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Consider size, skills in an AWS integration partner

Cloud integration partners come in all sizes. Determining the right fit means understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each option.

Enterprises looking to spin up workloads in Amazon Web Services have thousands of choices in selecting an integration...

partner for their cloud project. Seasoned integrators have a proven track record in helping to get complex projects running smoothly, while boutique companies can bring tremendous value in launching the enterprise into unfamiliar territory. But it's not always a decision of one versus the other; sometimes the best choice is a combination of both approaches.

The difference between a seasoned integration partner and a boutique or niche firm is often breadth versus depth. A seasoned integrator will have a wide scope of experience to tap into, with lots of real-world knowledge; teams have encountered several variations of problems, so not much surprises them. A boutique company will have depth that will enable it to focus more on the particular needs of an enterprise. The firm can be much more specific in its approach to problems and can go deep on any task or trouble, but it won't have the breadth of experience of a larger team.

Boutique integration firms offer specialization

Enterprises realize that being able to innovate quickly is a key differentiator in most industries. Many experts argue that boutique companies can help enterprises get the ball rolling more quickly due to a deeper understanding of a particular business and application domain.

To innovate with a platform like Amazon Web Services (AWS), companies must think differently and work with an experienced vendor that can handle tooling and change management relevant to the platform. Paying a global systems integrator (GSI) to learn about a new specialty on the job can be costly in terms of time and money. Enterprises should get out of the mindset that projects and programs take years to complete. It's better to work under the assumption that it's possible to achieve great things in weeks or months with the right partner.

Boutique systems integrators have a place when it comes to solving specific problems. For example, a cloud backup specialist might be a good fit for enterprises with specific needs for secure, reliable backup in medical and legal offices. These organizations must adhere to compliance requirements such as Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act and often on a state-by-state basis. In such a situation, enterprises can't risk losing data and files or being noncompliant.

Seasoned integration partners tackle large-scale projects

Seasoned integrators can bring an understanding of the best strategy for large-scale change. This is important where large scale is needed and a single vendor outsourcing model is preferred.

Many large organizations are interested in enterprise transformation -- helping teams adopt technologies. But if a company wanted a large group of outsourced talent at a low cost base, a GSI with a base in Asia or a similar location would be an option.

Similarly, if the enterprise already has an existing relationship and a team made up of GSI staff, it might make more sense to engage the same vendor. Modern applications are usually complex, multilayer systems. To migrate and integrate such systems into cloud, an integrator must know how components operate and interact.

Integrators with narrow specializations are limited in traversing the stack to troubleshoot and optimize the system. Such situations would require multiple vendors and partners -- and all the challenges therein. For example, an online e-commerce company that assessed the viability of moving to cloud from its current bare-metal architecture would need to understand the challenges of PCI-DSS Level 1 compliance, especially because it sends more than 50 million email messages a day.

This requires a seasoned professional with a skill set around integration and operating technology stack components such as multiple master-slave-slave database sets, cache layers, and queuing and messaging systems. In addition, the integrator must understand the limitations that AWS may impose -- and compensatory controls required -- from security compliance, monitoring coverage strategy and reputation management standpoints.

In this scenario, a boutique firm would have to seek help for all of the touch points outside its expertise. Seasoned integrators, however, would have wide experience with large architectures in various environments, but less experience with AWS specifically.

Whether your enterprise should turn to a seasoned or boutique integration partner depends on the specific set of problems it's trying to address. Seasoned integrators can meet generic needs because they can handle everything with little interaction and work independently. For more specific needs and deeper integration requirements, a boutique integrator is best.

Next Steps

Use caution when selecting an AWS technology partner

Criteria for choosing an AWS integration partner

Should you enlist AWS as an integration partner?

This was last published in May 2015

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