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AWS Managed Services adds competition to MSP market

Will AWS Managed Services step on its third-party managed service provider partners while trying to find an enterprise foothold?

AWS has mapped an improbable path from pioneer cloud provider to global IT cloud giant, building its cloud conquest on an ever-expanding slate of services and capabilities. And while AWS benefits from a deep roster of partners, it also directly competes with more than a handful of the third-party tools and services within its own ecosystem.

One such example is AWS Managed Services, which could give third-party vendors -- as well as its own customers -- a run for their money. Currently, AWS Managed Services helps broaden the appeal of public cloud to some of AWS' biggest customers and potential clients.

Still, it's too early to have a sense of adoption for AWS Managed Services, especially when the service focuses specifically on large enterprise IT organizations. "We believe it is yet another way in which AWS is making migration to the AWS cloud easy for enterprises -- addressing incremental layers of challenges as they target larger and larger IT buyers," said Deepak Mohan, analyst at IDC.

The service appeals to inexperienced enterprises that want to use AWS in operations. But many of these companies don't have the skills to manage their traditional needs as well as their cloud needs. AWS Managed Services offers managed support in conjunction with partners that have expertise in 23 services.

Don't expect hand-holding

From AWS' perspective, the service meets a need, providing an entryway for less-skilled enterprises that are slow to adopt cloud.

Will the service move the needle for traditional enterprises? The uptake of the service might be slower than AWS expects, because customers will need to "test the waters" on costs and benefits, said Eric Wright, a solutions engineer at Turbonomic Inc., a Boston-based autonomic performance platform for hybrid cloud. It's also going to create a bit of a struggle in the partner ecosystem, which makes a lot of its money from enterprise customers, he added.

From AWS' perspective, the service meets a need, providing an entryway for less-skilled enterprises that are slow to adopt cloud. AWS Managed Services, as a native platform, could benefit enterprises that don't want to perform the legwork of finding a partner to help with a cloud deployment.

But Dan Robinson, senior engagement manager at TriCore Solutions, a consulting and managed IT cloud services company based in Norwell, Mass., draws some sharp distinctions between AWS and consulting companies. AWS Managed Services adoption will be relatively slow "because it is a big lift and shift to get into managed services," Robinson said. "[AWS doesn't] really help you with the process; [it is] just offering to help manage what you put out there."

Unlike consulting firms and smaller managed cloud providers, Amazon likely won't travel to the client site. The company provides little to no hand-holding, so it's up to enterprise to find its own way or engage a third party for help, Robinson added.

AWS Managed Services ups and downs

The most glaring deficiency with AWS Managed Services could be its positioning. In the past, Rackspace tried, unsuccessfully, to market the idea of managed cloud. But AWS' dominance in the infrastructure-as-a-service market gives it stronger legs to stand on.

However, because the service is focused solely on AWS, it differs from cloud-agnostic managed service providers (MSPs) who have knowledge in a range of platforms. That means AWS Managed Services comes with a degree of lock-in and doesn't help enterprises tackle hybrid or multicloud deployments.

Still, AWS has a huge opportunity to appeal to more customers that might not be dissuaded by the service drawbacks. "I'm long on AWS," Wright said, who thinks AWS Managed Services will help the cloud provider grow its existing customer base and gain new ones. "The only question will be how well they deal politically and publicly with being in direct competition to strong partners like the Rackspaces of the world."

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