Box takes 'best of breed' approach to compete with single stacks from Oracle, IBM, HP

Box takes 'best of breed' approach to compete with single stacks from Oracle, IBM, HP

Looking to broaden its scope in the enterprise market, Box Tuesday rolled out a "point and click" ability for third parties to integrate the Box cloud sharing platform directly into their applications.

Box CEO Aaron Levie made the announcement this morning at the company's second annual BoxWorks event and revealed a cadre of 10 partners that will have initial integration with the Box platform, including collaboration tool vendor Jive and customer relationship management tool vendor SugarCRM.

One analyst says the move is really about opening up the Box platform to work with a diverse group of applications, giving customers a choice to use a "best of breed" model as opposed to single, integrated hardware and software options that competitors such as IBM, HP and Oracle may use. "This really allows organizations to not be siloed into a single platform stack," says Alan Lepofsky, of Constellation Research, who tracks the cloud storage market. But he says it will be a choice for enterprises: They can use cloud-based versions of their enterprise apps from a variety of providers on the Box platform, or they can have a single set of apps from Oracle, for example, running across their organization. Box is betting on companies choosing its cloud, and a newly announced ecosystem of partners' applications on it.

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Box Embed enables the integration of Box's platform with third-party apps through HTML5. While Box had APIs that would allow integration, this new system requires much less coding to set up the integration. Initial partners that have already tied Box into their apps include Concur, Cornerstone OnDemand, DocuSign, Eloqua, FuzeBox, NetSuite, Oracle and Zendesk, in addition to Jive and SugarCRM.

The move comes a few weeks after launched its own file storage system named ChatterBox, which provides Box-like sharing and storage functionality within the leading CRM platform. Not to be outdone, a couple of Box competitors released their own news today, including Egnyte and SpiderOak.

Egnyte markets itself as a hybrid cloud solution, combining a company's on-premise storage with a public cloud option. Today it announced a series of partnerships with storage vendors that offer customers a choice for the on-premise portion of their cloud that would be integrated with Egnyte. These include IBM N and DS Series Storage, NetApp FAS Unified Storage, Netgear ReadyNAS and ReadyDATA and Synology DiskStation.

Meanwhile, SpiderOak, another cloud platform that touts its security features, announced that later this year it will roll out its own platform for applications to integrate with SpiderOak. The big difference, says CEO Ethan Oberman, is that SpiderOak has a "zero-knowledge" policy for its cloud platform, meaning that customer data is encrypted on-site, then sent up into SpiderOak's cloud, with the vendor never having access to the keys. Oberman even pokes at Box's slogan for its conference this week, "Business without boundaries," in making its announcement. "Cloud technology companies, including Box, demand and expect enterprises to inherently trust them with their most valuable possession -- their data. However and as we have seen time and time again, this proposition is fraught with risks in security and data privacy from both internal and external threats. Ultimately business does in fact need boundaries," he says.

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Lepofsky says he hasn't heard security be a major deterrent against Box so far at the conference. The company recently rolled out two-factor authentication and increased tools for IT to centrally manage user accounts, as well as for individual users to restrict who has access to which files in the Box cloud.

Box officials say they're excited about the interest in their service. The BoxWorks event has grown from about 400 attendees last year to more than 1,700 this year, while paid Box business accounts have grown from 120,000 to 140,000 in the past six months and now 92% of Fortune 500 businesses are in some ways using the Box platform, even if it's individual employees within those companies.

The rhetoric back and forth among vendors, Lepofsky says, points to the maturing and fast-developing industry of cloud storage. But he believes Box's platform announcements today could give the company a significant leg up. "It's a smart move," he says. "IBM is going to have collaboration tools and Oracle and SAP will each roll out their own sets, too." Box opening up its platform will not only expand the reach of Box to more applications, but it will allow additional functionality on the box platform. "That's going to allow Box to show up in a lot more places," he says, noting this is key to even further adoption within the enterprise.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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