Hard Charging Software onto the AWS Marketplace with David Gatti

Episode Summary

0x4447 is an independent company that packages software and solutions that is designed to scale “a heck of a lot” more than just a consultancy. David Gatti, a cloud engineer and CEO of 0x4447, joins Corey for a deep dive into all the company’s offerings. They have recently pulled away from just consultancy work, and are now hard charging their software into the cloud ecosystem. David discusses 0x4447’s recent pull from just consultancy and the shift of focus to the products they sale on the AWS Marketplace. The primary reason, scale. David talks about balancing the early high investment that software demands, with a tailing productivity and return. He and Corey chat in depth about 0x4447’s offerings to include their VPN, SFTP, and others alongside the philosophy that David has developed behind his work.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About David
David is an AWS expert who likes to design and build scalable solutions that are fully automated and take care of themselves. Now he is focusing on selling his own products on the AWS Marketplace.

Links:
Transcript
Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.


Corey: Today’s episode is brought to you in part by our friends at MinIO the high-performance Kubernetes native object store that’s built for the multi-cloud, creating a consistent data storage layer for your public cloud instances, your private cloud instances, and even your edge instances, depending upon what the heck you’re defining those as, which depends probably on where you work. It’s getting that unified is one of the greatest challenges facing developers and architects today. It requires S3 compatibility, enterprise-grade security and resiliency, the speed to run any workload, and the footprint to run anywhere, and that’s exactly what MinIO offers. With superb read speeds in excess of 360 gigs and 100 megabyte binary that doesn’t eat all the data you’ve gotten on the system, it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. Check it out today at min.io/download, and see for yourself. That’s min.io/download, and be sure to tell them that I sent you.


Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by our friends at Sysdig. Sysdig is the solution for securing DevOps. They have a blog post that went up recently about how an insecure AWS Lambda function could be used as a pivot point to get access into your environment. They’ve also gone deep in-depth with a bunch of other approaches to how DevOps and security are inextricably linked. To learn more, visit sysdig.com and tell them I sent you. That’s S-Y-S-D-I-G dot com. My thanks to them for their continued support of this ridiculous nonsense.


Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. Today’s promoted episode is brought to us by 0x4447. And my guest today is David Gatti, their CEO. David, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.


David: Thank you for getting me on the show.


Corey: One of the things that I find fascinating about what you do and where you come from is that for the last five years, you’ve been running an independent company that I would classify based upon our conversations as pretty close to a consultancy. However, you’ve gone down the path that I didn’t when I set up my own consultancy, and started actually selling software—not just software: Solutions—as a packaged thing that you can wind up doling out to various customers, whereas I just went with the very high touch approach of, “Oh, let me come in and have a whole series of conversations with people.” Your scale is a heck of a lot more. So, do you view yourself these days as a software company, as a consultancy, or something else entirely?


David: So, right now, I did put aside the consultancy because yeah, one thing that I realized, it’s possible but it’s very hard to scale, it’s also hard to find people at the same level. So yeah, the scalability of the business is quite hard, whereas with software sold on the AWS Marketplace, that is much easier to scale than what I was doing before, and that’s why I decided to take a break from consulting and focusing one hundred percent on the products that I sell on the AWS Marketplace to see how this goes and how it actually works, and can a business be built around it.


Corey: The common wisdom that I’ve encountered is that consulting, especially when you’re doing it yourself, is one of those things that is terrific when you find yourself in the position that I originally did of your employer showing up and, “Knock, knock,” “Who’s there?” “Not you anymore. Get out.” And there’s a somewhat, in my case, limited runway as far as how long I’ve got before I have to go find another job. With consulting, you can effectively go out and start talking to people, and provided that you can land a project, it starts throwing off revenue, basically immediately, whereas building software, building packages, things that you end up selling to people, it’s almost like a real estate business on some level, where you have to take a lot of investment up front to wind up building the thing, where—because no one is, generally speaking, going to pay you spec work to go ahead and build something for 18 months and come back and hope that it works.


David: Right.


Corey: I also bias towards the services because I’m bad at writing code. You, on the other hand, write things that seem to actually work, which is another refreshing difference.


