AWS partners need to choose whose side they are on: CEO Jassy

AWS’ Global Partner Summit was chock full of news, including a redo of the partner program, new competencies in machine learning and networking, with more on the way, and major changes to AWS Marketplace.


Colleen Manaher, of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department, in an arresting appearance at the AWS Global Partner Summit Tuesday.

LAS VEGAS — AWS’s many channel partners need to choose whose side they are on – their customers’ or legacy on-prem vendors, and need to support the first by ditching the second. That was the explicit message from the stage on Wednesday by AWS CEO Andy Jassy, who capped a rousing keynote at the 2017 Global Partner Summit kicking off the AWS re:Invent event here. The keynote was jam-packed with channel-focused news announcements, some of which are still thin on details, as they will roll out in 2018, but which promise to have significance for partners.

This was the sixth partner day at AWS’ big customer event, reflecting the growing importance of the channel as AWS has grown its business and evolved its business model. It was by far the biggest, dwarfing the entire original first event.

“We are architecting for innovation and together are building the future for our customers,” said Terry Wise VP of Alliances Ecosystems and Global Channels. “We have seen strong growth over the past twelve months in the ecosystem, across multiple dimensions, and have added over 10,000 partners since the  eginning of 2017.”

Just as important is the markets those partners are serving.

“We have seen tremendous adoption of AWS through partners across the enterprise space,” Wise said. “90 per cent of Fortune 100 companies are using partners. Unicorn startups [valuated at over $1 billion] are over 90 per cent running on AWS through partners.”

Wise stated that AWS had also gotten better at supporting partners as well.

“In 2017, we delivered tens of thousands of leads to the partner community – more than double what we did in 2016,” he said.

Wise then provided a brief overview of the channel program enhancements coming for the new year. Machine learning was a key focus on this. In a well-received stage appearance, Colleen Manaher, of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department, talked about how the government had begun thinking differently, using machine learning through AWS services  in new airport security biometric capture to face check travelers when they leave and return to the U.S. – without the lengthy waiting lines that have encumbered the present process. The system is presently being piloted at JFK airport. Wise then returned to unveil AWS’s new machine learning initiatives.

“Customers are asking us for the best partners in machine learning,” he said. “So we are now launching a Machine Learning Competency.”

Out of the gate, they have 17 partners in three sets of solutions, focused explicitly on technology partners – Data Services, Platform Solutions and SaaS/API solutions. However, this will be expanded in 2018 to additional partner sets, including data science partners, and, most significantly for AWS’s integration partners, a System Integrator and Consulting category.

“We will be investing quite a bit more around this in 2018,” Wise said. This comes on the heels of last week’s announcement of the Amazon ML Solutions Lab, a new program that connects AWS machine learning experts with AWS customers to help identify new uses of machine learning inside customers’ businesses, and the AWS Machine Learning Research Awards, announced on Monday. The latter is a new program that funds university departments, faculty, PhD students, and post-docs doing machine learning research at Carnegie Mellon University, the California Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, the University of Washington, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Wise then made a flurry of other training-related announcements.

“Customers are demanding deeply skilled and trained resources, which have become foundational best practices, and are a growing investment for us,” he stated. “There are now tens of thousands of AWS certifications in the partner community. Partners committed to training and certification grow faster than others, and those with more than 250 certifications have 40-50 per cent higher growth rates. RFPs are increasingly requiring specialized certifications. So in 2018, we are announcing new competencies in blockchain, containers, end user computing and cloud management tools. Today, we are announcing a networking competency. It has 18 partners at launch, all with validated solutions.”

Buried deep within the keynote, Wise then announced perhaps the most significant announcement of all to partners. The old Channel Reseller Program is being rebranded – and more importantly, rethought – as the AWS Solution Provider Program, which will be available in early 2018. It provides a new, tiered incentive structure that rewards innovative APN Consulting Partners, who have achieved competencies in the areas of Migration, Managed Service Provider (MSP), and/or DevOps. The program also provides more flexible contracting and support options for APN Partners in key competency areas.

Wise stressed it will be much easier for partners to sell services through changes to the contracting model, changes to the support model, and a tiered incentive structure for those specializations in Managed Services, Migration, DevOps and other competencies.

“Collectively these changes will give partners the ability to improve the profitability of their businesses,” Wise said. “These are things that you [partners] have asked us for for a few years now.”

