EarthLink says it will differentiate its Cloud Exchange service, one that allows business customers access to a wide range of cloud players, by offering better network management and monitoring capabilities.
Speaking to investors at the Jefferies TMT Conference, Joe Eazor, CEO of EarthLink, said that being proactive about overseeing services will set it apart from the growing pool of emerging managed services players.
"If you were selling the service on a stand-alone basis, the differentiation becomes in your ability to manage it," Eazor said. "The monitoring capabilities to stay on top of the optimization of the network and prioritization of the data flow to and from different SaaS or IaaS players."
With the Cloud Exchange solution, EarthLink is building direct connections to other cloud providers into its network while giving customers the ability to turn up and turn down cloud services.
In particular, the service provider's cloud story is resonating with existing MPLS customers that want to offload functions to a third party.
"If you look at our customer base, especially our MPLS customers, most of them are looking to migrate more and more of their applications side to SaaS providers and the flexibility of Infrastructure as a Service provider," Eazor said. "There are varying stages of success there, but if it becomes an offer we can provision through the network, there's a significant amount of demand."
Adoption of cloud exchange services continues to ramp, particularly in vertical markets such as retail.
In January, the service provider introduced Secure Storefront, a suite of managed security, network and IT services that are geared specifically to meet the needs of the retail market.
Eazor said that sometimes certain customer segments can drive new product development. During one of its retail advisory council meetings with its retail customers, the company was asked to develop a point of sales Software as a Service (SaaS) system.
"We mentioned the Cloud Exchange product and everyone was looking to implement a point of sale SaaS system and so they pulled us into getting this product launched, not just with the IaaS players, but also the point of sale SaaS players so they don't have to go negotiate on their own or do the install or network management themselves," Eazor said. "I think that's the role of the network in the future and that's one example of them pulling us into the future."
Eazor added that as it develops new products, the company relies on its channel partners and its advisory councils to get a handle on what new products it could develop.
"We're constantly looking to our channel partners as well as our customers on input on where to go next," he said. "I think this first wave of products is sort of a mix of pull and push and as we go forward, we have a good process with external sources and customers on where to go next."
Managed and cloud services, which have become a key focus for EarthLink, were a key contributor to its first-quarter revenue results.
During the first quarter, managed services were a large portion of EarthLink's revenue mix, rising 11 percent to $52 million.
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