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Box Azure support brings along Microsoft machine learning

Box adds support for Microsoft Azure, which means organizations can take advantage of that service's AI and machine learning capabilities to improve the file sync-and-share platform.

Azure's AI and machine learning capabilities are coming to Box, giving Microsoft cloud shops an advantage over organizations that use Box with other providers. 

Today, organizations can't use Box to store files in the Azure cloud. But the two software vendors announced Tuesday they are adding an option for Box customers to select Azure as their primary storage. With the new Box Azure support, organizations will also get artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities from Microsoft, such as the ability to search within the contents of media files stored in Box.

"It's cutting edge," said Jeff Janovich, former cloud solutions architect at Carlisle Construction Materials, a Box and Azure customer in Carlisle, Pa. "The search options in Box leveraging AI and machine learning … that'll be awesome."

Advantages of Box on Azure

Not all platforms are created equal, so Box on Azure might have different functionality than Box on AWS.
Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates

Thanks to Microsoft Azure, Box users will be able to conduct more specific searches for information within multimedia content. When users upload a file to Box, Azure machine learning automatically assigns detailed metadata that Box can access during user searches. For example, if a user searches for the word "chair," any video with a chair in it will come up. 

Box currently supports other cloud services including Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM SoftLayer and Google Cloud Platform, but organizations wouldn't get the AI and machine learning capabilities with those services, Box said.

"Not all platforms are created equal, so Box on Azure might have different functionality than Box on AWS," said Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates, an industry analyst firm in Northborough, Mass.

Carlisle Construction Materials has more than six terabytes of media files from its marketing and graphic design departments on Box, so the new AI and machine learning capabilities would greatly help users organize and find those files, Janovich said.

The AI and machine learning capabilities will not be limited to videos, and Box is working with Microsoft on more ways to use the technology in the future, said Jeetu Patel, chief strategy officer at Box.

"This is an area where there is a lot of innovation happening," said Eric Klein, director of mobile software at VDC Research in Natick, Mass. "Microsoft wants to push the accelerator on those initiatives, so I think more capabilities off AI and machine learning will come down the road." 

Azure gets in the zone

Box Zones will let organizations choose which Azure data center they want to store their data in based on their geographic location. Many organizations face stiff regulations about data storage, and many countries force companies to only store data within their borders. Box Zones allows organizations to store files in data centers of supported cloud service providers in the countries of their choice. 

"These compliance requirements have held some companies back from using cloud altogether," said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass. "It's increasingly more of a requirement, so Box Zones is a big deal."

Box Zones already uses data centers from AWS and IBM, allowing customers to store data in the countries that those vendors have data centers in. Microsoft has 40 data centers around the world, which the company claims is more than any other cloud provider.

"I'm really impressed with Box's ability to become a true enterprise player," Klein said.  "It's really a crowded market, but they figure out ways to add features to attract corporate customers."

Both Box and Microsoft's sales teams will pitch Box on Azure to prospective buyers as part of the deal. Box support for Azure will be available later this year, the companies said.

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