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CIO eyes digital services in SD-WAN push

Clint Boulton | Oct. 5, 2016
In a move designed to lure customers to its new services, including a software-defined wide area network, EarthLink hired American Cancer Society CIO Jay Ferro to rebuild its back-end and front-end systems as well as improve its sales process.

Earlier this year, Earthlink CEO Joe Eazor realized he needed a CIO to upgrade the company’s clunky legacy software and make its sales process more appealing to business customers browsing the website. Enter Jay Ferro, who led a digital transformation at the American Cancer Society (ACS) before joining EarthLink in July.

Serving in a dual role as CIO and chief product officer, Ferro will also help develop and pitch peers on EarthLink’s managed network products, including a new software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN).

"It's easy on an executive team to have insular thinking, think of yourself and then the market," Eazor tells "As a consumer of the products we provide, Jay brings a fresh perspective on what CIOs are looking for and that's who we sell to.”

Hired: CIO for application modernization, customer outreach

Ferro's hiring continues the trend of technology companies hiring CIOs to juggle back-office IT management with refining the digital services marketed to IT leaders. CEOs realize that CIOs are well-positioned, if not best-positioned, to pitch prospective customers on emerging digital solutions. Box, Workday and Okta have all hired cloud and mobile-savvy CIOs who can help shape corporate products based on customers' evolving needs.

[ Related: How auto repair chain accelerates networking with SD-WAN ]

Ferro tells he will introduce technologies to improve the sales cycle, starting from when customers engage with the company on its website, as well as order processing and delivery. Ferro also will deliver tools that generate data insights and analytics about how customers' network and applications are performing. He will also phase out legacy technologies, include AS/400 applications and multiple CRM systems, accrued from several acquisitions.

"There is still some optimization of the infrastructure and the application stack that needs to happen to enable the transformation," says Ferro, who at ACS consolidated 12 divisions and implemented a new CRM system to serve 70 million customers.

To that end, Ferro will both consume and advise customers on a crucial new SD-WAN service EarthLink launched last week. SD-WANs allow companies to set up and manage networking functionality, including VPNs, WAN optimization, VoIP and firewalls, using software to program the traffic routing typically conducted by routers and switches. "SD-WAN gives the network a brain," helping organizations better deliver both on-premises and cloud applications, Eazor says.

If you believe that then EarthLink just got a little smarter. The company last week launched its first SD-WAN service, based on technology from startup VeloCloud. The service offers customers bundles of network access with hosted voice, security services, bandwidth prioritization controls analytics and 24-7 monitoring to help optimize performance.

[ Related: IDC: SD-WAN market to hit $6B by 2020 ]


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