David: Yes. So, I did that, but now I have a guy that is just a Linux expert. So, you were saying that there is a high investment in the beginning, but what actually—in my case what happened, I’ve been selling these products for the past three years basically as a hobby. So, when I was doing AWS consulting, I was seeing, like, a company has a problem, a repeating problem, so I was just creating a product, putting it on the Marketplace, and then sending it to them. So basically, they had a situation where I can manage those projects to update when there’s a need to do an update, and there was always a standardization behind that, right?


So, if they had, you know, five SFTP servers, and there was a need to make an update, I was making the update on my image, putting it on the Marketplace, and then updating all those servers in one go in a much quicker fashion then managing them one by one, right? And so I had this thing for three years. So now, when I started doing this full-time, I have a little bit of a leap on what’s going on. So, I already had a bunch of clients that are using their products, so that actually helped me not to have to wait three years before I saw any revenue coming in.


Corey: I always thought that the challenge behind building something like this was that well, you needed to actually be conversant in a programming language; that was the thing that you needed to package and build these things. But I take a look at what you have on the AWS Marketplace—and I will throw a link to this in the [show notes 00:04:39]—but you offer right now four different offerings: A Rsyslog server, a Samba server, VPN server, and an SFTP server, and every one of those four things, back in my DevOps days, I built and implemented on AWS, generally either from scratch or from something in the Marketplace—and I’ll get to that in a bit—that didn’t really meet a variety of needs. And every single time I built these things, it drove me up a wall because I had to do this without, like, solving a global problem locally, myself, to meet some pile of needs, then I had to worry about the maintenance of the thing, making sure that the care and feeding continued to work. And it just wasn’t—it didn’t work for me in the way that I wanted it to. It never occurred to me that I really could have just solved this whole thing once, [unintelligible 00:05:28] it on the Marketplace, and then just gone and grabbed the thing.


David: Exactly. So, that was my exact thinking here. Especially when your work with the client, this [unintelligible 00:05:38] was also great [idea 00:05:39] because when you work with clients, they want to do things as fast as possible, right? So, can they say, “I need an SFTP server?” Of course, it takes, you know, half a day to set up something, but then they scream at you and say, like, “Hey, do the next thing. Do the next thing. Do the next thing.” And you never end up configuring the server that you’re making a reliable way, sometimes you misconfigure it because, oh I forgot this option, and now everybody on the internet can access the server itself.


Corey: Wait, screw up a server config? That doesn’t sound like something I would do.


David: Well, of course not.


Corey: Yeah, no one [unintelligible 00:06:08] they’re going to until oops.


David: Yes. You’re amazing and you’re perfect, of course, but I’m not. And I was seeing, like, oh, you know, in the middle of the night, oh, I 
forgot this option. I forgot this. I forgot that.


And so there was never a, basically, one place when the configuration just correct, right? And that was something that sparked my idea when I realized the Marketplace exists. It’s like, oh, wait a moment, I can spend few weeks to do it, right, put it there and never worry about it again. And so if when a client says like, “Hey, I need this,” I can deploy it literally, in less than one minute. You have any of those products that actually I’m selling up and running, right?


And of course, the VPN is going to be a little bit slower because it needs to generate all the certificates at the beginning, but for example, the SFTP one is just poof, you’re deployment with our CloudFormation file, provide username and password, and you’re up and running. And I see, for example, this thing with clients, which sometimes it’s funny, when there’s two clients that they use the SFTP server only once a day for one hour. So, every day is like one new instance created, then one instance removed, and one instance created and one instance removed. And so it keeps on going like that.


Corey: The thing that always drove me nuts about building these things out was first I had to go and find something on those rare occasions where I used the Marketplace. Again, I wasn’t really working in the same modern Marketplace that we think of today when we talk about the AWS Marketplace. It was very early on, the only way that it would deliver software was via, “Here’s an AMI, grab the thing, and go ahead and deploy it, and it’s going to have an additional hourly cost on. It the end.” And more or less the whole Henry Ford approach of, “Oh, you can get it in any color you want, as long as it’s black.”


