Amazon Web Services (AWS) has outlined a clear path to profitability for partners in ASEAN, on the basis that specialist cloud capabilities are created in return.
In response to increased customer demand across the region, the opening of the ecosystem doors comes with a large caveat for a channel now required to build offerings tailored to verticals or solutions, with little room for broad-brush approaches.
No longer is operating as simply a ‘cloud partner’ enough for businesses seeking high-levels of expertise, spanning key markets such as Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, in addition to the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
“Partners must be focused on what their unique value proposition is to customers on top of AWS,” advised Conor McNamara, managing director of ASEAN at AWS. “They can’t be all things to all people so they must become focused on where they invest time and work backwards from the customer.”
The AWS Partner Network houses a diverse base of providers, ranging from global and national system integrators (GSIs / NSIs) to born-in-the-cloud specialists, hosting firms and managed service providers, alongside distributors and value-added resellers.
Naturally, certain partner types carry more weight at a customer level with McNamara quick to acknowledge that reselling in isolation no a longer a “viable business model” for the channel, rather a focus on more high-value services.
“We’re starting to focus more on certification and competencies and ensuring partners get their AWS badge,” added McNamara, in reference to partner up-skilling. “This is when we invest more in terms of marketing dollars and joint initiatives and the partnership builds from there. Whereas if a partner attempts to specialise in 20 different areas, the broad approach becomes very challenging.”
By industry, AWS competency partners operate within government, education and healthcare, as well as financial services, digital media and retail sectors among others.
Specific to applications, technologies include the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, migration, storage, DevOps and security, plus data and analytics, machine learning, networking, cloud management tools, containers and end-user computing. From a workload perspective, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft take centre stage.
“In ASEAN, the vastness of opportunity covers so many dimensions,” McNamara said. “Whether by country, by customer segment, by vertical or by solutions, there is opportunity across every vector of the business. We’re seeing huge demand and intent from CEOs, CIOs and line of business leaders - they are big evangelists of AWS which creates a role for partners in the supply side of the market.”
In assessing the local ecosystem, McNamara said partners are beginning to capitalise through building out specialised cloud practices, focusing on areas such as IoT, migration, data and analytics and Windows as examples.
“We’re seeing pockets of expertise emerge within partners and large GSIs,” he observed. “We have partners such as Blazeclan specialising in migration and Sourced Group focusing on compliance in financial services.
“This is how our partners are adding more value and they are starting to realise they can charge a premium for this through high-value services, rather than broad and shallow offerings.”
Speaking to Channel Asia from AWS regional headquarters in Singapore, McNamara shared the story of Adrian Cockcroft, vice president of Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS. Perhaps most notably however, Cockcroft was the man behind Netflix’s migration to AWS.
“While at Netflix, Cockcroft was hosting a room of CTOs and CIOs of large banks on Wall Street,” McNamara explained. “The customers said, ‘we can’t be like Netflix because we can’t get people like you can get’. Adrian’s response was, ‘I hired my head of engineering from you, my head of infrastructure from you and my head of development from you’.
“This isn’t about attracting talent, rather developing the talent that you have. Take National Australia Bank [NAB] as an example.”
As reported by sister publication CIO, NAB launched a training program in April 2018 - the NAB Cloud Guild – to up-skill more than 2000 employees in cloud computing, in partnership with AWS.
“It’s a classic cliche but we’re living in a skills constrained world and Southeast Asia is no different,” added McNamara, who assumed his position in the second half of 2019 following the relocation of Nick Walton to New Zealand. “Organisations are beginning to realise that cloud is a tool to help drive employee engagement because attracting these skills in such a shallow skills market is challenging.”
Taking the conversation further, McNamara said the vendor is becoming more “scientific” around who is being trained and the types of methods deployed.
“Training an individual on cloud is the same as a partner saying they want to be a cloud partner, it’s too wide,” he explained. “Who are these people? What do we want them to achieve?
“For example, if you’re re-skilling a partner that was an incumbent traditional system integrator, what does their sales force look like? What skills do they need? What training programs can they deploy? What about delivery? How can they construct a cloud centre of excellence?”
In a direct message to partners, McNamara advised specialists to work backwards from the customer to avoid “overreach” and the creation of "unsustainable" cloud practices.
“Approximately 10 per cent of our partners are delivering 90 per cent of the value,” he said. “They are aligned to how we think of customers and we’re starting to become more surgical in terms of how we support each of these partners. You can scale your business globally from your kitchen table with AWS, and the same applies for partners.
"Sourced is Australian-born and carries out a lot of work in ASEAN with Singapore Airlines, Blazeclan moved into the region from India to capitalise on the migration opportunity. Also following the pre-launch of our new region in Indonesia, a number of ASEAN partners such as Cloud Comrade are moving into the market.”
But despite a swell of specialised partners emerging locally, McNamara emphasised plans to ensure the traffic flows in both directions.
“We want to go the other way also,” he stressed. “We want to create ASEAN-born partners that are successful in emerging markets but can scale into North America and Europe.”
Generally speaking, McNamara forecast continued market momentum across ASEAN during 2020, backed by “six country managers and six local teams”.
“Back in 2016, we ran the entire ASEAN business out of Singapore but now we have seven offices across six countries,” he added. “We’re investing a lot in terms of establishing cross-functional teams. We’ve had presence in Singapore since 2009 and launched a region there in 2012 so we already have established partners.
"Outside of Singapore it’s clear that putting local teams into local countries drives the ecosystem, and backed up by our infrastructure investments, this represents a big statement.”