Box has been thinking outside of the cloud

Many people think of Box as a cloud company. But really, it's a collaboration company, says Vikrant Karnik, senior vice president of enterprise cloud consulting services for systems integrator Capgemini, a newly minted Box partner.

Many people think of Box as a cloud company. But really, it's a collaboration company, says Vikrant Karnik, senior vice president of enterprise cloud consulting services for systems integrator Capgemini, a newly minted Box partner.

Box has been a poster child for the cloud computing movement, along with companies such as DropBox, and Amazon Web Services. And it's been on a roll recently: This winter it secured a $100 million funding round to bring its total fundraising to more than $400 million. It's expanding globally and rumored to be looking toward an IPO.

The company boasts that 200,000 businesses use Box, including newly announced customers Chevron, Toyota Motor Sales USA, Rosetta Stone and eBay. Last week it made further inroads into the enterprise by announcing a partnership with Capgemini, a company that works regularly with some of the biggest businesses in the country.

"2013 has been a milestone year for Box," says Alan Lepofsky, analyst at Constellation Research. "They have moved from a cloud based file-sharing service' to a cloud platform for content centric applications,' as evident by their new API, policy and automation engine, the upcoming metadata layer, and new security and administration features."

The newest funding will help them expand globally.

But how is Box really being used in the enterprise? Capgemini's Karnik has been tracking Box's movements for years and works to help businesses implement cloud deployments, including Box. "It's good for differentiated processes involving content enablement," he says. "It provides a robust way to integrate information across an organization. With the platform of Box, plus the build-out of new capabilities, we see a lot of promise in it."

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One of the most impressive things about recent advancements for Box, Karnik says, has been the integrations between Box with apps already being commonly used in enterprise settings. From Salesforce to NetSuite, Box has plugins that allow documents to be shared across these platforms, easing the onboarding process.

The best use cases for Box, he says, are for process-oriented collaboration projects. Marketing projects and departments are a natural fit for this, for example. Recently Karnik says he worked with a major pharmaceutical company (which he declined to name) that was preparing to roll out a new drug. Box acted as a central storage platform for documents related to the launch of the new brand.

In the past this sort of process may have been done through e-mail, but that brings with it limitations. The material for the marketing of the drug launch has to go through a variety of approvals from multiple different areas of the business. A creative staff has to develop the language, while legal and medical teams have to check off on it, all while staying consistent with rules and regulations from the Food and Drug Administration. "There are a lot of players providing input," Karnik says. Having these documents stored centrally in a cloud-based platform and having them accessible to various members of the organization across mobile and desktop platforms, along with granular security controls, was a huge help, he says.

It's not just pharmaceutical companies. Karnik recently worked with an airline to put all of the flight check-off and announcement material into Box. Any changes can be made once at a central office then pushed out to the entire fleet of aircrafts across the company. A large financial services company recently copied some information into documents stored in Box so that multiple teams could do analysis on the information. Capgemini took knowledge it gained from that deployment and helped Box upgrade its API integration with, Karnik says.

Box will not replace e-mail, or even other collaboration platforms like Microsoft SharePoint or Lotus Notes. If organizations have a lot of legacy processes on those platforms, then they can be fine solutions and there may not be a reason to change. But Box is building up its arsenal of features. Last week Box released a new administrative console that provides more granular security controls of what information can be uploaded into Box and which users can access what type of information stored in the platform. In the fall, Box rolled out Box Notes, which added the capability for users to create and edit content within Box. Box rolled out its own consulting practice in addition to announcing the partnership with Capgemini too.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.  

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