You can tell when a new technology market is born when the major industry analysts start to notice.  It’s clear from reading recent reports by the major analysts that a new “Enterprise File Sharing and Sync” market has been formed. There are a lot of different perspectives and approaches to the EFSS market, and several leading vendors have emerged. Our prospective customers ask us how ShareFile compares to the competition, and most often Box and Accellion are the products that customers reference. Below is my own assessment of ShareFile vs. Box and Accellion.

Box.  Followers of this market know Box as a Silicon Valley Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startup that has attracted a lot of venture capital funding.  Box clings to an almost religious belief that the only way to go with EFSS is by using Cloud based storage, managed by Box.  In fact, Box’s only current concession to working with on-premises storage–and existing file stores like traditional network shares and Microsoft SharePoint–is through its Box ECM Cloud Connect offering.  Box claims that ECM Cloud Connect can synchronize files between existing Enterprise Content Management systems and a customer’s storage in Box’s Cloud.   It’s all part of what Box markets as the ability to “Consolidate all your file services on Box.”  (And yes, the big storage vendors like NetApp and EMC have taken note of the shot across their bow…)  On a related note, one wonders how the ECM Cloud Connect capability will fare, given that Box offers this capability via an OEM relationship with a company called Entropysoft which was recently acquired by  Box seems likely to appeal customers ready to “consolidate all their file services” in the hands of Box (and its Cloud storage-only philosophy).

Accellion is essentially the polar opposite of Box.  Accellion is also a startup, and has largely taken the opposite approach when it comes to Cloud and SaaS.  Accellion offers a “fully on-premises” product for EFSS that Enterprise IT installs and manages in its own data center. This approach tends to appeal to Enterprise IT organizations whose who believe a system that sits entirely in the organization’s data center is more secure.  Of course, this means that there is more system to install, manage, patch, etc.  And a year after buying the product, Accellion customers will need to expend time & effort to upgrade to the latest and greatest feature set.  With a fully on-premises product, users are reliant on their IT departments to keep them up to date with the latest and greatest features.

If Box and Accellion occupy opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to SaaS and Cloud-based storage in the EFSS market, Citrix ShareFile offers what we believe to be the “best of both worlds.” ShareFile offers the low-maintenance benefits of SaaS, with the flexibility to store data either in the Citrix-managed Cloud, on-premises, or in existing file stores (e.g. traditional network shares).  Let’s take a look at the architecture of ShareFile to explain this in detail:

ShareFile is comprised of two subsystems: the “Control Plane” and “StorageZones.”  The graphic below is a good illustration:

The control plane is where the core ShareFile application logic lives, for both (the US-based service) and (the European-based service).  We take a SaaS approach with the control plane, so that new features are delivered to customers automatically, without having to perform any upgrades manually.  This lowers Opex for our customers’ IT organization, and ensures that the application is always up-to-date.

StorageZones offer the flexibility to store data in multiple places.  Customers can choose “Citrix-managed StorageZones” using one of 8 different Cloud storage locations around the world, for optimal compliance and performance for a global user base.  There is also the option of using “Customer-managed StorageZones” where data storage is managed on-premises.  Security Officers within Enterprise IT organization like this, because they control where the data is at rest.  Finally, StorageZone Connectors enable mobile access to data that lives in existing file stores–including traditional network shares (and SharePoint is on ShareFile’s near-term roadmap*–thanks to Zenprise, now XenMobile MDM, technology for the running start on this technology!)  It’s important to note that StorageZone Connectors–unlike Box ECM Cloud Connect–does not require you to move the data anywhere.  Existing tools and  processes continue to function as normal.

So with customer-managed StorageZones, the picture gets altered as follows:

You’ll notice in the picture above that use of Citrix-managed and Customer-managed StorageZones isn’t mutually exclusive.  You can use both Citrix-managed and Customer-managed StorageZones (including StorageZone Connectors) within a ShareFile account.  Our customers are really happy to have this flexibility, and we certainly believe it offers the best of both worlds as compared to Box’s “Cloud only” and Accellion’s “on premise” philosophies.

For Citrix customers, ShareFile also offers integration with our other products like XenDesktop, XenApp, NetScaler and now XenMobile (formerly Zenprise).  When it comes to Enterprise mobility, Citrix is unique in that it offers leading products in both the MDM and EFSS markets, in addition to the widely used XenApp/XenDesktop product lines.  Notably, ShareFile offers the market’s only Desktop sync tool that is optimized for use on all virtual desktop environments.   For Enterprises looking to solve a broad set of mobility needs, Citrix ShareFile is certainly one to have on your short list. 

Bill Carovano

Citrix ShareFile Product Management

* The development, release and timing of any features or functionality described for our products remains at our sole discretion and is subject to change without notice or consultation. The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not a commitment, promise or legal obligation to deliver any material, code or functionality and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions or incorporated into any contract.