Amazon Zocalo: What to Do When You Have More Disk Than God

Cloud behemoth Amazon has found a new outlet for its NSA-scale™ disk farms in its new enterprise file sync and store service, Zocalo. After years of offering dumb cloud object storage with its Amazon S3 simple storage service, Amazon is climbing up the storage value stack with an enterprise cloud file store that will put pressure on Box, SugarSync, and the like. 

Amazon proclaims Zocalo to be “a fully managed, secure enterprise storage and sharing service with strong administrative controls and feedback capabilities that improve user productivity” that enables users to “store, share, and gather feedback on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, webpages, images, PDFs, or text files—from the device of their choice.” So, nothing groundbreaking there, although its pricing strategy may leave the competition scrambling to compete. After a free, thirty-day introductory period, Amazon is offering Zocalo at $5 per user per month. For this, the user gets a generous 200 GB of storage, with the option for more starting at $0.03 per GB per month. This puts Zocalo well below the $30 per month that Citrix charges for a  two-user ShareFile starter account with only 5 GB of storage and the $15 per month that Box charges business customers for 1 TB of storage.

Zocalo does more than just sync and share. It has a strong emphasis on collaboration, with a central document hub that tracks shared documents, facilitates the setting of deadlines for feedback, and sends automatic email notifications and reminders to collaborators. To simplify the collaboration process, Zocalo provides document previews and commenting on Microsoft Office files (documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), PDFs, web pages, images, and text files directly in the Zocalo client app, which is available as a web app and as iOS and Android applications. Comments can be applied at the document level and within documents, from which they are synchronized back to the master copy when saved, before being replicated back down to any secondary copies on other end points. Zocalo allows multiple users to comment on the same document concurrently, merging comments only when all copies are saved.

Amazon will be bundling Zocalo with WorkSpaces, Amazon’s Windows Server–based DaaS offering. WorkSpaces customers will get a 50 GB Zocalo account free of charge, and those who wish to will be able to upgrade to the full 200 GB for a discounted rate of $2 per month. Adding Zocalo to WorkSpaces makes a lot of sense for Amazon. It elevates WorkSpaces from being yet another DaaS offering to having added value that might just provide “good enough” off-line document access to bridge the gap between connected and disconnected operation, making WorkSpaces more like a space for doing work than a no-frills virtual desktop. Just how big an advantage this will turn out to be remains to be seen, but the less than always on, less than always connected real world leaves other DaaS providers lagging in comparison.

There’s no immediate threat to Citrix in Amazon’s WorkSpaces + Zocalo combination. As a pure cloud service, WorkSpaces has only limited overlap with Citrix XenDesktop, which supports flexible public/private/hybrid cloud and conventional data center services, and Amazon has yet to deliver a XenApp/Azure RemoteApp equivalent, although this can only be a matter of time.

Citrix ShareFile will face pricing pressure from Amazon Zocalo; it must at minimum respond by reducing pricing for its cloud sync and share service while increasing its 5 GB entry point to something more in keeping with enterprise storage requirements. The more cost-competitive service providers may still need to respond to Zocalo, but they are more likely to see Zocalo’s introduction as a cause for a slowdown in growth than as a cause for a major change in pricing. On-premises sync and share services are unlikely to see any changes. Amazon’s cloud-only approach to services is shutting it out of a market that that many IT leaders view favorably in light of cloud availability, security, and international governance concerns.

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