So, back in those days, I would spin up an OpenVPN server—and I did this at several companies—I would go and find the thing on the Marketplace from I think it was the OpenVPN company behind the project. Great, I grabbed the thing, it had no additional cost through the Marketplace. I then had to go and get a custom license file from the vendor themselves, load the thing in, then start provisioning users. And this had no integration that I could discern with anything else we had going on, so all of this stuff was built through the web config on this thing, there was no facility for backing the thing up—certificate, material, et cetera, et cetera—so if something happened to that instance or that image, or we had to go through a DR exercise, well, time to reprovision everyone by hand again. And it was annoying because the money didn’t matter. At a company scale, it really doesn’t for something like this unless you’re into the usurious ranges. It does not matter.


It’s the, I want to manage this simply and effectively in a way that makes sense, and in many cases in a way that is congruent with our on-prem environment. So, “Oh, there’s a custom AWS service that offers something kind of like this. Use that instead.” It’s, yeah, I don’t like the idea, personally, of having to use a higher-level managed service that I’m very often going to need the most, right when things are getting wonky during an outage scenario. I want something that I understand and can work with.


And I’ve always liked, even if I have all the latest whiz-bang accesses into an environment, in production environments, I spin up something like this anyway, just to give myself a backdoor in the event that everything else breaks. And I really like how you’ve structured your VPN server as far as backing up its config, sharing its configs, you can scale it to more than one instance—what a ridiculous concept that is—and so on and so forth.


David: So, it’s not more than one—I mean, yes, you can deploy to more than one time, but the thing that—because again, when you were saying, like, companies don’t care about the cost, right? It’s more about how annoying it is to use and set up, right? And so I’m one of those people that when I, for example, see things like I’ve been playing with servers since the ’90s, right, and I was keeping rebuilding and recreating everything every single time from scratch.


And, yeah, it was always painful. It took always a lot of time. For example, our server took six months to set up the right way. And also the pricing [unintelligible 00:10:11] the competition has is quite aggravating, I will say. Like, it’s very hard to scale above a certain point, especially for the midsize companies.


And the goal with the Marketplace is also, like, make it as simple as possible. Because AWS itself doesn’t make it easy to be on the Marketplace, and it’s almost, like, crazy how hard it is. So, for anybody who will like to—who might think, like, “Oh, I would like to try this AWS Marketplace thing,” I would say should do it, but be super patient. You cannot rush it because it’s going to take you on average six months to understand how even the process of uploading anything and updating it and managing it is going to take it because their website that they’ve built has nothing to do with the console and it’s a completely custom solution that is very clunky and still very old-fashioned, how you have to manage it.


Corey: Tell me more about that. I’ve never gone through the process of putting something up on the Marketplace. To my understanding, you need to be an AWS partner in order to use the Marketplace, correct?


David: No you don’t have to.


Corey: Okay.


David: No. Thankfully not. I hope it’s not going to do this thing is not going to change. [crosstalk 00:11:20]—


Corey: Yeah. I wound up manifesting it into existence by saying that. Yeah. If you’re on the Marketplace team listening to this, don’t do 
that, please. I really don’t want to get yelled at and have made things worse for people.


David: Don’t give them ideas. [laugh]. Okay?


Corey: Exactly.


David: No, it’s anybody can do it. But yeah, how to add a new product. So, the process is you have to build an AMI first. And then you have to submit the AMI to AWS by first creating a special AMI role—sorry, I always get confused AMI, [IAM 00:11:51], I never—IAM is 
users. Okay.


Corey: I think we have a few more acronyms that use most of the same letters. I think that’s the right answer here.


David: [laugh]. So, either IAM or AMI, whichever is responsible for roles, you have to create a special role to give AWS access to your AMI. Then you submit the image to AWS providing the role that they have to use. They scan it and they do simple checks to make sure that you don’t for example, have SSH enabled with regular users, do some regular scanning to make sure that you’re not using an image from ten years ago, right, of Linux. And once you pass that, you are able to actually create your first product.


