The Death of Enterprise File Sync & Sharing: What's Next?
By 2018, 70 percent of today’s enterprise file sync and sharing destination vendors will cease to exist.
That was the startling prediction Gartner analysts Monica Basso, Karen A. Hobert and Jeffrey Mann made in the Enterprise File Sync and Sharing (EFSS) Magic Quadrant (MQ) they wrote last summer.
Many EFSS companies with either be acquired or go out of business, they predicted. Surviving firms will offer one of two kinds of solutions: either empowering the digital workplace or modernizing corporate infrastructures.
EFSS is Dead
The Gartner analysts aren’t the only ones to jump to this conclusion. The file-sharing boom is over, according to Digital Clarity Group analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe.
“EFSS was never really a market. It was more of a temporary phenomenon,” he told CMSWire.
Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky, whose expertise is the future of work, believes many file sync and share solutions are now commoditized. Those that are not, he told CMSWire, are “content centric cloud platforms that enable people to create and share content in new ways.”
Dropbox and Box, with their lightweight document editing tools like Dropbox Paper and Box Notes and camera capture tools like Dropbox Scan and Box Capture, fit into the latter category, he said.
Lepofsky said he’d like to see both Dropbox and Box push the boundaries further and faster around the way people create, collaborate and control content. But not every Gartner EFSS MQ member even aims to market itself as a collaboration tool.
Digital Transformation Over EFSS
Consider Santa Clara, Calif.-based Syncplicity, which was cited as both a Leader and a Visionary in Gartner’s most recent EFSS MQ.
“We’re in the digital transformation business. We are not trying to be ECM 3.0,” Syncplicity CEO Jon Huberman told CMSWire.
With all of that being said, CMSWire took a good look at EFSS product announcements over the past 10 days to see how those that made news, namely Dropbox, Egnyte, and Syncplicity, are differentiating themselves.
Dropbox Steps Up its Productivity Play
San Francisco-based Dropbox announced six new features for iOS users this week. Each is meant to make it as easy to work from your iPhone or iPad as it is from desktop or laptop.
Dropbox touts things like signing PDFs directly from within the Dropbox app, sharing Dropbox files inline with conversations directly from within iMessage, creating and viewing files without unlocking your phone, keeping files up to date on your phone and picture-in-picture capabilities (so you can watch a video and work in another app at the same time) with split screen capabilities soon to come.
These new capabilities are differentiators by not game changers, Pelz-Sharpe told CMSWire.
Lepofsky said the new features “help people work more seamlessly without having to change their existing workflows.” He also noted Dropbox competitor Box provides similar capabilities — and others will likely follow.
Egnyte Tries a Microsoft Play
Egnyte last week pledged its devotion to Microsoft. The Mountain View, Calif-based vendor, which seems to be holding tight to the idea of being both a digital transformation and a content collaboration enabler, heralded its integrations with Azure AD, Azure Key Vault, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Office Mobile and Microsoft SharePoint Online. In addition,Microsoft will now be the default cloud storage provider for its customers.
That said, Egnyte customers can keep their files wherever they want. “At Egnyte our strategy has always been around openness,” Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain noted in a statement.
The motivation behind Egnyte’s closeness with Microsoft seems to be two-fold: aligning its sales reps to push Egnyte’s product and landing Egnyte’s products in Azure’s marketplace.
It’s an interesting strategy given that just over two years ago Jain and company were all hyped about the Egnyte’s relationship with Google. At that time Jain told CMSWire, “Moving forward, barring everything continues positively, Egnyte will look to store all new incoming data with Google.”
Analysts seem to be enamored with Egnyte as a hybrid cloud storage provider. Pelz-Sharpe referred to the vendor as “one of the few original players that targeted the secure enterprise and allowed for an on premises/hybrid option — that remains its biggest strength in my opinion as there are many firms still dubious about confidential documentation residing in the cloud.”
Syncplicity CEO Huberman doesn’t seem too worried about Egnyte as a competitor, regardless of what it announces. Though their product capabilities may, from a high level point of view, look similar, Syncplicity is clearly aimed at enabling digital transformation at gargantuan companies which Huberman doubts Egnyte can handle.
Huberman said his company sells to companies that have “hundreds of thousands of users versus Egnyte’s thousands,” noting Siemens is a Syncplicity user. “We are talking about 5 petabytes of data, not terabytes,” he said, noting that most of his competitors can’t handle anywhere near that quantity.
Syncplicity Unveils SyncDrive
Syncplicity this week unveiled SyncDrive which, according to Huberman, brings to market a first of its kind capability. It provides users with instant access to all company files that they are authorized to see, on any device of their choosing, without syncing the files locally.
The promise of SyncDrive is that it offers users real-time, secure and easy access to all enterprise data sources (such as migrated network drives, group file shares and home directories) without regard to folder size or the need to access the company network through a VPN.
This is made possible because unlike other file-sync and share providers, Syncplicity doesn’t copy customer data, it doesn’t index it and it doesn’t store it. Huberman told CMSWire,”Syncplicity connects to data at the source. We never, ever have access to your data, and since we don’t have it, you don’t pay us to store it.”
And while this may seem to be a privacy, security or compliance play, Huberman put the emphasis on financial savings. “We are not trying to be ECM 3.0 like Dropbox or Box,” he said. “Only ten percent of corporate data resides in ECM. We want to help you transform 100 percent of your information for the digital world.”
The productivity gain for SyncDrive users is that they won’t have to waste time looking for information because they will have a single view of all of their data, even if it is stored in silos.
Syncplicity’s challenge, according to Pelz-Sharpe, is partly that it was over-hyped under EMC’s ownership and that analysts may have been led to believe that its business was far more successful than it actually was. (Why didn’t EMC Syncplicity’s management take any heat for this?)
It’s also worth asking whether many of the analysts who have covered EFSS until now have viewed it through a content versus information management lens.
EFSS (Really) is Dead
Analysts are beginning to understand the EFSS market is bifurcated and that vendors are building products that address what are beginning to be seen as separate problems.
As Pelz-Sharpe told CMSWire, “The real market is twofold — EFSS as embedded functionality or EFSS as an ECM alternative.”
Title image by Matthew Brodeur