More details of the changes were not forthcoming, as Wise said that they would be announced under a non-disclosure agreement in January.

Two other new tools were then introduced. One is the AWS Software-as-a-Service Factory, which provides a comprehensive set of enablement content and collateral for APN Technology Partners with SaaS offerings, and which includes reference architectures with best practices for building SaaS solutions on AWS, AWS Quick Starts which automate deployments for key workloads on AWS, and SaaS on AWS Training with prescriptive guidance on building a SaaS business on AWS. The other is a new SaaS Accelerate Program that assists Technology Partners in driving increased profitability.

“The SaaS Accelerate program will expand go-to-market funding and provide more field resources,” Wise said.

The AWS SaaS Factory and SaaS Accelerate Program will be available in early 2018.

Wise also announced that Siemens’ MindSphere program, their IoT operating system, will be hosted for the first time on AWS. It is presently available in technical preview and slated for general release next January 15.

“It is revolutionary in enabling broad connectivity, both for Siemens gear and non-Siemens gear,” Wise said. “It will be a very robust way to access APIs to build IOT applications quickly.”

Dave McCann VP and GM for Marketplace and Service Catalog, then announced major changes to marketplace. Marketplace – the public market, contrasting with the private option Service Catalog – has been growing steadily, and is now at 4200 titles, compared to 3500 a year ago and 2300 in November 2015. However the portfolio is being reworked, with 20 per cent set to be retired, and 30 per cent rewritten, many of them to a serverless model.

A new feature for Marketplace is Private Image Build.

“It enables customers to build and run custom AMIs [Amazon Machine Images] using their own provided IT-approved operating system images with installable software provided by AWS Marketplace sellers, for customers who want to deploy on their own private operating systems,” McCann said. “It is very important for companies who want to control what goes into production.” It’s in technical preview now.

The other major announcement around marketplace is the preview of a new Enterprise Contract for AWS Marketplace.

“This is a customer-designed standardized AWS Marketplace contract template,” McCann said. “It is based on an agreement between a set of 30 enterprise software buyers and leading software vendors.”

The standardized contract template is designed to handle nine challenging issues including liability, dispute resolution, IP protection, warranty, and venue, across multiple vendors, eliminating lengthy procurement negotiations that can delay projects for months.

“We expect that this will be a boon to innovation,” McCann said.

Enterprise Contract for AWS Marketplace is currently available in preview to interested enterprise customers and will be generally available to all sellers and enterprise buyers who choose to accept the standardized enterprise contract terms in the first quarter of 2018. Participating software companies in the preview are AppDynamics, Barracuda, CA Technologies, Cisco, Checkpoint, Chef, F5, NetApp, Palo Alto Networks, Pitney Bowes, Snowflake, and Trend Micro.

McCann also announced a ‘Brand Your Console’ for Service Catalogue, allowing consulting partners to brand the catalogues for implementation.

CEO Jassy then took the stage to close out the keynote, and offer his own thoughts on the AWS ecosystem. He stressed the need for partners to place their bets on AWS – not the largely on-prem vendors of yesterday.

“I think there is a real opportunity for all SIs to play a really significant role,” he said, from the global SIs who are more invested in AWS than in the past, to the born-in-the-cloud and regional Sis who he said did a great amount of work in actually getting customers into the cloud.

“We are growing at 42 per cent a year off a large 18 billion run rate – and it is still just the early stages as far as the meat of enterprise and public sector adoption goes,” he told partners.

“The partners we work most closely with and which have had the most success are those who are most fully committed,” he emphasized. “These are not optical partnership with a status meeting every three months. They extend at all levels of the organization from the C level people to people who do the work.

“When I talk with customers who aren’t happy with their SI partners, they complain about working with the D Team,” he continued. “Customers feel they don’t always get teams that help them and give them the knowledge they need to be successful. But of course you all have to have multiple teams, or you would only have one customer at a time.”

The way out, he stressed, is to be more aggressive in committing fully to using the cloud to help the customer.

“I don’t meet an enterprise customer who isn’t looking to flee the old guard database providers today,” he said. “I don’t. I challenge you to find a lot of customers using Oracle who are happy about it [Applause]. You have to decide whose side you are on – the customer or a business that is changing whether they like it or not. Customers want an alternative.”

Jassy also restated AWS’ commitment to more resources around machine learning.

“We have got to make machine learning tools available for everyday developers and scientists,” he said. “You will get more tools from us that allow you to help them.”