Citrix buys cloud storage specialist ShareFile to open post-PC workplace fight

Citrix had a busy day last week, announcing both a five-year agreement with Cisco and the acquisition of six-year-old enterprise filesharing specialist ShareFile (great name by the way).

ShareFile provides an enterprise equivalent to the ubiquitous Dropbox cloud file storage/sharing platform. Offering metered storage and bandwidth across multiple service tiers starting with a basic plan offering 5 GB of storage for $29.95 per month for a two employee account up to and Enterprise Gold plan starting at $499.95 for companies looking for over 100 user accounts. In addition for an increase in storage and bandwidth, as the service tiers rise, so do the available features. The professional account offering storage encryption, an Outlook plug-in, and desktop synchronization. At the top end the Enterprise Gold service extends this to provide enterprise synchronization services, drive mapping, SAML and Active Directory integration, as well as a command line interface and API to enable task automation and integration with enterprise management tools.

So far Citrix has declined to provide any indication as to its plans for ShareFile. The obvious fit is to integrate it with Citrix Online, the division responsible for the GoTo family of products. However, given the current level of competition with VMware Citrix will be looking for a more central role for ShareFile. Citrix has already provided some hints that support this possibility. Most significantly ShareFile founder Jesse Lipson is to become vice president and general manager of the new Data Sharing Group at Citrix, suggesting that ShareFile is unlikely to be reincarnated as just another GoTo product. What’s more likely is that ShareFile will find a home in Citrix Receiver, as the technology behind Follow-me Data that was announced at Citrix synergy in San Francisco in May. On the face of it, this is a far more likely strategy than what was shown in San Francisco, which was to build Follow-me Data on the back of Dropbox and  Hopefully Citrix will put an end to the speculation at the Synergy conference in Barcelona at the end of this month.

It is easy to assume that with ShareFile in hand, Citrix has taken a lead over VMware’s Project Octopus. Certainly with over 3 million users in 17,000 businesses including 99% of the Fortune 500 ShareFile is already a successful business. However, so is VMware’s Mozy. Mozy is most visible as a consumer-centric cloud backup service, but with over 70,000 business customers, Mozy has a clear lead when it comes to market penetration. Although with over 25 million customers, Dropbox overshadows both ShareFile and Mozy.

What Mozy lacks is ShareFile’s rich set of enterprise specific features that are central to the ShareFile value proposition. VMware has no plans to extend Mozy to become a direct competitor to ShareFile, instead looking only to leverage the core secure storage and file transfer technologies and broad client support, wrapping them in enterprise features delivered through Octopus. So far at least, VMware has been keeping quiet on exactly what it is going to deliver through Project Octopus, and when. With Citrix timing the announcement of the ShareFile acquisition for the run-up to VMworld Europe in Copenhagen, perhaps now is the time for VMware to share further details of when Octopus will be released.

As significant as the ShareFile acquisition is, it needs to be put into the appropriate context. The next generation of enterprise workspace initiatives will be driven around the extension of the PC desktop into a extended set of services providing enterprise customers with access to their applications and data independent of platform and location. In this context ShareFile, and Octopus too for that matter, is no more than a single spoke in a wheel that needs to provide Web, desktop, e-mail, and applications of all types before it is complete.

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