November 17, 2022
Public cloud provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) is eying minor staff cuts as its parent company and many big-name technology vendors announce layoffs in the thousands.
Fortune reported on Wednesday that AWS tasked its managers with identifying underperforming employees that belong to teams “that have grown too fast.” AWS remains in a hiring freeze, and it has prematurely ended many contractor contracts. However, the Amazon subsidiary is not currently planning layoffs.
In a meeting this week, an AWS executive said he’d be “shocked and flabbergasted” if there were any layoffs on the AWS side, and that there was no way for the company to execute layoffs inside the product teams without having a detrimental impact on AWS. https://t.co/qWAeAT33YS
— Kylie Robison (@kyliebytes) November 16, 2022
The report comes amid a layoff of approximately 10,000 Amazon people, including those in its retail and human resources units as in addition to its services division that runs Alexa. Moreover, rival hyperscaler Microsoft Azure cut job openings earlier this year, and Oracle Cloud has slashed about 200 jobs.
But what does this news mean for the channel, in particular the MSP and agent sides of the market?
For MSP Radio founder Dave Sobel, the news certainly doesn’t spell devastation for partners. He said all projections point to IT services spending increasing in 2023.
“If I put my IT services/MSP hat on for a second, I’m much more concerned about whether or not my customers are trimming up than I’m worried about my vendors two levels back trimming up,” Sobel told Channel Futures. “Consumption from the end customer does not look like it’s going to be impacted.”
Opex’s Courtney Humphrey
Opex Technologies CEO Courtney Humphrey said news of hiring freezes and layoffs in the technology industry doesn’t come as a surprise to him and his team.
“Keep in mind, the industry experienced explosive growth throughout the ‘COVID years’ in regards to headcount, revenue and stock prices. We have been expecting layoffs, as many of these firms’ stocks prices are down over 50%. This being said, we are still bullish on the industry and our ability to help our clients leverage the technology solutions they require in order to drive transformation and cost savings within their organizations,” Humphrey told Channel Futures.
Pumping the Brakes on Recession Talk
Layoffs in the tech industry have dominated news headlines in November. Meta laid off 11,000, and other household names like Salesforce and Intel are shedding workers. And for many of these stories, the news carries the somber undertone – or overtone – of a looming recession that will ripple throughout the channel ecosystem.
Sobel said many of these layoffs reflect more on businesses correcting course than an actual macroeconomic trend. Take for instance, Meta. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees that their 13% workforce reduction came from a missed forecast on his part.
“At the start of COVID, the world rapidly moved online and the surge of e-commerce led to outsized revenue growth. Many people predicted this would be a permanent acceleration that would continue even after the pandemic ended,” Zuckerberg wrote in a public letter. “I did too, so I made the decision to significantly increase our investments. Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected.”
Opkalla’s Jim Campbell
Sobel added that many of the “tech companies” making the headlines for layoffs aren’t truly tech companies in a way that matters to the channel. For example, Meta does social media, and Uber does transportation. He added that in the case some of these layoffs – Meta for example – take the companies back to where they were in the summer in terms of headcount.
“We’re just talking about a handful of Silicon Valley companies that got ahead of themselves. But I don’t spend my time worrying if Zuck, Jeff Bezos or someone like that made a correct call. I spend my time worrying about IT services companies,” Sobel said.
Jim Campbell, managing partner at technology advisory firm Opkalla, said large technology vendors “absolutely overspent” during the last two years. But Campbell said he’s taking note of where these providers are making their cuts.
“A lot of their cuts are in the staffing or HR departments which indicate …
… less future hiring,” Campbell told Channel Futures.
Downward Trend for Public Cloud?
Despite AWS’ hiring freeze and tightening of its budget, the public cloud provider is still performing well. Net sales of AWS totaled $20.5 billion in its last quarter, up 27% year-over-year. Operating income grew from $4.9 billion to $5.4 billion.
“Those guys are still killing it on cloud,” Sobel told Channel Futures. “I think what they’re maybe just tightening to make sure that it doesn’t change, and they’ll watch it.”
And despite much circulated reports of enterprises like Basecamp pulling out of the public cloud, rumors of its demise appear exaggerated. Companies might be more closely watching how much they spend on cloud consumption, but that doesn’t equate to a mass exodus.
“The allure of unlimited capacity on a global scale and a lack of contractual obligations has driven public cloud consumption growth,” C3 Technology Advisors lead consultant Matthew Toth told Channel Futures. “Will this trend reverse? Not entirely. AWS still has the best brand in the business, and Microsoft has a bigger sales presence (direct sales, channel, business, consumer, commercials, partnerships, etc.) than any tech company in the world. What I can see is more scrutiny brought to these decisions with CIOs and CFOs asking harder ROI questions.”
Canalys in its third quarter worldwide cloud infrastructure services spend report noted that most hyperscalers missed their revenue targets last quarter. Vice president Alex Smith wrote that economic pressures are driving enterprise users to reduce their IT budgets, which is cutting into public cloud growth.
Canalys’ Alex Smith
“Despite winning large deals and having a backlog of contracts to fulfill, the growth of cloud vendors will be constrained because of inevitable project delays as some customers get skittish about the economic outlook,” Smith said. “Hyperscalers will face a period of rising costs and lower revenue growth, which may lead to more conservative planning in 2023.”
Smith added that hyperscalers will need to increase European by prices by 30%, due to increased energy costs.
The article to this point has focused on public cloud spend. What about IT budgets in general?
Campbell said it might be to soon to know how macroeconomic trends will impact client spend. But partners may need to position themselves differently.
“I will say we’re focusing some sales and marketing efforts on a ‘cost savings’ message for our clients and prospects in Q1  due to the economic headwinds. Uncertainty slows progress in our space, and I’m not sure any end user is immune to uncertainty right now,” Campbell told Channel Futures.
Sumo Communications’ Bret Hickenlooper
Sumo Communications president Bret Hickenlooper said the channel is waiting to see how different customer segments encounter an economic downturn. For example, it remains to be seen how a recession will impact enterprise clients’ demand for contact center, which exploded as a product category during the pandemic.
However, Hickenlooper said technology advisors (traditionally known as agents) have demonstrated their nimbleness time after time.
“This channel specifically has weathered economic storms better than most, because of the dynamic of being able to save people money, being able to offer them choice, being able to look at bills and reduce costs, and being consultative in finding network efficiencies and other ways to make money,” he said.
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