Amazon gets (more) serious about the enterprise. No kidding

If you still don’t think Amazon(s amzn) is serious about winning enterprise accounts for Amazon Web Services, you need to get over it. The public cloud leader wants to be the preferred cloud for even the largest and most security-obsessed companies. In fact, attracting enterprise users — and reassuring C-level execs about the safety and reliability of Amazon’s cloud — was a primary rationale for last November’s inaugural AWS: Reinvent.

Amazon Web ServicesBut until recently, the hiring spree underlying this effort — Amazon has been seeking (and in some cases poaching) high-level sales engineers from enterprise IT companies like Sungard, HP(s hpq), Oracle(s orcl) and EMC(s emc) for a year or so — was a bit under the radar, as GigaOM reported in November.

Can you sell to a CIO? AWS wants you

What’s new, as Business Insider reported this week, is that it’s now out in the open; Amazon has posted lots of listings for enterprise-focused sales reps and sales managers. BI claimed 75 — I didn’t count them all, but the list is pretty rich. As of Thursday morning, AWS was seeking enterprise sales managers for New York, Dallas, Herndon, Virg., San Francisco, Irvine, Calif., and Seattle, among other areas.  As one listing puts it:

“As an Enterprise Sales leader you will have the exciting opportunity to help drive the growth and shape the future of an emerging technology. Your responsibilities will include driving revenue, adoption, and market penetration in enterprise accounts within the local geography. Your responsibilities will include building and managing a highly talented sales team focused on driving revenue, adoption, and market penetration in the Enterprise market. The ideal candidate will possess a technology sales management background that enables them to lead a team of senior enterprise sale representatives with engagements at the CXO level.”

Brian McCallion, founder and CEO of New York-based Bronze Drum Consulting, sees a tangible change in his AWS interactions of late. “What I see as a difference from 2012 is also the kinds of people AWS is hiring … the new Enterprise Account Manager and AWS Solution Architect I met with this week and last are more focused on eliminating organizational barriers that limit consumption of Cloud Services. And the focus area seems to be enabling Direct Connect for enterprise to simplify how enterprise connects to AWS.”

Startups and enterprises: two different animals

The fact that an established enterprise is, by definition, not a startup,  illustrates Amazon’s conundrum. Selling services to developers in startups is one thing and AWS was built on that business. But selling into an established enterprise with existing IT and with an internal bureaucracy is a whole other matter.

For all of AWS’s momentum — it claims enterprise accounts including Nasdaq and systems integration partners like  Accenture(s acn), Deloitte and Capgemini — some still doubt that big companies will trust mission critical loads to what they see as shared, and therefore insecure, infrastructure.

Amazon has worked to ease these concerns with new enterprise support options; with Virtual Private Cloud, which cordons off a section of Amazon’s cloud for a given company’s use; and management tools like Trusted Advisor.

And then there are such enterprise-y services as RedShift data warehousing, the Data Pipeline data consolidation service, and any number of new big data and other services promised by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels at Structure: Europe last year. The Register picked up on yet another job listing indicating more big data goodies to come from AWS. Perhaps some sort of big data managed service similar to DynamoDB would be in order.

Christopher Smith, cloud analyst at Cloud Technology Partners, a Boston-based systems integrator, says corporate customers are warming up to AWS and are getting more sophisticated about the notion of putting IT loads outside the firewall. “”Obviously [AWS is] the elephant in public cloud space. Clients are hesitant because of associated compliance and governance risk, but we’re seeing more openness due to key enabling technologies, while at the same time a cultural shift and greater understanding that just because you can see and touch the box, doesn’t mean its secure.”

But that new-found understanding comes as more cloud providers enter the scene. Going forward, Amazon will face more enterprise-focused competition for those business accounts.  EMC chief strategist Paul Maritz will doubtless speak about Pivotal Labs’ take on cloud infrastructure at GigaOM’s upcoming Structure:Data conference in New York, March 20-21.  And, as Rackspace(s rax), HP and Red Hat(s rhat) gear up their OpenStack-based clouds — IBM will likely say more about its OpenStack plans at the upcoming OpenStack Summit — one thing is for sure: Amazon may be the biggest cloud seeking enterprise customers, but it won’t be alone. And all of those rivals sport enterprise relationships that Amazon still craves.

Structure:Data: Put data to work. 60+ big data experts speaking. March 20-21, 2013, New York City. Register now.