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As more companies join the AWS Partner Network, choosing the right vendor partner can be confusing. What criteria do software providers and consulting partners need to meet to be included in the program? AWS has strict practices in place for its partners, so enterprises can select one with confidence. Here's a rundown of what it takes to make the cut in the AWS partner program.
For starters, the AWS partner program aims to expand a company's reach. The program has given Softchoice, an IT software provider and AWS partner, access to resources beyond those of non-partners, said Brett Gillett, AWS practice lead at the company. "By being an AWS partner, we have access to information that is made available only to partners," including webinars.
"We recognized that our customers would need a broad variety of global and local partners who extend the functionality of AWS by providing software products that are easy to use, run really well and are easily licensed on AWS," said Dorothy Copeland, general manager of the AWS Global Partner Ecosystem. The program needed to provide consulting services to help streamline AWS product deployment, she added. That boils down to a lot of potential AWS partner benefits along with a few hurdles.
AWS has two main partner categories: technology partners and consulting partners.
The AWS Partner Network (APN) offers technical, business and marketing support to companies. On the consulting side, APN members range from large systems integrators and consultants, like Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, Cognizant and Wipro, to hundreds of smaller firms focused on cloud. Consulting partners include managed services providers and regional systems integrators that have built their businesses around AWS. Slalom, Logicworks, Cloudreach, Pariveda, REAN, Apps Associates and 2nd Watch are among AWS' notable consulting partners.
The APN also works with large independent software vendors looking to expand from on-premises-based to cloud-focused technologies. Some of those companies include SAP, Infor, Splunk, MicroStrategy, Software AG, TIBCO, Juniper Networks, Trend Micro, Red Hat, NetApp and Informatica. There are also tech companies born on AWS, such as Acquia, Sumo Logic, Alert Logic, Okta and CloudPassage.
For Looker, a company with a product that works with Amazon Redshift, the AWS partner benefits are worth the effort. "Our customers love that we can integrate with a number of services from AWS and are partnered with a leader in cloud and big data analytics," said Keenan Rice, Looker's VP of Alliances.
Find the proper tier for AWS partner benefits
So, why should a vendor partner with AWS? There are a few reasons.
Not only does the cloud provider divide AWS partners into consulting and technology categories, the program also establishes multiple tiers for its members based on the extent of their engagement with the cloud provider. Businesses interested in becoming an AWS partner can complete an online application form corresponding to their respective partner category. Tier levels differ for the two categories, according to AWS.
Consulting partners are ranked in one of four tiers: registered, standard, advanced and premier. These consulting tiers are based on performance. AWS categorizes technology partners in a three-tier system: registered, standard and advanced. These are also based on performance. AWS measures Technology Partners based on their products being generally available on AWS, quality and quantity of customer references, getting architectural validation from AWS, producing AWS revenue and achieving one or more AWS competencies. Consulting Partners (e.g., systems integrators, value-added resellers and managed services providers) are measured based on the partner's training, AWS certifications, customer references, producing AWS revenue, achieving membership in the AWS Managed Service Program or an AWS competency.
Revenues also matter. For APN Technology Partners to achieve the APN Advanced tier status, they must generate $50,000 a month in AWS revenue or an APN competency.
Consulting partners are classified based on experience and revenue attainment, as well as expertise -- individuals who carry AWS certifications and accreditations. AWS requires that Consulting Partners generate $1,000 a month in AWS revenue to achieve the Standard tier and $25,000 a month to achieve Advanced. There is a geography-based revenue requirement at the Premier level that AWS does not share publicly.
There is some flexibility in these standards, but not much. According to AWS, partners are reassessed each year as they renew APN memberships. Any partner that is no longer achieving the requirements in its respective tier receives communication 90, 60 and 30 days prior to renewal to give it time to comply with the requirements of that tier. At the renewal anniversary date, AWS partners are assigned to the appropriate APN tier based on current levels of achievement.
Deciding on an AWS Partner Network program
AWS provides a number of specialized programs, such as focusing on resellers or managed services. To apply for any of the APN Partner Programs, partners must be "in good standing" with AWS and meet specific program criteria.
The AWS Channel Reseller Program is a popular AWS partner programs in which resellers own the whole end-to-end customer lifecycle for their particular AWS-based offerings. It is designed for APN consulting partners that want to resell AWS utilities to both public and private sector end customers. The program is particularly targeted at organizations that have built their practices to include professional and management services for AWS deployments for the end customer.
In addition, the AWS Competency Program is designed for APN Partners who have demonstrated technical proficiency and success for their customers in a particular area. Customers, in turn, can shop the APN Competency Program to locate tools across certain categories, such as DevOps, big data, security, storage and digital media.
An APN Migration Competency Program will launch later this year to support partners with expertise and experience to help customers migrate applications -- and even whole data centers -- to AWS.
Partners can qualify for one or more AWS competency offerings by having a strong overall AWS practice, showcasing customer success and demonstrating technical readiness within the competency.
Launched last year, AWS Managed Service Program is designed for APN consulting partners that are skilled at cloud infrastructure and application migration. These partners offer customers monitoring, automation and management services. The AWS Managed Service Program provides these MSPs with best practices for large-scale cloud operations. However, to qualify, APN Partners must pass a technical audit that ranks their effectiveness in managing cloud environments.
"The beauty of working with AWS is its big tent strategy," said Noam Shendar, COO of Zadara Storage, a storage as a service provider and AWS Technology Partner. AWS "doesn't quibble over whether your solution is 10% competitive with AWS offerings," Shendar said. "[AWS] focuses on attracting as many customers and building as robust an ecosystem as possible." In other words, if a utility improves the ecosystem and the value of AWS for its customers, it is welcome in the tent.
"Because we provide cloud storage as a service, as does AWS, many jump to the conclusion that we and AWS compete. Yet we don't really -- our solutions complement [one another]."
On the other hand, AWS partner benefits do not include creative protection. At any time, AWS has the option to look at any partner's feature set and decide to offer something similar.
"Some might bemoan that, but it's a part of growing up as a business," Shendar said. "Each entity has the imperative to offer unique and evolving value on its own, regardless of its partnerships."
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