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IBM-Box deal to yield new apps, content analytics

With new agreement, Box's EFSS technology will be part of IBM's products, and Box will benefit from IBM's analytics and enterprise acumen.

A new Box-IBM partnership could yield benefits for both companies around analytics and file sharing apps, as well as for IT customers interested in each company's technologies.

Box will integrate its enterprise file sync-and-share (EFSS) and collaboration capabilities with IBM's enterprise content management systems as well as IBM Verse and IBM Connections, IBM's business email and social collaboration platforms. The companies will collaborate to bring IBM Watson Analytics to content stored in Box.

The partnership will enable joint IBM-Box customers to store their content on the IBM Cloud while Box expands on its own security by using IBM's own technologies for features such as threat detection and identity protection.

As part of the agreement, IT pros can access guidance from IBM Global Business Services Professionals to help connect Box capabilities to existing data and systems.

IBM and Box will also jointly develop content management products and incorporate Box technology into "select" IBM Mobile First for Apple iOS apps. Also, developers can integrate Box APIs on the IBM Bluemix developer cloud to build Web and mobile apps.

Rather than cut people off from [using Box], which is very difficult to do, IBM can come in, connect it up and make it secure.
Jack Goldanalyst and principal, J. Gold Associates

While this deal may seem to be about how Box fits into IBM's social business platform IBM Connections; it goes deeper than that, said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, Inc., in Toronto.

"This deal extends the features of IBM's content management and analytics services to customers currently using Box for content-centric processes," Lepofsky said.

The partnership could be especially useful for industries such as healthcare, finance and manufacturing, Lepofsky said.

Similar to the partnership between IBM and Apple, industry watchers see benefits for both sides. IBM gains access to EFSS technology it didn't previously have, while Box gets a shot of enterprise credibility for its product by teaming with Big Blue.

"It's a symbiotic relationship," said Jack Gold, analyst and principal at J. Gold Associates LLC in Northborough, Mass. "This absolutely helps Box amongst big enterprises, especially if an enterprise is already an IBM client."

Many employees already store content in Box, whether IT knows it or not, so a connection to IBM could help formalize that relationship in some instances.

"Box is [bring your own device] for file storage," Gold said. "Rather than cut people off from doing that, which is very difficult to do, IBM can come in, connect it up and make it secure."

Analytics at heart of IBM-Box partnership

Box APIs will be tightly integrated with Bluemix to help developers more quickly build customized collaboration applications that integrate with users' files within Box, according to Inhi Cho Suh, vice president of strategy and business development for IBM Analytics.

IBM and Box will jointly create and participate in a hub that will be called the IBM Box Hub, Suh said.  This is designed for a combination of regional developers who will get hands-on immersion, as well as virtual training.

"We think this hub will help developers to get the maximum uptake for each company," she said.

IBM will select from three of the 30 or so vertically-focused applications already delivered as part of the IBM-Apple alliance and incorporate Box technology into them, Suh said. She declined to identify which three applications would be chosen, but did say they would be delivered in three months.

The IBM-Box alliance, like the recent alliances with Twitter and The Weather Company, has to do with helping IBM "build new channels for growth," Suh said. But it also has to do with these partners wanting access to IBM’s analytics software.

"All these companies are coming to us because of our analytics business and the ability to apply it to more diverse and unique content that adds value to their clients," Suh said.

"With Box we can see new services developed from [a research and development] standpoint for usage patterns," she said "It’s not so much about knowing what is in the data, but knowing what the experience of that collaborative interaction should be based on.”

One service Box users could leverage is Watson's predictive analytics capabilities. For instance, if users want to upload a Box spreadsheet to Watson they can automatically layer in predictive views and models to that data.

"This would be a unique service that would be additive for many users," Suh said.

Some IBM-based IT shops like the prospects for the alliance because they can apply higher-end analytics software with the rapidly increasing amount of data stored in social media.

"These days you don’t do anything in the social space where you aren’t pairing it with analytics," said Nigel Fortlage, vice president of IT and social business leader with GHY International in Winnipeg. "We are at a time in the IT business where you have to validate a lot of the data associated with the projects and deals you are doing and that is where the analytics comes in."

GHY is in the process of deploying IBM Connections, which includes the Connections Content Manager, a document manager that competes to Microsoft’s SharePoint.

"It will be good, from our perspective, to move from file shares into a more socialized way to share and distribute files with a strong back engine," Fortlage said.

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