New EarthLink Tool Provides Private Gateway To AWS, Azure

EarthLink said it expects to capitalize on the surging popularity of Amazon Web Services with a solution that provides customers with secure connections to the public cloud.

The Atlanta-based company, No. 31 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, said the Cloud Express builds upon private cloud solutions EarthLink has offered for the past couple of years and makes it easier for on-premise customers to migrate to the cloud.

"We saw a need to offer our customers more flexibility and choice," Rich Froehlich, EarthLink's executive vice president and chief commercial officer, told CRN. "This is going to greatly expand our customer base for cloud services."

[Related: 2015 Solution Provider 500: The Top 50]

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In addition to AWS, cloud service providers supported by Cloud Express include Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer and CloudSigma, with connections to Google Cloud and Microsoft Office 365 coming soon, Froehlich said. Cloud Express customers can pivot easily between cloud providers as their needs or the market changes, Froehlich said.

Cloud Express provides customers with a direct connection from their Wide Area Network (WAN) to the public cloud providers, which Froehlich said isolates applications from threats that exist on the public Internet. Avoiding the transmission of sensitive materials over the public Internet is a priority for many chief information and chief security officers, Froehlich said.

EarthLink will sell Cloud Express to customers for between $900 and $7,000 per month, depending on the amount of bandwidth usage and whether customers wish to locate in one or both of EarthLink's data centers across the United States. Customers can either pay one-time professional service and connectivity fees up front or have them folded into the monthly bill.

For new customers, Froehlich expects Cloud Express to typically be bundled with network management and VoIP offerings as a single solution, putting EarthLink in charge of the end user's' network, cloud, applications and IT security. Cloud Express is fully managed by EarthLink, meaning end users can focus their time and energy on their core business.

Froehlich expects a majority of EarthLink's existing 1,000 Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) customers to be interested in Cloud Express, as well as a fair number of prospective clients. Nearly a dozen customers -- including a major retailer -- have signed up for Cloud Express since it was rolled out last week.

Demand is expected to be strongest in the retail, health-care and banking verticals, Froehlich said, because they would benefit most from the multisite functionality and vertical-specific applications. On-premise infrastructure becomes very costly in multisite environments, which Froehlich said are pervasive in the retail and banking verticals.

Cloud Express should soon be compatible with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers with applications around point-of-sale, HIPAA compliance and security tokenization, he said. This means customers will automatically be connected to the application when they boot up the network, eliminating the need for a separate connection to the SaaS providers themselves.

Many SaaS providers have recently made their software available to customers through the public cloud because it provides customers with better value, greater flexibility and allows them to minimize infrastructure and data-center-related investments, Froehlich said.

Cloud Express will likely take some volume and market share away from EarthLink's vCloud hosting services, Froehlich said. It almost certainly won't replace vCloud entirely, however, Froehlich said, because customers will still want to keep some applications and workloads on a private cloud due to security concerns.

"The customer experience will be much better by doing cloud this way," Froehlich said.