The Duckbill Group’s clients frequently ask whether they should purchase AWS through a reseller instead of direct. Conversely, others wonder whether it’s worthwhile to leave their reseller and go direct. 

There’s not one simple answer to those questions, so we’ve taken some time to do a thorough investigation on the matter.

First, some context. A reseller is a particular type of AWS Partner. There are five types of partners: resellers, consulting partners, managed services, independent software vendors (ISVs), and system integrators. Some partner companies fall into multiple buckets and provide a combination of these services — for example, it’s common for a reseller to also provide consulting services and managed services.

When you should use an AWS reseller

The primary reason to go through a reseller is because they _can_ add value to your organization above and beyond the AWS services they’re reselling. For companies that benefit from buying AWS through resellers, we’ve seen this value show up in some combination of the following four ways.  


Many partners that provide reseller services also provide expertise in some fashion by way of one-time consulting services. For example, some partners are known for their deep expertise in a certain industry or problem domain, so they provide that expertise in addition to the reseller services. This expertise is bundled together with the resold AWS services.

Invoice consolidation 

Some companies want fewer vendors and prefer a “single throat to choke,” so to speak. Many resellers happily do this, providing the company with a single invoice that includes a wide range of other third-party services.

Enhanced support

Many resellers provide additional support above and beyond what AWS provides. This can take the form of supplying additional, dedicated-to-you support staff to answer tricky AWS questions or by providing some additional bundled software to help manage AWS. For example, most resellers bundle cost management products like CloudHealth and Cloudability for free or at a deep discount, alongside the resold AWS services. 

Discounts (with a catch)

The core value proposition for every reseller is that AWS is cheaper through them than if you go direct. There’s a lot of truth in this — up to a point. For companies not eligible for private pricing with AWS directly (those spending under $1 million/year), a reseller can provide private pricing discounts you wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for. As mentioned above, many resellers can bundle other third-party services, and these bundled services may come with substantial discounts off retail pricing, thanks to the bundling. Note that some resellers also lock the customer out from using AWS Cost Explorer as a result and force them into using a third-party product for exploring costs.

When you shouldn’t use an AWS reseller

Just because a reseller can add value for companies doesn’t mean that they’ll add value for _your_ company specifically. Ultimately, that’s a judgment call that your company will need to make for itself. We’ve found two big reasons businesses shouldn’t buy AWS through a reseller. 

No AWS Organizations & Control Tower

As mentioned above, some resellers block access to AWS Cost Explorer, which is decidedly not great. However, some resellers go even further and force you into their AWS Organization setup, preventing you from using AWS Organizations, Control Tower, and associated functionality. If the capabilities from these services are important to you, then be cautious with a reseller. Not every reseller places these limitations on their customers, and we’ve found it to be inconsistent even within a single reseller.

No value-add 

If your reseller isn’t providing any value-added services you want, then there’s no reason to use a reseller for your AWS services. This can be particularly true for the discounts resellers offer: If you’re eligible for private pricing directly with AWS, the discount level will generally be the same as what the reseller would provide, as they are simply passing that discount through. In other words, if your reseller is _only_ providing discounts and no other value-added services, you should consider going direct with AWS to simplify your vendor management.

Vendor relationship management 

Speaking of vendor management, AWS is often an organization’s single largest expense after payroll and office space. It’s nearly always the single largest vendor expense for tech companies. At that point, AWS is more of a partner to your company than just any usual vendor (whether you want them to be or not!). We at The Duckbill Group believe anything that puts an intermediary layer between you and a critical partner is an undesirable thing. We recommend our customers own their core vendor relationships instead of putting an intermediary in between.

Analyze your needs before buying AWS through a reseller

There’s not a universal answer to whether it’s a good idea to purchase AWS through a reseller. It comes down to what your company needs. Ask yourself a few key questions to determine whether a reseller can add value:

1. Do you lack certain expertise internally?

2. Do you want to simplify your billing process via invoice consolidation?

3. Do you need additional customer support or software?

4. Do you spend less than $1 million/year on AWS services?

If the answer to all of the above is “no,” then we suggest cutting out the middleman: Work directly with AWS to purchase the services you need.

Group 3 Group 9 Asset 20 Asset 21