SAN FRANCISCO: Box called on several high-profile friends, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Cisco executive chairman John Chambers, to speak at its BoxWorks 2015 event and both left plenty of food for thought.
Each spoke on a range of subjects while being grilled in his own inimitable style by Box CEO Aaron Levie, and each was adamant that firms must embrace the changes that trends such as mobile and cloud are creating, or risk extinction.
“The companies that succeed will be those that embrace digital transformation and manage it right. They will be those that don’t get comfortable doing what works for too long and are willing to make those changes,” said Chambers.
Meanwhile Cook said: “The best companies will be the most mobile. So I think this is a huge opportunity if you are at a company, if you’re a developer, [and] for us in helping people transform business.”
Focus on the future
For companies like Box this is clearly a big opportunity, as the firm looks to promote its storage and collaboration services as the ideal tools for enterprises looking to improve their cloud and mobile operations.
Box already has some impressive customers on its books, ranging from GE and Eurostar, to Oxfam and Peterborough Council, that it can point to as evidence that it offers real business benefits.
However, Box, just like any other company battling with the digital era, has to evolve and keep pace with customer requirements. As such, the firm made several announcements at the event designed to do just this.
The most notable was the news that Box will begin to let customers run Box from other firms' cloud environments, starting with IBM SoftLayer in 2016.
Box general manager Whitney Bouck said that this is a key move for the company and should help broaden its appeal to non-US businesses.
“This is a fabulous step in the right direction and satisfies the majority of customers in Europe that have maybe been uncomfortable with a US-only data centre approach,” she told V3.
Guy Creese, Gartner research vice president for collaboration and content, agreed this is a good strategic move for Box.
“It increases the scale of the service, it will sometimes improve its performance, and it allows customers to leverage infrastructure they’re already familiar with,” he told V3.
“By using an IaaS service that an enterprise already uses, there’s less enterprise vetting required. If a company already uses Azure, it’s already investigated Azure and is comfortable with the service. At the moment, companies need to vet Box’s data centres to go forward.”
While this move should give Box more global appeal, the firm also unveiled more industry-specific tools in the form of Device Trust and Legal Holds as it looks to appeal to more specific markets.
Device Trust allows a user to pre-define the security requirements a third-party device must have to access content, while Legal Holds lets legal teams lock content down when involved in a lawsuit.
“Legal Holds in Box is an oft-requested feature from the legal departments of our customers so they can ensure that any information that is put in Box can be put on legal hold should the need arise,” Bouck said when she unveiled the tool.
The company also announced support for HD video, 3D designs and medical images, which should boost its appeal in specific markets such as media, healthcare and design, wihle its iOS Capture photo app should appeal to numerous sectors.
Box is also opening up these services to developers so they can be incorporated into apps, which should again broaden its appeal and increase the use of its platform.
Notes of caution
All in all, these announcements, coupled with the high-profile speakers such as Cook and Chambers, meant there was plenty of interesting discussion at the event, as noted by Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky on Twitter.
Despite the positivity, though, there were a few notes of caution for Box and its future, as outlined by Creese.
“Some prospects baulk at Box’s cloud-only strategy, while others are nervous about doing business with a company that isn’t yet profitable,” he said.
The cloud-only strategy only looks set to continue, and Bouck ruled out any suggestion that allowing customers to run Box in other firms' cloud environments would see the firm also offer its service as an on-premise deployment.
Meanwhile, the lack of profits, while often standard for early-stage tech companies, is clearly unnerving investors. Box's share price recently hit its lowest point since flotation, falling to under $12.
But with the likes of Cook and Chambers urging their business peers to embrace the digital era, the use of cloud services will only go in one direction and Box will be hoping that its efforts now set it up for long-term success in the years ahead.
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