Ramkumar Balakrishnan, Partner Lead, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Middle East and North Africa (MENA), elaborates on the AWS Partner Network (APN) and its growth in the Middle East.
How has the AWS Partner Network in the Middle East grown over the years?
The AWS Partner Network (APN) is the global community of companies leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) to build solutions and services for customers. It is a network of tens of thousands of system integrators (SIs), Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), Consulting companies, Managed Service Providers, and Technology Alliance Partners who work with AWS to serve customers of all types and sizes, to deliver solutions on a global basis, helping business leaders solve problems every day.
AWS engages with partners who participate in so many different types of business. The two primary business areas are: 1. Consulting Partners: These are firms that help customers of all types and sizes design, architect, build, migrate, and manage their workloads and applications on AWS; 2. Technology Partners: These companies provide hardware (e.g., OEMs, semiconductor manufacturers), connectivity services (e.g. network carriers), or software solutions that are either hosted on, or integrated with, the AWS Cloud (e.g. SaaS Providers, ISV).
The APN network in the Middle East has grown significantly over the last few years, across Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. APN SIs, ISVs, and consulting partners in the Middle East help enterprise and public sector customers. The work varies and is focused on helping customers to innovate, grow and improve. Often that means enabling stronger systems which may include migration to AWS, deploying mission-critical applications, and providing a full range of monitoring, automation, and management services for customers’ AWS environments. Examples of AWS Middle East Partners include: Accenture, Deloitte, Bespin Global MEA, Citrus Consulting, Cloud4c, Crayon, Du, Etisalat, F5, Integra Technologies, Keplerworx, Palo Alto Networks, Rackspace, Redington, SAP, Splunk, TCS, Trend Micro, VMWare, Wipro, and Zero & One.
Many of these partners are acquiring specialized competencies around deploying key enterprise workloads on the cloud like Almoayad for Microsoft, and Forte Cloud for SAP, and around use cases, such as Bespin Global for DevOps and Zero & One for migration. On the technology front, we have partners like Unifonic and genie9 who have developed products running on AWS that have been successfully adopted by customers in the region. Redington is a Value Added Distributor for AWS in MEA, helping grow and enable partners in the APN.
What kind of benefits does AWS offer to members of its partner network?
Regardless of size, we look to provide our partners with the most innovative programs and services to build and grow their AWS-based businesses. AWS offers Partners valuable business, technical, and marketing support within the Marketplace and the APN, to help Technology and Consulting Partners build, market, and sell their offerings.
How big is the role that channel partners play in ensuring the growth of AWS in the region?
Partners have played a crucial role in AWS’s growth over the years, and are key to the success of our customers. Take for example Forte Cloud, an AWS Consulting Partner based in Egypt. The company helped Egypt-based dairy manufacturer Juhayna Industries with SAP migration to AWS. This resulted in more than 40% cost reduction, enhanced performance, and increased the Juhayna’s ability to respond quickly to meet remote working requirements during COVID-19. Another example of innovation driven by partners is artificial intelligence and machine learning experts Inawisdom. They have helped enable global transportation and logistics leader Aramex to propel its digital transformation journey through enhanced data analytics on AWS. Citrus consulting services implemented the first ever core banking infrastructure on AWS in the region with Afriexim Bank, which helped the bank achieve the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) for the infrastructure and application.
AWS categorises its APN members into two – Technology and Consulting Partners. What differentiates them and what kind of enablement initiatives does AWS offer for each category?
AWS offers potential partners two paths: either the AWS Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner Path – for partners whose businesses provide software solutions that are run on or are integrated with AWS – or the AWS Consulting Partner Journey – for partners whose businesses provide professional, consulting, or managed services to help their customers design, architect, build, migrate, and manage workloads on AWS. These classifications help ensure potential customers are matched with Partners who truly understand their business and are best equipped to help them excel.
In addition to utilising these two paths of self-evaluation/alignment, our partners can also flag their specific expertise via our AWS Competencies tool, positioning themselves as subject matter experts grouped by industry, use case, or specific services offered.
AWS seeks to be the best company in the world to partner with, and in our view, part of this is helping potential Partners define where they may fit within the APN. As a result, we are also happy to discuss Partners’ unique positioning with them directly, ensuring that they make the most out of becoming an AWS Partner.
How is AWS helping partners to differentiate themselves in the regional market?
What we know to be a driver of success for our partners is specialisation. Customers of all sizes are asking for specialised partners to help them adopt the cloud at an accelerated pace. They don’t want a “one-size-fits-all” partner any more, instead customers want best of breed partners that intimately know their business, the industry space they operate in, or the workload they want to move to the cloud.
Partners tell us that having AWS certifications and specialisations are key drivers to their business growth. These certifications help partners differentiate themselves and demonstrate to customers that they have been validated by AWS and have the proficiency and expertise to help customers achieve their goals.
Partners considered as “specialised” within a niche field are being recruited for more advanced, exciting, ‘bleeding edge’ projects. Whether it is in building a digital workplace, IoT, or machine learning, specialised partners are chosen by customers over traditional partners, who are missioned to be able to handle multiple tasks in each field, more regularly.
In 2020, AWS launched the AWS Marketplace and AWS Data Exchange in the UAE and Bahrain, what was the driver behind this and what opportunities did it bring to channel players in the region?
AWS has launched the AWS Marketplace and AWS Data Exchange in the Bahrain, UAE, and Qatar. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), data providers, and consulting partners based in Bahrain, UAE, and Qatar can now transact in AWS Marketplace and AWS Data Exchange, empowering them to access and market to AWS’s millions of customers around the world.
Customers want a single click experience to procure enterprise software on terms that they are comfortable with. Partners in this journey act as trusted advisors to suggest the right ISV solutions for customers. Consulting Partners are registered and authorized to resell software through AWS Marketplace Consulting Partner Private Offers (CPPO) and they also list their professional services through the marketplace which customers can procure for implementing the solutions they buy from the marketplace.
Moving forward, what plans does AWS have to further accelerate the growth and success of its partners?
AWS aims to be the world’s best company to partner with, providing partners with the most innovative programs and services to build and grow their businesses, increasing efficiency so they can quickly recognise and grow their profits. We will continue to listen to customers and partners to hear what they want from us and how we can continue to help them grow their business.
AWS often works directly with Partners to develop joint, go-to-market propositions for their customers. A prime example is the APN Customer Engagements (ACE) Program, which enables AWS partners to work with the AWS sales team to benefit directly from: sales motions to support their growing business, managing their opportunity pipeline to share customer success stories, receiving technical support and resources for AWS validated opportunities, and accelerating through the AWS Partner Journey.
AWS also supplies Partners with dedicated marketing tools via the AWS Partner Marketing Central. Marketing Central is a self-service marketing tool allowing Partners to: customise and launch solution-based campaigns, search for an AWS-preferred agency who can provide cost-effective services, access digital courses to advance their marketing knowledge, or request the support of a virtual partner marketing manager.