Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the beta version of its new AWS Partner Network (APN), which it touts as a “global program that provides partners with the technical information and sales and marketing support they need to accelerate their business on AWS.”

With the partner program in beta, Amazon for now is simply signing up new partners and offering existing partners to join APN. The new AWS program has two elements: Technology Partners and Consulting Partners. Commercial software or Internet services companies doing work on platforms that run on, or are complimentary to, AWS, can sign on to APN as a tech partner. Consulting partners, on the other hand, comprise professional services firms that assist customers to design, migrate and build new applications on AWS, and include system integrators, strategic consultancies, resellers and VARs.

While having partners is nothing new for Amazon, the acknowledged public cloud leader is seeing enhanced competition from open source cloud platform OpenStack, which is hosting its Design Summit in the Bay Area this week, and recently happily (we assume) announced $4 million in annual support from a veritable Who’s Who list of 19 technology companies.

Given the sharper competitive climate now facing AWS, and the timing of the news -- arriving during the OpenStack Design Summit -- is it too far-fetched to ask whether this is Amazon's countermeasure to OpenStack's momentum? It is fair to ask the question—for-profit entities do not operate in a vacuum—but only time will tell whether either of these cloud contenders will come to dominate the market. Right now that’s anyone’s guess, if indeed it happens at all. We still don’t know whether any one platform can dominate in the cloud era, as has happened with technology in ages past (think Microsoft in the PC era).

In her post on GigaOm, Barb Darrow adroitly noted that as they grow bigger, tech companies -- she cites Amazon as well as Microsoft in this instance -- often add services that bring them into competition (oops!) with their partners. Which means Amazon is now simply charting the same “tricky waters” that other large tech firms already have had to navigate.

Before I sign off, here's another nugget of information about Amazon Web Services: We all know it's big. But how big? Cloud intelligence firm DeepField Networks posted an interesting answer to that question on same day AWS made its partner announcement. (Coincidence? I think not.)

It turns out that a full one-third of Internet users visit a site based on Amazon infrastructure every day. That includes all users and all web activities, no matter how limited. Also, as of April 2012, Amazon contributes more than 1 percent of all consumer traffic in North America. This is a “huge” volume of traffic in DeepField's view, since Amazon does not host video content like YouTube, which accounted for 6 percent of Internet traffic in 2010. Again, DeepField says it speaks to the magnitude of Amazon’s infrastructure.

Talkin’ Cloud readers who want to investigate the AWS Partner Network can click here to go to its site.