Amazon Web Services: 3 Steps to Partnering Success

Getting a foot in the AWS door may seem daunting for smaller partners. It's not, if you take it a step at a time.

August 29, 2017

6 Min Read
3 three


Bill Gauthier

By Bill Gauthier, Director of Strategic Alliances, Armor

Amazon Web Services is the undisputed leader in cloud computing, not to mention a household name. As channel pros know, partnering with a market leader can be a massive opportunity, and fortunately, AWS is a very transactional company that has co-selling deals with many channel mainstays. As with any partnership, however, you need to start with fundamental planning, assign the right resources, and then execute well.

Here are three steps that will help you build your partner plan with AWS and provide a foundation for a successful relationship.

1. Join APN: Once you have your base strategy in place and are ready to partner with AWS, the first thing you’ll want to do is join the AWS Partner Network (APN). As the global partner program for AWS, APN is an excellent resource, providing a single reference point for business, technical, marketing and go-to-market support. APN truly is a self-service platform that provides most of the information necessary to plan and grow your business with AWS.

As part of the setup process on APN and based on your business model, you’ll want to establish which type of AWS partner your company should be. Today, there are two types of partnerships from which to choose:

  • Consulting Partners: Encompasses “professional services firms that help customers design, architect, build, migrate and manage their workloads and applications on AWS.”

  • Technology Partners: Includes companies that “provide software solutions that are either hosted on, or integrated with, the AWS platform. APN Technology Partners include independent software vendors (ISVs), SaaS, PaaS, developer tools, management and security vendors.”

After deciding which of these partner types is best for you and creating an account, you will be set up as a registered partner within APN.

2. Move up the stack: As your business with AWS grows, you will move through tiers within each partner category based on criteria such as revenue, technical validation of products, employee certifications and customer references. Here are some sample criteria for various partner tiers — subject to change and based on AWS approvals.

  • Registered: Anyone with an account.

  • Standard: General availability of your product or services on AWS, two customer references, revenue metric.

  • Advanced: Six references, revenue metric, technical validation, partner plan, and requires a dedicated alliance manager.

  • Premier: A new tier that is currently for consulting partners only and builds on the Advanced tier for references and revenue.

Each of these tiers offers additive support from AWS. Based on the classification, you’ll be eligible for such AWS benefits as Innovation Sandbox, partner-enablement benefits like training and certifications, marketing development funds (MDFs) and the AWS Proof of Concept (POC) program. You will also receive additional support from an assigned partner development manager; the higher your tier, the more dedicated time you will get from your PDM.

3. Get & Stay Connected: The APN Portal is designed to provide the content, information and tools necessary to help grow AWS business. Offerings include:

  • Partner content: Leverage a repository of technical and business materials in the Partner Content section.

  • Webcasts: On-demand webcasts refreshed weekly to deliver fresh and relevant content.

  • Training: As AWS continues to evolve, it’s imperative to stay up-to-date with the latest education offerings. Through the Partner Training section of the portal, visitors can register for training, earn accreditations and access e-learning modules.

  • Marketing: To increase brand awareness and help create demand for an offering, the portal offers joint marketing options like APN Marketing Central through the APN Marketing Toolkit.

  • Opportunity submission: Request AWS Alliance support when engaging prospective customers.

  • Ideas: Collaborate with APN Partners and submit feedback via the portal’s ideas platform.

  • Partner programs: AWS partners can utilize programs designed to support key areas of their growing AWS business.

  • Knowledge base: Partners can search this expansive repository for additional information.

Finally, within this APN account, you will also be able to manage your AWS partnership with tools including: view partner scorecard; manage directory listing; view APN account and profile; see partner terms and conditions; see APN logo guidelines; and find other AWS partners.

In addition to the APN partner tiers above, there are also AWS partner programs, which can further distinguish your business from the crowd. These partner programs are designed to support your unique business model by providing increased prominence and additional support from AWS partner teams. You’ll want to determine the best fit for your product or services and pursue these programs accordingly. Various AWS Technology partner programs include a managed service provider program, a channel reseller program and more. The list is accessible from AWS’ partner resources page. 

Some of these programs can simply be joined, while others have specific minimum requirements to participate. The most complex of these is the Competency Program, which helps distinguish you from your competitors in verticals including health care, government and financial services while validating your technical expertise and solution with AWS. Competencies are also categorized by solution (IoT, mobile, storage, security and more) or workload (Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, SAP, Oracle) and are typically available for each partner type (consulting or technology).

Once you decide which competencies apply to your business, you can look at the requirements for each and put a plan in place to obtain them. To give you an idea, the security competency requires that you provide a minimum of four customer references documenting past experiences implementing security solutions for AWS users and demonstrate that your security solutions meet strict quality standards as prescribed by AWS. Here’s the validation checklist. In-house experts must also pass AWS certification examinations.

AWS hosts events throughout the year to help you learn and position your company within the community. AWS re:Invent is the flagship annual event, typically held in Las Vegas in late November. It is a great place to listen to executive keynotes, attend educational sessions and/or sponsor a booth. Additionally, there are AWS summits held globally throughout the year that are smaller versions of re:Invent, often with a more specific focus area.

Like any large organization or market leader, partnering with AWS can appear to be a very challenging proposition. However, AWS has created a very prescriptive model to allow partners to maximize both the relationship and revenue opportunities. I hope this information can serve as a starting point to help build your partner plan and give you a foundation for success, while also providing a methodology for distinguishing your company from the masses. As always, a seasoned alliance manager can also be extremely valuable, as they will be able to help you build your plan, navigate the nuances of working with AWS and serve as a liaison to ensure your voice is heard.

Want to hear direct from Sandy Carter, VP of Amazon Web Services? Carter will deliver the keynote address at Women in the Channel’s WiCConnect Networking Event on Sept. 25, in Austin, Texas, during Channel Partners Evolution

Bill Gauthier is director of strategic alliances at Armor, the First Totally Secure Cloud Company that keeps sensitive, regulated data safe and compliant in the cloud. For more information, visit

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