Then you have to write your title, description provide, for example, the ports that needs to be open, the URLs to separate resources, the pricing page, which takes on average one hour to fill up because let’s say that you have 20 instances that you support, and for every instance, you have to write the price for that instance per one hour. Then if you want to have a discount of let’s say 20%—because you can set it by the hour, or someone can pay you for the full year. And so for the full year, you might have a discount. So, you have to have also the price per hour discounted by the amount of percentage that you want, and then you have to repeat it 40 times. Because there is no way to upload that.


Corey: That feels like the internal AWS billing system in some respects. “Well, if it’s good enough for us it good enough for our customers.” 
And—


David: [laugh]. Exactly.


Corey: —now, I have empathy for the folks in the billing system internally; their job is very hard, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to wind up exposing those sharp edges to folks who are, you know, paying customers of these things.


David: Right. And it’d be a simple thing like being able to import the CSV file with just two columns and that would be perfect. But no, you have to do it by hand. There is no other way. So hopefully—


Corey: Or someone has to. Welcome to the crappiest internship of your life.


David: Exactly.


Corey: It feels like bringing people into data entry for stuff like that is cheating.


David: Exactly. So, you do that and then I don’t remember exactly what the other steps are to a new creating a completely new product because I did that three years ago, and so now, I’m been just updating those products, but yeah, then they have to review your submission, and once everything is okay, then your product is on the Marketplace, and you can—are already accept everything. If you, for example, want to have the image also available in some specific regions that are not the default ones, you have to enable this by hand. I don’t remember anymore how, but it’s not obvious.


Corey: And you have to keep redoing this every time they launch a new region as well, I would imagine.


David: So, they say that you can have enabled the option to automatically add it, but it still won’t work. Well, it will work, but… let’s say, so in my case, I’m using CloudFormation. I gave a complimentary CloudFormation file where if you want to deploy my product, you go to the documentation page, you click the orange button, and you basically provide the parameters, and you click next, next, next and the product is deployed within a few minutes.


And in that CloudFormation file, I have a map of every AMI in every region. Okay? So, if they add a new region and they automatically add the AMI there, then if you don’t get notified that there is a new region, you don’t know that you have to update the CloudFormation file, and then someone might say, like, “Hey, David, why this product is not deployed in this region.” It’s like, “Oops. I didn’t know that they have to update the CloudFormation file with a new region.” Right?


Corey: Yeah, I’m a big believer in ClickOps, the idea of doing things in the console, but everything you’re talking about sounds like a fraught enough process that I’m guessing you have some form of automation that helps you with a lot of this.


David: Yeah. So, I hate repeating anything more than once, so everything in my book is automated as much as possible. The documentation, for example, how I structure it, there is a section that tells you how to deploy it by just using CloudFormation file and clicking next, next, next, next until you have it. And then there’s also the option if you want to deploy manually because you don’t trust what the CloudFormation file is doing, right? Of course, you can see the source file if you wanted to, but sometimes people are a little bit wary about big CloudFormation files.


In any case, I have this option, but they have this option as a separate thing. So, AWS has an option where you could add a CloudFormation file that goes with your product. The problem is to be able to submit a CloudFormation file natively so they will take care of it requires you to get Microsoft Office 365. Because they give you an Excel file that has, I think, a few thousand columns. And for example, numbers under [unintelligible 00:16:40], when you export, you save the final—or sorry, you export it, it will cut around 500 columns. So, you miss, like, two-thirds of what AWS will likely to send you. And why they do that, I have no idea. I don’t know if they still do it after three years, but when I was doing it, they told me like, “Hey, this is the file. Fill it by hand.”


Corey: About that time period, that was exactly how they did large-scale corporate discounts on custom contracts is that they would edit the AWS bill in Excel, or if not, the next closest thing to it because there were periodically errors that looked an awful lot like someone typo-ing something by hand.


David: What—


Corey: Computers are generally bad doing that, and it took an extra couple of weeks to get those bills, which is right around the speed of human.


David: Wow.


Corey: I see none of those problems anymore, which tells me, that’s right, someone finally upgraded off of Microsoft Excel to the new level. Probably Airtable.


