Box, Syncplicity, and EMC


imageThis post has been a long time coming but it really took me a while to come to grips with all the implications of the Synplicity acquisition, and there are many. (Plus there is this whole day-job thing with AIIM). There are really three angles to take when looking at the acquisition.

  1. What this does for EMC’s Content Management cloud strategy?
  2. What this means for EMC’s technology stack?
  3. The impact on the nascent cloud-based Content Management space?

Without further adieu, let’s dive in and see what we can figure out.

EMC and the Cloud

Currently, EMC’s IIG group, those Documentum people, have only broached the cloud through the EMC OnDemand offering, which is more of a Managed Service than anything. You could argue that it is a private cloud offering, but it is a thin argument.

Their upcoming public cloud architecture, Next Generation Information Server (NGIS), is likely to be released in 2013. Even if that is January, it means that EMC won’t be offering any true cloud-based Content Management solution in 2012.

So would 2013 be too late to gain any significant market mindshare? Now it doesn’t matter. The Syncplicity acquisition gives EMC an opportunity to start building the mindshare now. It is a chance to not be one of the last ones to the game. As good as NGIS may be, if it is the 10th solution out there, it will be an uphill battle.

Assuming that Syncplicity can live up to its capabilities and avoid any major negative publicity related to performance or security, this has great potential for EMC.

Integrating Syncplicity into Documentum

Okay, this is the cool part. During Jeroen van Rotterdam’s Documentum Architecture presentation at EMC World 2012, he showed a diagram relating the current architecture with the NGIS. In my notes I recorded,

Goal is design against current [Documentum] stack and allow for flowing [information] between the current stack on-premise to future cloud stack off premise. Includes solution and information

imageThere was a box that was performing that work in the diagram. What if that box was the Syncplicity technology? What if that box also connected to a desktop/mobile app? What if the goal is to synchronize content between your devices, your on-premise Documentum (D7) system, and your cloud-based system?

If you apply business rules, which Syncplicity handles to a certain extent now, you can control where content resides, and is permitted to reside, based upon the lifecycle state.

To put it another way, imagine if Box or Dropbox were now clients for a Content Management engine with a mature set of capabilities. That is a possibility in a year for Syncplicity, assuming EMC executes.

Cool eh?

It is a lot to execute but given what I heard about the technical analysis performed before the acquisition, if this was the ultimate goal, they likely thought it was possible.

If they can deliver on that in 2013, it could catapult them towards the front of the cloud-based Content Management pack. Of course, if they do deliver, keep in mind that Box, Nuxeo, Alfresco, and Microsoft aren’t exactly waiting on EMC. They are rushing forward as well.

Impact on the Current Market

This is tricky. Let’s assume that Syncplicity works as advertised. Given that every user I’ve talked to has been impressed, this isn’t a far-fetched assumption. If that is the case, their feature set is more Enterprise friendly than Box, Dropbox, or Google.

imageSo why had I not heard of them? While far from all-knowing, I’m not new to the cloud-based Content Management space.

The difference may simply be a matter of money. Among those that I listed, only Box has focused primarily on the Enterprise and Box has had no shortage of marketing dollars. Box also has a better freemium model than Syncplicity, offering more content storage and permitting unlimited devices. This, and their initial consumer marketing efforts, has led to more exposure to potential business users.

It is distinctly possible that Syncplicity can scale to handle the volume of content larger providers, like Box, are handling today. Obviously, Syncplicity wouldn’t have to scale operations up in the next few weeks, but that is likely their biggest risk now.

This all assumes that there is an increased marketing spend to raise awareness of the product. If money isn’t invested, there will be minimal impact in 2012 and the benefit of grabbing mindshare early will not be realized either.

The Final Grade

imageTaking all of that into account, how should we classify the acquisition?

  1. A brilliant move by EMC?
  2. A desperate move by EMC?
  3. A major shake-up in the cloud file sharing space?

After talking to EMC in Vegas, I’m going to rule out option 2. They didn’t buy it out of desperation. They bought Syncplicity to support a larger strategic plan. This doesn’t mean that there is no desperation in the Documentum group, just that this move wasn’t caused by it.

As for options 1 and 3? It depends completely upon execution. For that, we simply need to pay attention. So far, it has been quiet. It is also summer, so I’m not making any judgments yet.

If it is still quiet in October, we’ll know a lot more about their intent.

5 thoughts on “Box, Syncplicity, and EMC

  1. I think any document management tool coming into the marketplace now has to bring something very unique to the table. Sites like Box have a unique back drop as to how they were conceived which caused them to generate a great deal of person early on.

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  2. Casual Observer says:

    Apparently EMC approached Box and their offer was turned down. Box would have been a better acquisition – technology is more mature, larger enterprise footprint, platform API with integrations to ECM platforms, wider cloud vision, larger market share, aggressive expansion plans and would have provided, in my opinion, a solid collaboration platform that would be a contender to replace CenterStage. Given that Box have attracted $250 million in funding from VC firms such as SAP ventures I expect they would have been too pricey – Syncplicity are more embryonic in comparison raising $2.35 million in October 2008.

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    • Some valid points. There were likely some issues with EMC acquiring Box (or DropBox) for that matter. The first would be price. If Syncplicity’s technology works, why pay the premium? If your goal is the tech and making it part of your broader offering, the premium might not have been worth it. The market isn’t saturated at that level so if Syncplicity works, then with proper financing it can still make a splash. Not saying “win” because there are way too many factors out there.

      The other issue, Box wants to win. Aaron Levie wants to win. From my discussion with him and his team, they aren’t out there to just get rich. They want to win. If they sell, it’ll mean one of two things. Either they are acknowledging that they can’t win or they have clearly won and are cashing out. Box is in neither situation at this time.

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  3. ahsan A says:

    Executed!!

    Its a fantastic solution. Paticularily the Syncplicity with Documentum connector allows for a bi-directional sync. That means, share a file with a user (or group of users), they can edit it on their mobile device (syncplicity propriety editor launches), and then save and it’s versioned in documentum! WOhooooo!

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