Amazon Web Services is heavily reliant upon its partners: all of AWS is an ecosystem.

What distinguishes the value of a public cloud service provider from all the others, especially in a market where costs have become commoditized, are the depth and adaptability of the services it offers.

Of the three major cloud providers today, Amazon is the one whose business model is most dependent upon the services that others bring to it.

That’s why Amazon’s re:Invent conference, along with its other events during the year, are of such great importance ... to Amazon. It needs as many venues each year as possible to give partners the opportunity to make Amazon’s case.

Re:Invent runs through Friday at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

Bachelor No. 3

The other two largest cloud infrastructure providers in terms of investment, by most analysts’ estimates, Google and Microsoft Azure, are exploiting this as Amazon’s chief weakness — and doing so, at least this year, rather successfully.

They’re producing specialized services such as Google Container Engine for orchestrating Docker and CoreOS with Kubernetes, Microsoft HDInsight for floating Hadoop clusters in the cloud and Power BI for visualizing real time analytics from internal and outside sources. Microsoft, Google and now IBM Bluemix are striking blows against Amazon by playing to their respective, well-known strengths.

Amazon needs to be able to play stronger hands in terms of the depth of its services, both home-grown and from partners. So far, the company is playing like it has so many announcements to make that it can’t fit them all into one conference.

Last Friday, Amazon tossed out a very juicy tidbit to the crowd: its launch of an ElasticSearch service, finally embracing the open source choice of enterprises rather than trying fruitlessly to compete with it on its own terms.

The company made the announcement without the least bit of politics or the appearance of having switched sides.

AWS evangelist Jeff Barr said in a company blog post Friday, simply enough, “You can launch a scalable ElasticSearch cluster from the AWS Management Console in minutes, point your client at the cluster’s endpoint, and start to load, process, analyze, and visualize data shortly thereafter.”

Given this rather spectacular setup, Amazon has a lot to prove this week, beginning with its Wednesday keynotes.

What Does 'Partnership' Really Mean?

More than one Amazon partner in recent days has made the effort to get this reporter and his colleagues to tout the possibility of an inkling of a likelihood of a culmination of an endorsement by Amazon of one kind of product or another.

Amazon, for its part, is remaining tight-lipped on many of these subjects until at least today or perhaps tomorrow.

Amazon has been, and continues to be, very open about how it presents infrastructure for others to build their services on. The fact that they build their services on AWS’ infrastructure is not, has not been, and will not become, endorsements of their services by Amazon.

When Amazon endorses a brand, it should be an obvious thing.

But not even partnership denotes exclusivity, or even implies that the companies are working together.  Yesterday, Rackspace announced it received the certification it requires to be able to offer its Fanatical Support management services for AWS.

The news was interpreted as a “teaming” of the two companies, without any word from either one that such a team was being formed.

The sentence, “Both Rackspace and Amazon declined to comment,” should have been a clue.

Can You Announce Someone Else’s Tacit Support?

In the early days of the iPhone, some of the first proprietors of apps in the App Store touted their “official” support from Apple, only for Apple to chastise them publicly for saying so later on.

Membership has some privileges, but they extend to a certain point. Amazon needs to maintain some distance between itself and its partners, in order to avoid playing favorites and to nurture healthy competition within its own ecosystem.

At the same time, Amazon desperately needs to place the Amazon brand on its own services to more aggressively compete against Microsoft, Google, IBM, perhaps Salesforce, and yes, SAS.

Last year at re:Invent, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels introduced Amazon’s EC2 Container Service, and positioned it squarely as a competitor against Google and Kubernetes. Vogels used very explicit and unmistakable language to distinguish his service from theirs, saying that Kubernetes was just too hard for everyday people, and alleging that it was unsuited for microservices.

This year, we’re told by folks outside of Amazon to expect a thawing of Vogels’ iceberg, and a warming up to Kubernetes, so long as partners are the ones supplying it.

Well, partners have already been supporting Kubernetes on AWS infrastructure. Does it help Amazon to make that fact somehow “official?”

Or wouldn’t it risk making it appear that Dr. Vogels was walking back his tough stance?

Amazon needs to clarify the meaning of the term “official” with respect to its support for partners.  We’ll be watching the Wednesday keynotes to see how far Amazon advances its own cause, and just how far it’s willing to take others along for the ride.

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Title image by Steve Costigan/Twitter.