David: [laugh]. Maybe. So, I don’t know if that process is still there, but what they did, like, then I realized, oh, wait a moment, I can just have a CloudFormation file in S3 bucket publicly available and just use that instead of going through that process. Because I didn’t want to pay on a yearly basis for a product that I’m going to use literally once a year. That didn’t make any sense to me and so I decided I’m going to do it this way. That’s why, yeah, if they add on a new region, I have to go out and update my own CloudFormation file because I maintain that myself, whereas they would maintain it for me, I guess.


Corey: The way that I see all of the nuts and bolts of the engineering parts of getting all these things up and running on the Marketplace, it feels like it is finicky; it is sharp edges that AWS is basically known for in many respects, but without the impetus of making that meaningfully better, just because there’s such an overriding business reason, that—it’s not like there’s a good competitor for something like this. So, if you want to sell things to AWS people in most frictionless way possible, it reflects on the AWS bill, causes discounting, counts for their spend commitments, and the rest, it’s really the AWS Marketplace is the only game in town for a lot of that.


David: Right. So, I don’t know if they don’t do it because they don’t have enough competition or pressure because to me when I first started doing this AWS Marketplace, it felt to me like more Amazon than AWS, right? It feels more like an Amazon team was behind it and not people from AWS itself. It felt like completely something different. Not to mention, yeah, the console that they provide is something completely custom that has nothing to do with the typical AWS console.


Corey: I’ve heard stories about the underpants store division’s seller tools as well; very similar to the experience you’re describing.


David: Mmm. And also the support is different. So, it’s not connected to the AWS console one. The good thing about it, it’s free, but it’s also only by email. And so yeah, it’s a very weird, clunky situation where I mean, I’m someone that, I guess, loves the pain of AWS. [laugh].


I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But when I started, I decided, you know what, I’m going to figure it out, and once I do, I’m going to feel happy that I was able to. Maybe that’s their goal: It’s to give us purpose in life. So, maybe that’s the goal of AWS. I don’t know.


Corey: There are times I really wonder about that where it feels like it could be so much more than it is, but it’s not. And, again, my experience with it is very similar to what you’ve described, where it’s buying an AMI, the end. But now they’re talking about selling SaaS subscriptions on it, they’re talking about selling professional services—in some cases—on it. And effectively, it almost feels like it’s trying to become the Marketplace through which all IT transacting starts to happen. And the tailwind that sort of is giving energy to a lot of those efforts is, if you have a multimillion-dollar spend commitment with AWS in return for discounting, you have to make sure you spend enough within the timeframe, 50% of all spend on the AWS Marketplace counts toward that.


Now, other cloud providers, it’s 100% of spend, but you know, AWS is nothing if not very tight with the dollar. So okay, fine, whatever. There’s a reason for companies to go down that path. Talk to me a little bit about the business aspect of it because for me, it seems like the clear win, in the absence of anything else is—especially at larger companies—they already have a business relationship with AWS. The value to someone selling software on the Marketplace feels like it would be, first and foremost, an end-run around companies procurement departments.


It’s just oh, someone has to click a button and they’re up and running, as opposed to going through the entire onboarding and contracting and all the rest, manual way. Other than the technical challenges of getting things up and running on it, how have you found that it works as far as getting in front of additional customers, as far as driving adoption? You could theoretically have—I imagine—have not gone down the Marketplace route at all and just sold this directly on your website, click here to buy a license file the way that a lot of stuff I used to as well, and would have cut out a lot of the painful building an AMI and putting it into the Marketplace story. What’s the value to being in the Marketplace?


David: Yeah, so in the beginning, the value was basically that it’s on the Marketplace, as I was saying, I was using it with pre-existing clients, so it was easy for me because I knew AWS images were there. So, it was easy to just click my own CloudFormation file and tell the client after one minute, “Hey, it’s up and running. You have a bunch of profiles for your VPN. Enjoy and have fun.” Right?


That experience, once you have it on the Marketplace, it’s nice because it just works. And you don’t have to do much work. Then I realized that AWS, in the search bar in the console, when you were typing, for example, you know, you type EC2, S3, CloudFormation, to find the service, what they were doing originally is when you were typing in the search bar, you were getting the services of AWS, and then when there was nothing left, they were showing the results of the Marketplace, which was basically amazing because you have primetime in the console with your product, you had to do zero marketing, and you get every week, took new clients that are using our product. And the trend was growing pretty, pretty well.


