Amazon Partner Network raises the bar for its seal of approval

AWS users can be assured that Amazon partners are fully qualified, as program requirements have grown more rigorous and benefits more extensive as of last year.

AWS customers looking for help with their cloud computing deployments have many options because of an Amazon Partner...

Network program whose growth has mushroomed over the last three years.

Amazon's Partner Program has only been around for three years, but in that short time, the AWS Partner Network (APN) has evolved into a system of thousands of technology and consulting partners. The program has grown exponentially since its beginnings, and grew by 75% in 2014 alone, according to an AWS press release.

For many enterprises, Amazon partners have become a seemingly indispensable part of using Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Working with consulting partner Cognizant Technology Solutions, based in Teaneck, N.J., has had manifold benefits for Spirent Communications Inc., a company which makes testing tools for communications service providers, headquartered in London with offices in the U.S.

"Our company wanted to get rid of its data center, but we had limited resources in the IT department," said Sohamn Chatterjee, senior business systems architect for Spirent. The company has a global IT staff of 22. "It was a considerable effort to move all our systems to AWS, and Cognizant helped."

Working with Cognizant has had benefits beyond cloud migration. The company also relies on Cognizant's consultants in the event of a disaster such as a fire or storm. Since Cognizant is in a different location, its consultants can take over to restart systems if a disaster occurs that prevents Spirent's IT managers from accessing their network, Chatterjee said.

Who's who in the Amazon Partner Network

Amazon partners are broadly divided into two categories: Technology and Consulting partners. Technology partners produce products that run on or are integrated with the AWS cloud. Consulting partners like Cognizant assist users with migrations and ongoing management of cloud deployments.

These broad categories have existed since the first public beta of the partner program in 2012, but have since been refined into subcategories as well. Technology partners are subdivided into three tiers: Registered, Standard and Advanced. Registration is the first step, and is free. To qualify as a Standard technology partner, firms must pay a fee of $2500 per year, have products in general availability on AWS, and provide two public or private customer references.

To qualify for the Advanced tier, partners must pay the $2500 fee and have products generally available on AWS, and provide 12 customer references, six of which must be public. They must also pass an AWS technical review, submit a partner practice plan, and receive a dedicated alliance manager for AWS.

One advanced technology partner is CloudBerry Lab, a backup and storage management software maker based in Newport Beach, Calif. While it has been an advanced partner for years, the company has grown much closer with Amazon with a storage competency it earned this month and a reboot of the partner program at re:Invent last November.

AWS Consulting Partners

Consulting partners in all categories must pay a $2500 per year fee, bring in a certain amount of influenced revenue for Amazon, and have several technical and business qualifications:

  • Standard partners must bring in $1000 per month, have two public customer references, two technical professional accreditations acquired by attending instructor-led training, two business professional accreditations, and two associate level AWS certifications.
  • Advanced partners must bring in $25,000 per month, have six public customer references, eight technical professional accreditations, four business professional accreditations, and two professional level AWS certifications.
  • Premier partners must bring in $250,000 per month with $25,000 of it in direct sales, ten public customer references, ten technical professional accreditations, ten business professional accreditations, eight associate level AWS certifications, and four professional-level AWS certifications.

At re:Invent 2014, AWS held its third Partner Summit, reconnected with its partners, and opened new requirements for partners and expanded training programs. These include an AWS certification prep bootcamp, to help partners meet new APN certification requirements this year; an AWS professional service bootcamp; a Windows on AWS bootcamp for premier and advanced partners, and a free online cloud economics accreditation course. It also added two new programs: a managed service program and a software-as-a-service partner program.

The storage competency is one of six competency accreditations available for Advanced technology partners this year. The others are in big data, life sciences, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. APN competency prerequisites as of this month include $25,000 in direct or influenced AWS billings per month, three or more AWS customer references and two or more public customer endorsements. The product must also be approved by an AWS Architect Review Board, and available in three or more AWS regions.

This competency means more marketing help and access to the AWS roadmap, according to CloudBerry officials.

Consulting partners, meanwhile, are subdivided into Standard, Advanced and Premier categories (see sidebar).

One longtime Premier Consulting partner is 2nd Watch, Inc., an AWS reseller and managed services provider based in Liberty Lake, Wash.

"Amazon makes sure you have the experience and the business to back it up," with Premier partners, Bliesner said. In a partner network of thousands, there are just 28 Premier partners.

Amazon Partner Network has room for improvement

However, it's still early in terms of APN's development, Bliesner said.

"We'd like to see some more formal programs around going to market, lead registration, and deal ownership," Bliesner said. "It will come, especially for the enterprise. It can't be ad hoc."

Right now, Amazon does coordinate sales with 2nd Watch, but it's not as mature a program as those run by much older companies such as Microsoft, Bliesner said.

One Advanced consulting partner, Flux7 Labs, based in Austin also said the new initiatives unveiled at re:Invent have improved the program, but wants more competencies added and tweaked.

For example, today big data is a fairly broad competency, encompassing both stream-based and batch-based data processing for analytics, but Flux7 CEO Aater Suleman said he'd like to see competencies in each of those fields separately. A DevOps competency would also suit Flux7, Suleman said.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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