Adding “Value” back in Value-Added Reseller (VAR) with AWS Marketplace and AWS Service Catalog

AWS has disrupted the enterprise infrastructure space with the EC2 service. The cloud is now here and every organization with a digital play has an adoption plan. However, while the AWS cloud makes it easy to spin up a few hundred instances in a couple of minutes, business processes such as acquisition, security vetting and evaluating software products continue to be bottlenecks.

Business at the speed of cloud?

Having supported multiple large cloud migration and transformation projects for customers in Healthcare, Financial Services and Public-sector markets, we have first-hand experience with delays caused by acquisition, security vetting and software installation procedures within the typical CIO organization. One of the leading reasons for delays is the traditional Value-Added Reseller (VAR). The VAR model in the cloud world, is an anachronism and must change to provide the speed and agility that digital businesses demand.

VAR’s were established when Enterprise IT was complex and required a lot of customer education and hand-holding. This required the creation of an acquisition process with multiple hops from the ISV to the VAR and finally the customer. Delays in creating specifications and getting quotes with lack of transparent pricing has made the process hard and time consuming. In today’s world of self-service, bottoms up technology selection by “techies” and the use of DevOps there is no need for “education” and hand-holding. Developers are able to rapidly deploy and evaluate software packages in minutes and often drive the technology selection process. Traditional VAR’s are becoming bottlenecks driving up the cost of software distribution with margins that do not reflect value created.

Adding the Value back in Value-Added Reseller

Digital enterprises today are demanding speed, security and self-service. Every customer that we serve using the AWS cloud, has a deep-seated expectation of rapid delivery. When trying to meet tight delivery timelines, the process of acquiring third-party software in every instance has been a sub-optimal experience. Here is how it generally works:

1) Create requirements and specifications to convey need to VAR

2) Contact multiple VAR’s to get competitive pricing and explain the requirements

3) Engage back-and forth to finalize exact fit of product, pricing and delivery

4) Receive software, install in the environment

5) Implement custom monitoring and management processes for updates and patches

6) Manage multiple invoices, contracts and cost administrative overhead

It is very common for this entire process to take 2–3 weeks. In many cases the VAR’s do not understand cloud consumption models and are unable to provide clear solutions for “on-demand” pricing. Why do I have to pay for your licenses when my instance is switched off? This stumps 99% of the traditional VAR’s.

Let us compare this to the new way of enabling customer success!

1) Go to the AWS Marketplace and search through available ISV options; review customer feedback & ratings with transparent pricing options

2) Evaluate offerings from multiple providers to get best feature/price and evaluate selected software with 1-click deployment into your cloud environment.

3) Satisfy security and administrative processes based on AWS Marketplace terms of service that ensure vetting and require ISV’s to provide patched software with updated Amazon Machine Images (AMI) and all delivered in one single bill.

The entire process of searching, evaluating and deploying enterprise software solutions takes a few minutes or hours instead of days and weeks.

We at stackArmor have now seen the benefits of the AWS Marketplace and its ability to enable us to meet critical project deadlines. Here are some real stories and examples.

Customer A: A large global systems integrator engaged stackArmor to help implement an Enterprise VPN solution for connecting the legacy data center to the AWS Virtual Private Cloud. The project had a tight deadline to meet urgent legislative mandates with high executive level visibility. Failure was not an option. The stackArmor team reviewed various available options and selected the Palo Alto Networks VM-Series solution. A 15-day free trial made the selection risk-free and the 1-click install from the AWS Marketplace allowed the engineering team to proceed with no delays. The solution was effective and rapidly established connectivity between the AWS VPC and the clients’ legacy data center. Once the solution was turned into production mode, the stackArmor team converted to the annual license. The entire exercise was completed in less than 2 days including evaluation, cost quote, installation and testing.

Customer B: A US-based national full-service mortgage solutions provider needed to deploy their new digital platform in the cloud. The client selected the AWS cloud and rapidly developed their solution using readily available cloud services. A couple of weeks before going live, the security team determined a need to create a DMZ due to regulatory concerns. The CIO’s office could not afford a slow down or have delays — they engaged stackArmor to rapidly evaluate and recommend a Next Generation Firewall solution. They also engaged with their traditional VAR channel to gather pricing and solution options. stackArmor within a few minutes provided available Firewall options listed on the AWS Marketplace with transparent pricing from leading ISV’s such as Cisco, Sophos and Palo Alto Networks amongst many others. The clients’ security, network and engineering teams reviewed various options including prices on the AWS Marketplace and decided to go with the Palo Alto Network VM-Series solution. By the time the first set of viable quotes were received from the traditional VAR, the solution from the AWS Marketplace was already deployed.

The Customer is back in charge

We have found that the technology and business teams in most enterprises like the ability to rapidly review and evaluate prices and features and learn from other customers’ experiences. The AWS Marketplace offers all of these capabilities along with the added benefit of a simple and accelerated installation and evaluation process.

ISV’s can benefit by having a low-cost sales channel that is constantly becoming bigger which in turn allows them to focus on developing better product features for the cloud. Full-stack cloud-native solution providers like stackArmor have the opportunity to become their customers’ trusted cloud partner with a single invoice every month that reduces the administrative burden in addition to meeting urgent business needs to deliver software capability faster.

After Microservices is it now time for Micro Marketplaces?

As enterprises get used to leveraging resources such as AWS Marketplace, it is critical to ensure that governance and security must be applied based on the CIO’s and CISO’s mandates. AWS Service Catalog helps provide that critical capability to structurally harness the AWS Marketplace this new channel and create a curated list of services. The AWS Service Catalog provides enterprises with the ability to create their own micro or virtual marketplaces that match their consumption, security and business requirements. For example, if a customer determines that their Firewall of choice is the Palo Alto Networks solution, then they can create a Product portfolio that provides a customized version of the service for consumption by the entire enterprise. The information security team can create customized hardened Amazon Machine Images (AMI) and publish it in the AWS Service Catalog as the gold standard to be used by developers within the enterprise. The AWS Service Catalog enables better security, governance and configuration management through a single access point. AWS Service Catalog provides CIO’s the control necessary to ensure only approved software is deployed while not slowing down the delivery cycle.

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