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Stephen Orban Takes Over as AWS Marketplace Head

I’m going to continue to do for Marketplace what any good service owner at AWS does,” he says.

Kelly Teal

May 7, 2021

8 Min Read
Cloud marketplace
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As of today, Stephen Orban leads the Amazon Web Services Marketplace.

Channel_Futures_Signature_Series_Logo-300x300.pngHe takes over from David McCann, who joined AWS as the head of Marketplace in 2014. An AWS spokesperson said McCann wanted to move out of an operational role. Later this year, after a personal leave of absence, McCann will assume a leadership position on Charlie Bell’s team. Bell serves as senior vice president of AWS.

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AWS’ Stephen Orban

Orban, meanwhile, is no stranger to AWS. He, too, has worked for the public cloud provider since 2014. He started there by guiding the enterprise strategy division. Then he took on the mantle of general manager of AWS Data Exchange and AWS Control Services. Now, Orban is adding general manager of AWS Marketplace to that list of titles.

“I’m going to continue to do for Marketplace what any good service owner at AWS does, which is work backward from the customer with a long-term view, and build what they need,” Orban told Channel Futures.

That means bulking up the software and services available in AWS Marketplace and tying it all together — all with ISVs, managed service providers and other channel partners in mind, he said.

“Demand for cloud services globally has never been greater and continues to grow, so Marketplace is already a requirement,” Orban said. “We’ll continue to look at ways we can better serve our customers, not just in the U.S., but globally.”

From a TI-99 to Top Corporate Leader

Orban comes to AWS Marketplace with an extensive background in computers and engineering that started early.

Here’s our list of channel people on the move in April.

“I was eight when I found a TI-99 in my uncle’s attic, and I was hooked,” he said.

In the intervening years, Orban built the IT infrastructure for Bloomberg’s financial and sports divisions. He next worked for Dow Jones as CTO/CIO. The great challenge there was one many organizations still face: turning IT from a cost center into a revenue driver. Orban met the challenge. That’s also where he met AWS.

“I became an AWS customer and in under three years … we reallocated more than $100 million in IT spending from infrastructure to product experience,” Orban said. That further translated into “releasing software from once a quarter to hundreds of times a month.”

Orban’s success in those efforts invited yet another possibility — the chance to join AWS’ enterprise strategy group. He did, and a few years later, moved over to the Data Exchange unit, where he worked closely with AWS Marketplace.

“We built Data Exchange with the Marketplace team, using a lot of the same capabilities,” Orban said. “Having been a pupil and a partner of Marketplace, I’m super excited to have an opportunity to help customers modernize their IT estates faster.”

‘Huge Opportunity for 2021’

Indeed, online marketplaces have come into their own over the last 10 years and continue to supplant the traditional resale model. They have proven a simple, affordable way for channel partners to procure and support platforms for their clients — and, at the same time, to build that much-discussed, coveted recurring revenue base.

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Forrester’s Jay McBain

Industry-wide, reliance on online marketplaces has grown faster than experts expected.

“We had predicted 17% of the channel’s business, the vendor’s business, would go to the marketplace by 2023,” Jay McBain, principal analyst of channel partnerships and alliances at Forrester, told Channel Futures earlier this year. However, he added, “we’re starting to think now that it’s going to happen this year.”

The overall figures also will increase by …

… double digits every year for the next decade, McBain said in advance of the March 2021 Channel Partners Conference & Expo.

All the acceleration comes – no surprise – courtesy of COVID-19. But the rush to move employees into remote work has subsided. So what will keep fueling the need for marketplace software and services?

“[A]ll the other things that partners know how to do really well,” McBain said.

In other words, MSPs, VARs, consultants and other partners handling management, governance, security, compliance and business continuity for their clients can procure much of the requisite technology and assistance through online marketplaces. McBain calls all this activity “phase two” of the “remote topology” the pandemic created. And channel partners meeting the demand will see “huge opportunity for 2021,” he said.

Fueling Partner Participation

AWS Marketplace, for its part, aims to keep giving partners reasons to sell through its portal. After all, the vendor says it serves more than 310,000 active customers. That adoption can only bode well for AWS Marketplace, giving the company plenty of incentive to be as responsive to its partners as possible.

