Box made its biggest move to date by going public earlier this year. 

That may now be its second biggest move.

The online file-storage provider teamed up with enterprise technology giant IBM today in a global partnership aimed at developing new solutions for the cloud. 

Officials at each company said the move combines Box’s cloud content collaboration platform with IBM Analytics and social solutions, IBM Security technologies and the global footprint of the IBM Cloud. IBM will enable builders and developers to integrate Box APIs into enterprise apps and web services.

Cui Bono?

Jim Lundy, CEO and lead analyst at Aragon Research, said recent integration and support announcements for Box by both IBM and Microsoft means that Box is "becoming one of the standard go-to options in Mobile Content Management." 

"Business users like the ease of use of Box," Lundy told CMSWire, "and CIOs are signing larger enterprise contracts with them as a result. While this is good news for Box, it is not good for Microsoft and deployments of OneDrive for Business will continue to suffer." 

Forrester analyst Cheryl McKinnon wrote today that Box gets important access to the extensive IBM ecosystem and “engineering acceleration to fill gaps in its content collaboration offering in areas such as capture, case management, governance, and analytics, including Watson.”

What’s in it for IBM?

“Box.” McKinnon wrote, “becomes an important content tenant for its Softlayer cloud infrastructure, and fills some important gaps in IBM’s offerings as it shifts to a cloud-first roadmap for its ECM portfolio.” The analyst also sees Box’s enterprise clients providing a rich cross-sell opportunity for IBM’s extended portfolio.

Enterprise Mobility

In a statement, Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie said the partnership will produce “unified solutions and services that can redefine industries, advance secure collaboration and revolutionize enterprise mobility.”

IBM and Box officials announced today they will partner in three areas:

  • Transformation of enterprise work (content management, Watson Analytics, social collaboration solutions
  • International reach and security (enterprise cloud, specialized enterprise consulting, enterprise security)
  • New content rich apps and solutions (mobile apps for industries, customer app development)

“This partnership has the potential to address some very real pain points for enterprise customers,” Forrester's McKinnon wrote. 

IBM clients have struggled to serve the ECM needs of their own end customers, she added.

“Licensing models weren’t designed for the extended enterprise where customers are participants in ECM systems,” she said. “As customer engagement becomes more digital, content and communication between enterprises and their clients needs to be managed, but also shared and made accessible. These new use cases are well-suited to the capabilities of ECM, but usability, flexibility, and licensing have emerged as inhibitors to action.”

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said Box will extend its enterprise capabilities by leveraging the content management and analytics features of the IBM portfolio. For IBM, he added, they can now reach into organizations that have chosen Box (instead of IBM) for their content-centric workflow processes.

"Where the synergy manifests the most is in industry solutions," Lepofsky said. "Both IBM and Box focus sales around verticals such as healthcare, finance and manufacturing. This partnership will allow both vendors to tap into the customer base of the other. To provide validity to the press release, it is important for the vendors to quickly provide demos of the combined solutions."

Need for Global

The US still accounts for 80 percent of Box’s worldwide revenue, according to Melissa Webster, program vice president of content & digital media technologies at IDC.

"International expansion is core to Box’s growth strategy," she told CMSWire. "Box needs a global cloud partner. It is prohibitive for Box to stand up and manage that infrastructure around the globe in order to do business in all of the developed economies where Box sees opportunity and customers in many countries demand that their data remain in country."

Webster, who was briefed by IBM and Box yesterday, said IBM puts this relationship on a par with its strategic relationships with Apple, Twitter and Weather. 

"And I believe this relationship is strategic for both companies," she said. "IBM can supply Box the content analytics, policy and governance, security and other enterprise capabilities Box needs and currently lacks." 

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Florence Ivy.