And that was a proposition that is just amazing. Like, nobody has that because you can have Fortune 500 companies using our product without doing anything. It just—is it simple to deploy? Yes. Does it provide value? Is the price great? And people were just using them. Fast forward now; what happened is AWS changed the console. And instead of showing, after the services, the Marketplace, like, now they show the sub-section of the services, they show the results from the blog, the articles, videos, whatever, I don’t even know what they’ve put there—


Corey: Originally, you could search my name in that search bar, and it would pop up a profile of me they did for re:Inforce in the security blog.


David: [laugh]. There you go.


Corey: “Meet Corey Quinn. A ‘cloud economist’—scare quotes and all—who does not work here. And it was glorious. Now, they’ve changed the algorithm so it pops up. “Oh, you want Corey Quinn, you must mean IoT Core.” So, that blog post is still there, but it’s below the fold because of course they give precedence to a service that they have that nobody uses or understands. Because, Amazon.


David: Yeah, of course. And so that was awful because suddenly I realized that, oh, I’m getting less and less new clients because you know, after six months, one year, people are shutting off their things because they’re finished using them, and I will not getting new ones. But at that time, I was doing [AWS 00:24:06] consulting, so it’s like, oh, maybe it was a glitch in the Matrix, whatever. I got lucky.


But then after a few months, I realized, wait a moment. When I was working in AWS, I realized that the console results changed, and I went like, oh, that’s what happened and that’s why I’m getting less clients, right? So, in the beginning, that was a great thing and that’s why I’m actually paying you to promote my business and my products because now there is no way to put the products in front of customers because AWS took it away. And so that’s why I decided to actually go full-force on this to make sure that I promote as much as possible because that one cool feature that AWS was providing, they took it away for whatever reason because blog posts are more important than their partners, [laugh] I guess.


Corey: Well, it depends on the partner and the tier of partner, and it feels like it’s a matter—to be clear, full disclosure: I am not an AWS partner; I’m not partnered with any vendor in this space, for either real or perceived conflict of interest issues, so I don’t have a particular horse in the race. But back when there were a small number of partners, the network really worked. Now, there are tens of thousands of partners, and well, what winds up being surfaced? Customers, as a result seem to be caring less about various partner statuses, unless they’re trying to check a box on some contractual requirement. Instead, they just want the problem solved, and it’s becoming increasingly challenging to differentiate just by the nature of how this works.


I don’t believe, in 2022, that you could build almost anything, and put it on the AWS Marketplace in isolation and expect that to suddenly drive adoption by the fact that you’re there. It feels, to me, at least on the other side of the fence, that the Marketplace experience is all about, you go there and you look for the name of the thing that you already know that you want because you’ve heard about it from other means, and then you just click it and you go, and that’s the end of it. It’s a procurement story; it’s not a discoverability story.


David: Right. And yeah, so that’s sort of a bit disappointing, and I even made a post on Reddit about it to just bring this up to AWS itself to say, like, “Hey, UI change is pretty severe.” Because I mean, they get a percentage of every hour, the products are running, so basically they shoot themselves in the foot by making less money because now they’re getting less products are being shown to potential customers. So, yeah, that’s a disappointing thing.


When it comes to also you ask what other way there is to show their products to potential customers, so there is an option where AWS can help you out. And when I talked to them, I think last year, they said that if you reach $2 million in sales a year, then they will basically show you around other potential customers, right? Which is a little bit disappointing because especially if you’re a small company like mine, it’s pretty hard to get to that $2 million in a meaningful time. And if once you reach that point, you might go like, “Hmm, how is this going to help me if you now show me in front of other people?” So yeah.


And of course, I understand them in a sense that if they show a product from the Marketplace to a big company and the product turns out to be of poor quality, then of course the client is going to tell AWS like, “Why you’re showing us something that just doesn’t do its job?” Right? But it’d be nice to have a [unintelligible 00:27:24] when you say, “Okay, you’re starting out. After a few years, so we can show you to this midsize clients.” You don’t have to go to, immediately, Fortune 500 companies. That doesn’t make any sense, right?