One partner, PagerDuty, delivers SaaS-based incident management through the channel. (While PagerDuty acts as a vendor within the channel, AWS Marketplace considers it a partner within that ecosystem.) PagerDuty says it has seen a 350% year-over-year increase in business via AWS Marketplace.

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PagerDuty’s Timm Hoyt

“This is a testament to our strong partnership and reflects the shift in ways customers are procuring software,” said Timm Hoyt, global vice president of partners and alliances at PagerDuty. “Consolidated billing and quicker deployments were growing trends that COVID-19 only accelerated, and as an early adopter of AWS Marketplace, PagerDuty has been well-positioned to support our customers as their IT strategies evolve.”

Lemongrass Consulting stands out as another partner that’s done well through AWS Marketplace. Lemongrass, a managed service provider, specializes in shifting SAP workloads into AWS. For Ben Lingwood, chief innovation officer at Lemongrass, the AWS Marketplace provides a way out of legacy reseller thinking.

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Lemongrass Consulting’s Ben Lingwood

“I’m looking for something that gives me agility, pay-as-you-go capabilities,” he told Channel Futures. “I’m looking for cloud terms and conditions compatible with systems that are on demand.”

This goes against the old approach of locking in a customer for three years at a fixed price, he noted — and that’s a huge plus. Lemongrass embraces the “commercial agility and customer flexibility” that AWS Marketplace allows, he said.

To that point, when AWS Marketplace opened up private offers in 2017, which let partners send specific proposals to potential customers, Lemongrass saw a lot of uptake. Now, Lingwood said, he’d like AWS Marketplace support catalog management.

“That would be an absolute killer application for us,” he said.

Lemongrass envisions catalog management as a one-to-many proposition rather than a one-to-one, as is the case with private offers.

Assessing Some Results

Getting the answer to when or whether that resource will come into play will stay on hold for now. Orban needs time to settle into the new job.

What Orban could speak to was …

… higher-level initiatives that show no signs of stopping. As one example, MSPs, he said, “are providing different types of value-added services in a cloud world. And customers need help integrating it all and operating at scale. … We’re going to continue to drive as much automation as we can into that kind of purchase and procurement and flow so it’s super easy for our customers to do business.”

In terms of results for AWS Marketplace participants, the numbers speak for themselves. Two examples come from companies that AWS views as partners, and that the channel views as vendors: CrowdStrike and Snowflake.

CrowdStrike said earlier this year that its annual recurring revenue through AWS Marketplace ballooned by 650% in the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31. The cybersecurity provider also said its deals close 50% faster compared to typical business routes. Similarly, Snowflake said in a recent study that using its platform through AWS Marketplace can lead to a 405% return on investment.

Much of this traction happens within the Private Offers program, Orban said. As such, he seems to be eyeing that as a potential area ripe for even more growth.

“That business has really taken off in the last couple years,” he said.

AWS Marketplace observers also may want to watch how the vendor continues to support its partners around governance. It’s a focal point for Orban.

“As customers move to the cloud, they want to be able to move fast, innovate at scale, and govern the tools and resources they’re using from AWS and their partners,” he said.

“We’ll continue to double down on those governance aspects,” Orban added.

Looking Back to See What Else Might Lie Ahead

Indeed, despite AWS Marketplace’s achievements so far, one of Orban’s tasks surely will be to facilitate even more adoption. What exactly he will implement should materialize over the coming months. Even so, looking back on what AWS Marketplace already has done could sketch a road map for the future.

For instance, the vendor launched professional services last year at the AWS re:Invent conference. That came in response to customers asking for help integrating the software they subscribe to through the marketplace. More than 500 channel partners, including Lemongrass and AllCloud, participate in that endeavor.

Consider, as well, ISV Partner Path, another effort designed with partner feedback in mind. That initiative gives ISVs co-sell support and benefits such as reduced AWS Marketplace listing fees. And there’s the revamped Trend Micro channel program that features AWS Marketplace as a key component. All in all, there are a plethora of examples of AWS Marketplace evolution since 2014, with the knowledge that more lies ahead.

“Marketplace has come an awful long way,” Orban said.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Kelly Teal or connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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