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My Path to Zayo and My Vision for What’s Next

By Anna Claiborne, SVP, Packet and Product Software Engineering

It’s funny where our passions take us. My passion has always been looking ahead at what’s next in networking technology to help improve our lives. No matter how we connect and communicate today, I can’t help but wonder about tomorrow.

I come to Zayo having partnered with like-minded visionaries to establish and build successful networking technology companies, pioneer the network-as-a-service (NaaS) movement, and merge common visions among companies through corporate acquisitions. 

Now, I’m thrilled to be the new Senior Vice President of Packet and Product Software Engineering at Zayo, and I can’t wait to realize Zayo’s mission – to connect what’s next – to build tomorrow’s networking. 

From Fighting the Russian Mafia to Founding Companies to Product Leadership at Zayo

First, a little bit more about the journey that led me to Zayo. In 2003, when the Internet was still in its youth and largely unregulated and unprotected, I was part of the team that founded Prolexic Technologies, the first commercial DDoS Protection service. We thwarted DDoS attacks from bad actors like the Russian mafia and worked with the FBI to profile cyber criminals – to name a few notable accomplishments. Prolexic was eventually acquired by Akamai in 2014. 

Following Prolexic, I led the security product team at Terremark, a data center, disaster recovery, and cloud computing company acquired by Verizon in 2011. From there, I led engineering at 6connect, a company that helped enterprises and ISPs automate transactional and provisioning activity. 

My final stop before Zayo: I co-founded PacketFabric – one of the industry’s first NaaS companies ever – in 2015. It was at PacketFabric where we turned a stagnant and monopolistic industry around. In eight short years, PacketFabric became the industry’s model for automation, customer service, and usability. We cracked the user experience code, and we did it all without our own network assets! 

NaaS + Zayo’s Fiber? We’ll be Unstoppable!

It was my passion for NaaS that ultimately landed me at Zayo. Because of Zayo’s huge fiber footprint, we have a unique opportunity to achieve real scale in offering NaaS to our customers. Customers have been demanding to interact with their network providers like they do cloud providers for years – and that’s exactly what NaaS allows. 

Cloud service providers allow customers easy access to their services and applications, self-service options, flexible cost structures, nearly limitless scalability, reliability, security, automation, and centralized management. NaaS swiftly answers the question: if cloud providers can offer this frictionless customer experience, why can’t network providers? 

Offering NaaS drives us toward my goal to make Zayo a more customer-focused organization. The customer calls the shots, and NaaS is a cornerstone of delivering the optimal customer experience. NaaS allows customers levels of scalability, cost efficiency, centralized management and control, agility, and security unattainable in traditional networking service models. 

It’s about time the telecommunications industry puts the customer first, and I want Zayo to be at the forefront of that movement.

What’s Next in Tech – Cloud Migration and Automation

Aside from my passion for NaaS, I’ve been eyeing a few other technology trends that I plan to watch and tap into in my role at Zayo. Some of these trends include migration to and from the Cloud and automation. 

Migration to – and from – the Cloud

First, the Cloud. For a while, it was all about migration to the Cloud. And for good reason – the Cloud is easier to use and manage than on-prem solutions, enables business continuity and seamless experience regardless of location, and offers scalability and flexibility innovative enterprises need to pivot quickly as technology changes. There is no doubt we’d be leagues behind technologically without the Cloud. 

That said, while the Cloud is great for a lot of things, it isn’t the perfect foundation for everything. It’s lost a lot of its shiny newness over time, and the realities of the economics of the Cloud are starting to set in. 

Egress fees, for one, can be astronomical – especially if you’re running two or more clouds. Some companies also complain of vendor lock-in – being trapped by a single vendor controlling your whole Cloud environment. Data can be a goldmine for modern businesses, but if you can’t easily move it and analyze it, it becomes more of a cost than a benefit. 

As a result, companies are beginning what some call “repatriation from the Cloud,” accepting that some applications simply do better on a bare metal cloud or an on-prem solution. Some applications require lower latency, decreased cost, and increased security on-premises solutions have to offer. It will be interesting to watch this evolution unfold, and I want to ensure that Zayo is there to support our customers to help them simply click and connect whether they opt for on-premises or cloud-based solutions – or a combination of both.

Automating (almost) everything

If you’ve checked out my LinkedIn profile, you know that I’m also passionate about automation. I’m a firm believer that computers should automate any repetitive task. I like to joke that laziness is one of my greatest traits. If I have to do something more than once, I begin to ask why I’m doing it.

Traditionally, we’ve addressed repetitive tasks not with automation, but with more processes and people, increasing complexity, driving up costs, and putting a bandaid on issues worthy of longer-term solutions. Software should automate these tasks so humans can move on to strategically and creatively improve their customers’ experiences. Automation combines processes and people – the doing of the task and how it’s done – in one, central solution that takes less effort and makes an organization more agile. 

Increasing automation has been a goal of Zayo’s, and I’m looking forward to finding new areas of automation that delight our customers, and ultimately benefit our company.

Looking Forward to What’s Next at Zayo

All in all, I’m excited to bring my innovative energy and passion for the customer and the next wave of technology to Zayo. Zayo is an organization ripe with opportunity, and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get started.