One of the quandaries of a company so well associated with one solution is that it obscures all the innovation they are working on to evolve. At Box’s BoxWorks, they continue to add to the platform with capabilities that take them away from being identified as a storage provider. It’s now fundamentally an enterprise content management and governance system. They are also a cloud platform, but not in the sense that AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft are. They are a cloud platform for aggregating the resources from other providers and providing structure to the content.
Users have the choice of using core infrastructure provided by other firms, such as storage by Amazon Web Services or IBM, or compute on providers such as Google Cloud Platform, IBM Watson, or Microsoft Azure, to drive its machine learning system to automatically tag content.
If the core low level infrastructure is provided by other vendors, what is the value added by Box? It’s a lot. The bet is that the price for some services is trending towards zero, and other providers are aggressively building new data centers in different zones to meet local requirements. So why try to compete with that?
What Box does is to realize that the value of the data (the bits) comes from organizing, controlling, reasoning about the data that is stored and computed on multi-cloud platforms. This is a good way to think, as ESG research shows that IT organizations prefer to use more than one platform, so a multi-platform approach matches what Box is providing.
However, Box has a singular focus on cloud and does not accommodate on-premises infrastructure. That is not out of neglect, but is a bet on how computing ought to be done in the future. They will reject any attempts to work on-premises, even if customers ask for it.
Once governance and controls are centralized, they believe that they can assure a level of quality and consistency that is hard to achieve on local resources. That is somewhat at odds with traditional hybrid-cloud vendors, but they have a firm conviction and make design decisions that do not compromise that conviction and believe the world will catch up to them. ESG research shows that hybrid cloud is of interest for enterprise customers today, but Box is looking further into the future when their investments will bear fruit.
Box, as a company, hews to its vision. Years ago, they made a deliberate decision to move to enterprise content management, and this bet has resulted in greatly improved finances. So, they are continuing with this style of singular bet, which so far has garnered many enterprise customers.
My recommendation is for Box to continue its focus on problems enterprises encounter in having its staff work together securely and reliably. This includes many governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) issues which are decidedly unglamorous, but so critical for enterprises to conduct business. We’ll keep an eye on them and see how this big bet works out.