CIOs who haven't at least had a "sensible discussion" with Amazon Web Services (AWS) are "arguably negligent", Computacenter UK managing director Kevin James said as he talked through the rationale for his company's investment in a 100-strong AWS capability.
Over the last year, Computacenter has built up a team of 50 certified AWS technical consultants across its two main markets of the UK and Germany. It also now has 40-50 AWS business consultants.
Talking to CRN, James (pictured) said the investment reflects the fact that virtually all of Computacenter's large-enterprise customers now see hybrid cloud as the way forward.
"Clearly, large amounts of our customers have had some engagements or discussion with Amazon at some point," James said.
"In fact, if you are a CIO, and you haven't had a sensible conversation with Amazon, arguably you probably are negligent to some extent, because you have to at least explore what it is.
"But it's not the answer for everyone - far from it. It's not the answer for every company, and it's not the answer for every workload. But as AWS starts to address more large enterprises, which are our customers, it becomes imperative that we have the right solutions, the right advice and consultancy, and the right brokering and aggregation solutions for our customers."
The investment follows on from Computacenter's acquisition of TeamUltra, one of the top UK partners of cloud-based IT service management vendor ServiceNow, and James said the firm is also now "as deeply invested in Azure" as it is with AWS.
James rebuffed suggestions Computacenter initially took a conservative stance on the cloud, but said he was glad the firm had taken the conscious decision not to build its own cloud proposition.
"I could go back five years and I could name a load of people that told us we should invest millions of pounds in our own cloud capability - ‘build a datacentre and sell it many times, and you'll be rich many times over'," he said. "Thank God I sat there and said ‘no thank you, that's not for us'. That wasn't just through a lack of desire; that was an executive decision made by [Computacenter CEO] Mike Norris and me, and a number of others, that we are not doing this - this is madness.
"There are many examples I've seen where competitors have invested ahead of time in something, and it looks like they've stolen a march. And then it all comes crashing down when the customer demand isn't there."
Public cloud should be considered just one of, rather than the only, destination point for workloads, at least for large enterprises, James stressed.
"If I was an SME and was starting out today, or was trying to upgrade my enterprise infrastructure, I'd go to a cloud provider almost lock, stock and barrel," he said. "But when you're a bank, or a major central government department, or a major manufacturing organisation across global centres, [cloud] can only form part of it. This is very rare for me to say, but that is 100 per cent consistent with every single customer I talk to now. They're at different stages of that journey, but in that world of hybrid, all that's happened is that, AWS and Azure in particular - and I think it will come with Google as well - are becoming a more relevant part of that IT strategy. So we are just reflecting that."
Not operating its own cloud capability is also making it easier for Computacenter to gain traction with the big cloud vendors, James argued.
"About two-and-a-half years ago, I was at the VMware global partner summit and they'd just released vCloud Air," he said. We'd sold the first VCloud Air subscription in Europe and the day after I happened to have an executive meeting with [then VMware president] Carl Eschenbach. I rather brazenly took the purchase order from the customer into that meeting and showed him, and he was obviously delighted. I told him what he had to remember is that all our competitors have invested a shed-load of money in their own datacentre capability; they have to convince their CFO that it's worth selling VCloud Air when they've already invested heavily into their own, quickly depreciating assets that they need to resell many times.
"Every single one of my SI competitors has that problem to some extent. I do not have that problem."
AWS may not have a reputation for being the most channel-centric vendor, but James said the firm does have the need for partners that can act as aggregators.
"One of the reasons is cloud aggregation," he said. "It still takes months to get enterprise customers to agree ts and cs because AWS have pretty rigid terms - so anything we can do to sit in the middle helps. But more importantly, it's about the migration. Amazon is probably talking to, if not all of our customers, then a large proportion of them. But quite frequently they are stuck in a DevOps-type environment, and the goal for them is about opening that up to the whole of the business. We can help our customers on that journey, recognising that [public cloud] is one of the destination points for workloads."
James also said Computacenter's recent cloud investments should be taken in the wider context of its pedigree in virtualisation.
"We got very early into VMware many, many years ago," he said. "Helping customers with that abstraction layer and moving customer workloads into that new world: that's what we do. This is not trying to make some money reselling AWS. By the way, when we resell it, we will expect to make some money, so I'm sure we will have some conversations with AWS about commercial programmes, but not yet; it's not the right time."
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