Corey: And I still—even the companies that are at that level, I’ve talked to them about how they’ve grown their business, and not a single one has ever credited anything AWS did to help them grow. Other than, “Well, they threw re:Invent, so we spent extortionate piles of money and set up a booth there, and the fact that we were allowed in the building to talk to people was helpful, I guess.” But it’s all through their own works on this, I’m not convinced, to be very direct with you, that AWS knows how to effectively drive sales and adoption of things on their own Marketplace. That is an increasing source of concern.


David: Right. And then there’s no plan of what to do with a company that is starting on the Marketplace, once it’s a few—or it’s already a few years and established in the Marketplace and a big one. Yeah, they don’t have any way to go about it, which is a bit disappointing. But again, I like a challenge. I like the misery of AWS, so I’m just doing it. [laugh].


Corey: No, I hear you. Would you recommend other people in your position explore selling on the Marketplace, given the challenges and advantages both that you’ve experienced?


David: So, if you were to start from scratch, it will take you, like, three years—maybe not three years, but it’s not something that should be the primary revenue source of the business if you want to go into the AWS Marketplace situation because you have to have enough capital to do enough marketing to see if you can get in front of people. If you already do some consulting like me, where I did some stuff on the side, and then realized, oh, people are using it, people like it, they get some feedback, the want new features, like, “Oh, maybe I can start growing this bigger and bigger, right?” It’s not something that’s going to happen immediately. And especially the updating process that happens, it can get quite stressful because when you make an update—so you have a version of a product that’s working and running, right? Now, you make an update and you have to spend at least a week or even sometimes two weeks to test that out to make sure that you didn’t miss anything because you don’t want people to update something and it stops working right?


Corey: You can’t break customer experiences on these things.


David: Yeah. No.


Corey: It becomes a nightmare.


David: Because especially you don’t know if, literally, a Fortune 500 company is using your product or, like, a tiny company that has only ten employees, right?


Corey: Your update broke the file server with a VPN means it’s unlikely that they’re going to come back anytime soon, too.


David: Right.


Corey: You’re also depending on AWS, in some respects, to steward the relationship because you’re you don’t have direct contact with your buyers.


David: No. So, that’s important thing. They don’t give you access to the contacts; they give you access to the company information. So, I actually do have Fortune 500 companies using my products, but yeah, there’s no way to get in touch with them. The only thing that you get is the company name, the address, the domain that they used to create an email. So, at least you can get a sense of, like, who this 
company is.


But yeah, there is no way to get in touch if there is a problem. So, the only way that you can notify the customer that there’s a new update is when you make an update, there is a text area that you can say what’s new, what did you change, right? And that’s the only communication that you get with the client. So if, for example, you do a big mistake, [laugh], you basically have that just little text box, and hopefully, someone reads it. But you know, AWS is known for sending 20 emails a week for every account that you open. Good luck getting through that noise.


Corey: Hope that you don’t miss the important ones as you go through. No—


David: Exactly.


Corey: —I hear you. These are problems that I think are on AWS’s plate to solve. Hopefully, someone over there is listening to this and will at least reach out with a bit of a better story. I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. We’ll include links, of course, to this in the [show notes 00:31:09]. Where else can people find you?


David: They can find us basically on the product page of what we sell. So, we have products.0x4447.com/. That’s where, basically, we keep all our products. We keep updating the page to provide more information about those products, how to get in touch with us, we provide training, demos, anything that you want. It’s very easy to get in touch with us instead of—sometimes when it comes to AWS. So yeah, we are out there, pretty easy to find us. The domain—the company name is so unique that you either get our website or—


Corey: Easy to find on Google.


David: Yeah, so we’re basically—the hex editor. And that’s basically it. [laugh].


Corey: Excellent. Well, we’ll definitely put links to that in the show [notes 00:31:50]. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I really appreciate it.


David: Thank you very much.


Corey: David Gatti, CEO of 0x4447. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice along with an angry comment that makes sure to mention exactly how long you’ve been working on the AWS Marketplace team.


Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit duckbillgroup.com to get started.


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