For a company transitioning from its roots in information storage to information management, and now IT as a service, EMC’s decision to enter the online file sharing market is a no-brainer. According to recent research from the Enterprise Strategy Group, business-oriented OFS and collaboration services are gathering a lot of attention, but there are some significant barriers to be overcome, including a confusing assortment of OFS offerings, each with distinctive functionality, administrative, security, and usability characteristics.
The EMC beta, which consists of Syncplicity cloud-based online file sharing service with the option to use either Isilon scale-out NAS or Atmos object-based storage, has been in the works since the company acquired Syncplicity in May, said Jeetu Patel, VP and GM of the Syncplicity Business Unit. He said they knew this is a mass-market product which should be supplied to every knowledge worker worldwide. “EMC acts as the single provider, not just for the application but the data, so you have a single throat to choke.”
EMC acquired cloud-storage startup Syncplicity in an attempt to compete with consumer-focused offerings such as Dropbox and for storing business users’ files, according to Gigaom analyst Derrick Harris. Cloud-based storage — Dropbox, especially — has become the primary villan in the move toward BYOD (bring your own device) workplaces, but is also an area of strong growth for providers such as Box.net that can support business needs.Already, BYOD is wreaking havoc on unprepared companies, including companies like IBM that should know better.
EMC chose Syncplicity over the competition because Syncplicity is focused on the enterprise segment, while most other competitors are still targeting consumers, said 451 Group’s Ben Kolada. (EMC had previously tried its hand at the consumer backup market. In 2007, it paid $76m for online storage startup Mozy, but has since handed over much of the responsibility for those assets to VMware.) We’d also note that the deal was driven by EMC’s Information Intelligence Group (i.e., Documentum), which makes sense from a collaboration/workflow/app space, but it does have the potential to cause some internal conflicts. For example, the EMC Atmos team is working closely with Oxygen Cloud, and VMware has Horizon/Octopus.
In talking about what he called the “Dropbox Effect”, Gartner Research VP Jeffrey Mann said individuals are exercising more influence over the technology choices of the companies they work for, even taking direct responsibility to take those choices in some cases. This does not mean that IT must acquiesce to the inevitability of accepting any IT product that users find themselves; quite the opposite in fact. It means that IT departments must be better at discerning which consumer products contain unacceptable risks, analyzing what individuals use and how to determine what they really need, and nudging users towards tools that make sense.
OFS solutions that enable users to store, access, share, and collaborate on documents and other files in the cloud have become popular as people look for ways to access their documents from multiple devices, including PCs, tablet computers, and smartphones, said ESG Senior Analyst Terri McClure,. However, IT teams need to rein in data sprawl and maintain file security while empowering those users. Almost half (40%) of organizations have policies saying you can’t use a personal account to store data, but and almost 40% of those with such a policy know people have personal accounts, she said. “We suspect that the actual numbers are up to 80%.”
ESG, which examined 13 – Accellion, Box, Citrix ShareFile, Dropbox, Egnyte, EMC Syncplicity, GroupLogic, Huddle, Nomadesk, Soonr, SOS, SugarSync, and YouSendIt – of the more than 40 OFS vendors they’ve identified, found that one third of organizations have established corporate OSF accounts. “We expect to see that number (of corporate OSF accounts) to grow to over 50%,” said McClure.
Security, protection, control, and administration are all key issues, said Patel. So is compliance, with many organizations mandated to comply with corporate governance and data sovereignty policies regarding storage and handling of files. “We heard from customers, give me control of my data, and the innovation of SaaS. That’s what we’ve been able to do with this release.”
EMC is trying to offer the best of all worlds, a cloud-based OFS offering that simplifies end user deployment and administration with on-premise storage that gives IT control of the storage layer, in addition to continuing to provide Syncplicity in the cloud. While the obvious benefit is enabling choice, delivering on-premise storage is the logical next step in our evolution, and we’re thrilled to hitch our wagons with other leaders in the EMC family, Isilon, the true leaders in scale-out NAS and EMC Atmos, said Patel.
General availability is scheduled for March 31, but Patel said this offering should be considered version 1.1. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot to be done.”
He said the user experience that the market is experiencing for SaaS applications is materially better than what it used to be for enterprise software, but there’s still a long way to go. “We’re investing millions of dollars and enhancing the usability of the product… which shouldn’t be confused with piling on features.”
Second up on the agenda is enhancing policy and administration ties to Isilon and other storage systems. And third is the still-evolving instrumentation segment of the Big Data market. With SaaS you have the unique ability to understand how your product is really used and enterprises are asking us for that so they can optimize their services for their users, he said.