Different Horses for Different Courses – EarthLink’s Rolla Huff Speaks at Bloomberg’s ‘Next Big Thing’ Summit

“Different horses for different courses” was the end note on the panel, “How Software is Eating Everything & the Future of the Network” on Monday, June 18, where EarthLink’s Chairman and CEO Rolla P. Huff joined Michael Gregoire, CEO at CA Technologies, and Sanjay Poonen, President and Head of the mobile division of SAP AG, in a fascinating discussion about the outlook for software development, the cloud, mobile technology and the security issues they raise. Special thanks to Bloomberg’s Peter Burrows for moderating the panel.

What’s the next best thing to actually being there?

Throughout his 22 minutes on stage, Rolla’s participation highlights EarthLink’s exciting transformation as he shared advances in cloud and virtualization. He shares that, “We were a consumer ISP and that’s probably now 20% of our business. 80% of our business is serving mid-size business customers in the cloud, infrastructure management, and networking,” to showcase EarthLink’s transformation strategy to IT services and businesses in the cloud. Rolla goes on to state, “I think from a small to mid-size business perspective, we are at the early stages of moving those kinds of business models into the cloud. There is not a lot of skill set in these small businesses to actually move their models to the cloud securely. We are really trying to put together a portfolio of services that allow these companies to variablize their cost structure to consume IT as a service versus going through the cycles of buying hardware and software.”

Rolla Huff also shared his thoughts around IT services, cloud, mobile and security:

Do you think the industry is serving the small and mid-size companies as well? (Jump to video)

“I think it’s at the very beginning stages of serving the industry. There is lot of marketing motion above Fortune 500. But below the Fortune 500 there is not. 80% of the typical IT org is built around production, so a Fortune 500 company would hire the enterprise organization to help them think through how to move more of the business into the cloud. But the gentleman that owns a 200 terminal trucking company in the SE, you just don’t have people to help you think through that. There is a real need there. Everyone understands the fact that they need to get the cost structure up there, but helping them get there is a real tough model. I think people that can bring that to life without hand-holding 24/7 put a control point up there so applications are up there that you don’t need an IT staff to manage – I think there is real promise there and that is where we are focused.” – Rolla Huff

What are the trends in tablet vs laptop? Are the BYOD trends picking up? (Jump to video)

“We like the idea of giving business the ability to let their employees bring whatever device they feel most comfortable into the office and securely putting their desktop no that device. So once again, we think there is a real positive momentum around business saying “I just want to keep my data secure, if people can bring their devices from home, we don’t have to buy them.” They are happier. Otherwise, it’s always a food fight as to which iOS or Android device they will use. And we feel that is where it’s going.” – Rolla Huff

Question from the Audience: Emergence of the cloud – mobile and how these things are coming together. What would be the next technology out there that would be as disruptive as the cloud/mobile? And what is slowing the adoption of the cloud? (Jump to video)

“Security is slowing down adoption in the business market. Everyone is concerned and there is a lot of effort being put into it. But the other cold reality is that if you believe that we’re in a period of flat GDP growth, the cost of technology is going up. There is only one thing that can fix that for most businesses and they need to have their IT organizations part of a federal enterprise-class platform. Even though security scares everyone to death, there is a push to take business into the cloud – no doubt. I hope that security is the next big thing that comes out. Because with everything that’s moving into the cloud, it’s absolutely critical and I think there is huge opportunity there.” – Rolla Huff