move by AWS, given its Amazon Chime product, a real-time, unified communications service, said Jonathan Bauer, the AWS alliance leader at Deloitte Consulting, an AWS Premier Partner.

“While not as prevalent in the video messaging space today, Wickr is known for the security of their platform,” Bauer said. “As remote working becomes more prevalent, and as hacking becomes a larger challenge, the need for communications platforms to have the best-possible security is critical for enterprises and government agencies around the globe. With this acquisition, we may see AWS synthesize the ‘best of Chime’ with the ‘best of Wickr’ to create a next-gen, fully-encrypted communications platform.”

Wickr was founded in 2011. CEO Joel Wallenstrom joined the San Francisco company in 2017, pivoting it from offering only a free consumer product to an enterprise compliance-ready, secure collaboration platform used by federal agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Public sector customers have turned to Wickr for diverse uses, from securely communicating with office-based employees to providing service members at the tactical edge with encrypted communications, according to Schmidt. Enterprise customers are using it to protect communications between employees and business partners and stay compliant with regulatory requirements.

Wickr’s customers include the Dallas Cowboys, Discover, McKinsey & Co., Clemson University, the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Bundeskriminalamt, the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. Wickr says it’s the only collaboration service with full functionality to meet all security criteria outlined by the U.S. National Security Agency for selecting and safely using collaboration services for telework. Last July, the company announced a $35 million dollar contract from the U.S. Air Force to provide its Wickr-based recall, alert and messaging — Wickr RAM — throughout the DOD.

AWS’ decision to acquire the niche platform is a smart one, as organizations look to increase security outside a corporate network — a top concern with most companies committing to flexible work, said Craig McQueen, vice president of innovation at technology services and solutions provider Softchoice, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner based in Toronto, Canada.

“Where they might struggle is the disconnect with content authoring tools, as users prefer a seamless integration between collaboration and content that increases their productivity,” McQueen said. “This is where Microsoft Teams is strongly connected with the Office Suite, and Google has Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) to complement Google Meet.”

The acquisition is a “direct shot” at Zoom, according to McQueen.

Zoom security has had issues in the past, so with this acquisition, AWS provides a great solution with specific organizations -- military, government, large enterprise -- that have a big concern with security,” he said. “We at Softchoice have often seen that the first step with cloud is cloud collaboration, then organizations start adopting more cloud solutions. I would think that is what Amazon is really after -- (getting) people on AWS.”

AWS said it’s offering Wickr services effective immediately, and Wickr customers and channel and business partners can continue to use Wickr’s services as they did prior to the acquisition.

AWS declined further comment, and Wickr did not respond to CRN’s inquiry.

In February, Wickr announced the general availability of “Global Federation,” allowing enterprise and government customers to securely communicate using end-to-end encryption with individual users and mission-critical partners outside of their networks, no matter which Wickr product they use. The feature allows organizations to choose their Wickr deployment type -- on-premises, cloud, managed or unmanaged -- without worrying that another organization’s choice will impact their ability to collaborate, the company said.

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