This week at EMC World, EMC announced it acquired Syncplicity, an online file sharing and collaboration service vendor.
One of the smaller, newer vendors on the scene, Syncplicity has managed to get to more than 25,000 business customers and that is before investing in sales and marketing. According to the company, it is in various stages of deployments with companies ranging in size from as small as two people to over 20,000—it is seeing uptake across the board. Unlike many sync applications, Syncplicity does not force users to create a new folder and to drag and drop files into the service—users can choose which existing files/folders they want synced/shared from the existing directory structure by just checking them off. It integrates with a number of enterprise applications such as Google Docs, Salesforce, and Microsoft SharePoint and supports sync of files between those cloud and server-based applications. Syncplicity has enterprise features such as SAML / Active Directory SSO, policy- and Administrator-driven remote wipe of shared folders, and “client download restrictions” which prohibit users from accessing Syncplicity from outside the business domain in addition to existing controls on access of shared files inside and outside the business.
Contrary to what some may think, EMC is not planning to take on Dropbox with Syncplicity. Dropbox is primarily a consumer file sharing and synchronization solution. Dropbox for Teams adds some rudimentary administration capabilities targeted at teams or small workgroups - not enterprise-wide deployments. But Syncplicity may displace Dropbox in the enterprise. How can you displace but not compete? Well, users want to access any files anywhere from any device - and the average user has 3 or more endpoint devices she wants to share files across. So, rather than waiting for IT to solve the problem, they are bringing consumer solutions like Dropbox into the enterprise. This presents a problem - one we've discussed before - in that the data goes with the account owner. But the big challenge there is that when users sign up for these accounts, any data that they store in Dropbox or whatever consumer solution they pick goes with them when they leave. Data stays with the account owner, and in a BYOD environment you can't do anything about it! Well, IT can do something about it - but most shops don't have the policies or processes in place to stop this from happening so they either ignore it, outlaw it, or embrace it. And when IT embraces online file sharing and collaboration solutions for the enterprise is when Dropbox gets a long hard look and other solutions like Syncplicity, with stronger administration, governance, and security, get brought in.
Near term, EMC Syncplicity will compete against solutions that are designed for the enterprise, like Egnyte, or those that have invested heavily in building out enterprise functionality like Box, and the primary use case will be file sharing, home directories, basic collaboration, and content sharing and distribution. Basically the same use cases it supports today. The solution becomes more interesting over time as it is integrated with Documentum and things like policy, workflow, and compliance are added to the platform. The combination of Syncplicity and Documentum creates a powerful collaboration platform designed for the new mobile world. Over time there is tremendous potential here across other EMC business units - it can certainly be envisioned that Syncplicity could be leveraged to build a private cloud offering with either Atmos or Isilon NL series at the core, and since security is the biggest inhibitor for cloud services there is potential to integrate RSA offerings to address a myriad of issues.
More details should emerge over time - but this move is not surprising. The online file sharing and collaboration space is red hot - we say this a lot but we only covered 8 vendors in the December 2011 report linked above - and we work with 26 vendors now. Most are net new market entrants or still in stealth - some are software solutions designed to build private clouds, one or two, like Soonr, are just companies that have been around but operated behind the scenes offering OEM solutions. The spectrum of offerings is pretty broad, considering how much administration, security, and collaboration functionality these vendors offer, so there is something for pretty much any size and type of business out there today and there is plenty of market momentum to support all these vendors. Over time the market will certainly consolidate - I don't think this acquisition is a sign of that, though - this isn't a saturated market sell off. It is a sign that EMC recognizes the opportunity here and wants in. Expect other big names to follow suit and either build or acquire to get into this space.