“It was a grueling interrogation,” said Saltys, Vice President of US Operations and Business Development at Apps Associates LLC, only partially in jest. The MSP achieved Premier Consulting Partner status at AWS in October.
The AWS Managed Service Program was started in March 2015 and offers partners benefits to migrate customer workloads and deliver AWS cloud services. What differentiates the program from other certifications is it requires an independent, third-party audit. Prerequisites are stringent: you must be an Advanced or Premier Consulting Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN), have billings of $25,000 per month in AWS revenue and have AWS certified staff and provide customer references.
There are an estimated 25 partners that have achieved AWS MSP status.
The AWS audit process starts well in advance of the actual visit from an auditor and Apps Associates’ personnel gathered information based on a checklist they received ahead of time. This task involved providing documentation of continuous training, resources and project forecasting, said Thiru Sadagopan, Vice President of Cloud Infrastructure Services at Apps Associates. “It’s not just a technology-focused audit,” he noted.
Another facet was “reviewing design artifacts from different customer implementations — how you handle security, network activity, basic monitoring functions?” Sadagopan said. The company was required to show specific examples from previous customer engagements.
Apps Associates also demonstrated the internal IT processes it built to ensure that customers’ infrastructure has been configured properly as well as the tools used and how it generates value for clients. In other words, “How do we make sure the customer isn’t spending more than they need to for what they’re running on AWS and minimize cost? That’s been a fundamental philosophy for AWS all along,” he said. Other areas of focus included security and demonstrating there are regular touchpoints with customers from status reports and quarterly reviews, Sadagopan said.
The audit also addresses governance: how feedback is collected from customers and how the MSP engages with them. “We had to show examples of status reports, quarterly biz reports, customer satisfaction surveys to show volume of activity and service requests; how you follow IT compliance,” he said.
The audit took an entire day and Saltys said Apps Associates had three team members, including Sadagopan, devoted to collecting, reviewing and preparing documentation beforehand, which took about five man days.
The cost for the audit was $3,000, he said.
The most challenging part was the administrative aspect and going through the checklist and gathering the required information, Sadagopan said. Because of the “level of maturity in what we do … we didn’t have any gaps to fill. We hit every one of our mandatory requirements from AWS,” he said.
“The point I would emphasize is it’s not like a certification test where you can prepare, study and take a test,” Saltys said. “It’s an audit, so you have to provide … customers and concrete evidence.”
It is critical to prepare properly, Sadagopan added, and make sure you provide all the sample data points requested and that the right people are there to walk the auditors through the tools used.
“Be organized, clear, crisp and precise,” he said. “It is not something a partner can easily accomplish. There is a very deep technical focus. … You need to have done those kinds of work. An AWS audit is not for someone who has just started an MSP business.”