Connectria, Now A Top AWS Partner, Primed For Hybrid Push
April 13, 2022 Alex Woodie
Amazon Web Services has lots and lots of servers and storage — enough to supply the IT needs of more than 1 million customers around the world, including one rather large e-commerce site. The cloud giant also has more than 125,000 business partners helping it to scale out to meet those customer needs. Now, thanks to a recent promotion, IBM i hosting specialist Connectria won’t get lost in the AWS partnership jungle.
Last week, Connectria announced that AWS has named it a Premier Consulting Partner, the highest echelon in the AWS Partner Network. With just 120 members, the move into Premier status places Connectria in the top 0.1 percent of all AWS partners around the world, according to Troy Mitchell, director of strategic alliances and channel with Connectria.
“There’s nothing higher than Premiere,” Mitchell tells IT Jungle. “Becoming Premier for us . . . was a dream five years ago and it was a goal probably two years ago. We really started doubling down on a lot of different aspects of our commitment to reach Premier tier.”
The promotion would seem to validate the $2 million investment Connectria made over the past two years to establish IBM Power servers in two data centers located very close to AWS’s US-West-1 and US-East-1 data centers. That proximity enables Connectria to deliver low-latency “on-net” network connections between the IBM i and AIX workloads it runs on behalf of customers, and the vast array of X86 compute, storage, and services available on AWS.
“We invested $2 million-plus in data centers to really drive this hybrid story in the United States and it’s proving its merits,” Mitchell says. “It’s driving a lot of new business and provides a unique solution for the AWS sellers, solving problems that they have no other answer for.”
While AWS is making large investments in its own silicon — particularly the custom “Nitro” chips that started in SSDs and now serve as network and storage controllers for every Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) server in the AWS universe–the hyperscaler has shown no interest whatsoever in bringing IBM Power (or System z) hardware in-house. That omission gives managed service providers (MSPs) like Connectria the opportunity to fill the void in AWS’s runtime architecture as it seeks to bring on-prem workloads into its sphere.
“They take a broad sweep at different solutions that we need,” Mitchell says of AWS’s offerings. “We just happen to be the only one that that meets the IBM hybrid need.”
That is not to say that AWS is completely unaware of the opportunity that exists in replatforming or modernizing Big Iron workloads. However, AWS’s initiative on that front is focused entirely on the System z mainframe at the moment.
In 2020, AWS established a partner competency program centered around the mainframe. It invited four vendors — Micro Focus, Blu Age, Infosys, and Deloitte — to participate. At some point, it acquired Blu Age (the date of the transaction is unclear, as neither company has a record of it on their respective websites).
Prior to the acquisition by AWS, Blu Age was active in IBM i modernization. In 2020, the company partnered with Astadia to use the Blu Age code converter to target RPG, COBOL, and CL code running on IBM i for modernization into .NET and Java. In addition to the business logic, Blu Age also helped move Db2 for i databases into other relational databases. It also assisted with the user interface layer.
Connectria sees the Blu Age acquisition as an indicator of a slight change in AWS’s approach to IBM systems. “They definitely see it as a large market that can drive a lot of AWS consumption,” Mitchell says. “They’re making investments in technologies like Blu Age to get customers off IBM.”
However, following the acquisition by AWS, the Blu Age group appears primarily focused on mainframe replatforming and modernization. While AWS doesn’t seem to be actively targeting the midrange at this point, that can actually work in Connectria’s favor in the near term because it positions the St. Louis, Missouri, company as a premier provider of IBM i and AIX solutions, Mitchell says.
“That’s why I think that Connectria is in a really great position to help customers with that midrange journey to AWS, both in hybrid and in terms of modernization,” he says. “So when they come across a customer who has Power, they’re going to try to figure out how to get them 100 percent off the platform into AWS. That’s a natural motion for them.”
When the replatforming bid fails, they’ll look at other options for working with the customer. They’ll look at running Power in a hybrid cloud configuration with Connectria’s Power investments, Mitchell says. They’ll also look at replicating data off Power systems into the AWS cloud for business intelligence and analytics, such as with Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR), a hosted Hadoop environment; Amazon Red Shift, a data warehousing solution built atop the column-oriented ParAccel database; and Amazon Athena, a serverless analytics service built atop Presto; among many others.
“What drives them no doubt is AWS consumption,” Mitchell says. “In many cases, the IBM footprint is a bottleneck to a data center [migration] strategy. So what do they do with it? What’s the strategy to address these crown jewels of the company? We can come right alongside them directly or with other AWS partners, and we can take care of the IBM footprint.”
That’s where the promotion into the Premier tier of APN starts to matter more. AWS has already recognized the huge potential in helping mainframe customers to start modernizing, and now it appears it’s at the early stages of recognizing what the IBM i opportunity may hold.
“Becoming a Premier Consulting Partner provides additional market development funding but more importantly is a testament to our value as a partner,” Mitchell says. This will likely lead to more customer engagements with the AWS sales teams who understand that our Premier designation communicates a lot of success and trust with us as a partner. This is particularly important when they have an existing customer relationship and are seeking solutions to address their customer needs. It’s a natural process for them to seek out partners with the right capabilities, track record of success and partner tier in order to ensure a successful experience.
Finally, there is the matter of leads. As AWS salespeople fan out into the world looking for workloads to bring into the cloud, they will inevitably run into companies running IBM i workloads. As the premier provider of hybrid IBM i hosting services within the AWS Partner Network, Connectria has an built-in edge to capitalize on those coming from AWS leads.
The closer partnership with AWS will bolster Connectria’s work in that regard, Mitchell says. “AWS is investing more and more into the partner network and they want the partner network to be more successful,” he says. “But getting leads from them hasn’t traditionally been very easy. They don’t freely dole out leads . . . They have to earn their stripes, if you will.”
While the IBM i and AIX hosting gives Connectria the inside track to winning hybrid cloud deals with AWS, its ace card, if you will, may be its track record in complying with industry regulations. The company — which operated six of its own data centers before investing the $2 million into the two co-lo facilities near US-East-1 and US-West-1–has helped many of its customers comply with HITRUST, HIPAA, GDPR and PCI, among other industry regulations.
“That’s a big-time strength of ours,” Mitchell says. “We’re all over those [industry regulations] in our own data centers for our own hosted IBM workflows and customers. And we’ve parlayed that into our story with AWS.”