By Ben Kepes, Network World
A common remark from me is frustration about the huge number of companies competing in the enterprise file sharing and synchronization (EFSS) space. Honestly, the number of companies that send pitches to me on a weekly basis claiming to be highly differentiated from all the others is frustrating.
It must be all the more frustrating for enterprise organizations that need to chose an EFSS vendor. With so many in the market, it is a confusing and bewildering decision to make, which is, after all, why analyst firms exist. While Gartner, Forrester, IDC and their ilk receive much criticism around suggestions that they are both behind the times and commercially conflicted, the fact is they bring a degree of robustness to technology assessments.
Given this fact, it was interesting to see Gartner publish a new Magic Quadrant (Gartner's particular tool on vendor assessments) for the EFSS market. And an interesting report it is, with a number of vendors dropped from the leaders' category and even more dropped from the quadrant overall.
The winners from this report would seem to be Box, Dropbox, Egnyte and Citrix Sharefile—all of which are (arguably) some of the earliest leaders in the space. Most satisfying for me is the fact that nowhere to be found are so many of those vendors that have been bombarding me with pitches suggesting their solution is the only one that keeps enterprise data safe. It seems FUD may work for a quick PR pitch, but it doesn't work for longer-term credibility.
So, without further ado, here is the Magic Quadrant. Key to note are the aforementioned four that are in the top quadrant. Equally, in contrast from the last Magic Quadrant, both Accellion and Syncplicity have been dropped out of Leaders. Even more damaging is the fact that Workshare, Acronis, IBM, Alfresco, Hightail, Airwatch, OwnCloud and Novell all got completely dropped from the Magic Quadrant.
Feedback from companies that appeared in the Magic Quadrant about the changes over the past few years is interesting. Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte, has always been a thoughtful member of the EFSS camp. Jain was pragmatic about the need to look beyond basic EFSS:
"When you take a look at the evolution of the Magic Quadrant for EFSS, we are at a point now where companies have to show value beyond simply storing and sharing files if they are going to survive. They should be seeking expansion through adjacent markets in order to bring a higher value-add and create a platform appeal. For Egnyte, our hybrid technology has provided us a unique opportunity to expand into the data management and data protection spaces, which have a combined total addressable market (TAM) of over $16 billion (compared to the approximately $2 billion TAM in EFSS)"
This is a theme Gartner commented on in the Magic Quadrant when it suggested that within a couple of years, 70 percent of the EFSS vendors that exist today will fail. It seems Gartner sees a "value add" future to the space. Huddle, one of the companies that offers EFSS as part of a broader offering, also concurred. Said Morten Brogger, CEO of Huddle:
"While the idea that EFSS is dead is a bit far-fetched, it’s not outrageous to think that the highly commoditized feature is becoming just that—a feature. ... Traditional EFSS tools simply cannot meet the collaboration needs of today’s enterprise. Today, people expect on-demand access to the information they need most. To achieve this, collaboration tools need to stay one step ahead of the user, surfacing the most relevant information to enable true productivity."
And just in case that perspective about broadening beyond pure file sharing wasn't enough to convince you, Jesse Lipson, the guy who founded ShareFile and is now general manager and vice president of Citrix's Workspace and Workflow division, added more proof:
“As complexity increases, organizations are facing a dramatic productivity gap. The productivity gap may look different from one vertical to another: In healthcare, the need for a doctor to burn X-rays to a DVD to send them to a patient is different from the need of a real estate agent to mail paperwork to clients for signatures, but the drain on productivity is the same. Our approach is to address this productivity gap across verticals in a few ways.”
Everything I'm hearing, be it NDA'd momentum statistics from the vendors or quiet conversations with enterprise customers, indicate that this Magic Quadrant is accurate. Dropbox has massive traction, but it is a concern for some of the more conservative and/or regulated enterprises. Egnyte is very appreciated by those who need to embrace on-premises data. The same goes for Citrix ShareFile, which has a lot of momentum given its tight connections into Citrix's other mobility and desktop solutions. And Box is perhaps the best-regarded, pure-cloud enterprise-centric EFSS vendor.
Most telling is, of course, those vendors that have dropped down a category or been left off the Magic Quadrant altogether. Maybe (just maybe) my inbox will be a bit lighter of self-congratulatory and fear-inducing pitches from now on.