The exhibit hall at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Barcelona might feel a little chilly these days. Passersby may not notice it, but the three competing Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) vendors positioned right next to each other probably will. 

The competition between Box, Dropbox and Syncplicity isn’t exactly friendly. Each wants to be the service that enterprises choose to share and collaborate on content. And the time to win the lion’s share of business users seems to be now.

Throwing Barbs

Last week at Dropbox’s first ever business user conference, Dropbox Open, CEO Drew Houston fired a not so subtle dig at Box. Without naming his rival directly, he pointed out that he had signed up as many paying business customers (150 k) in 10 months than his rival had in 10 years. (No EFSS vendor other than Box fit Houston’s description.)

"In the last year, we’ve added more paying business customers than they have in their lifetime," said Houston.

He made his claims before an audience of business leaders and tech celebrities like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Apple software head Eddy Cue.

Box CEO Aaron Levie belittled the announcements Dropbox made that day via Twitter, “Any time you ever want to see what Dropbox will do next, look for what we did 3-5 years ago,” he wrote. Other disparaging remarks followed in interviews with the press.

International Data Lines 

Gartner-rated EFSS leader Syncplicity usually prefers to stand to the side as the cloud-only EFSS vendors fight for turf. While there are many reasons to do so, CEO Jonathan Huberman told CMSWire that his company offers a more compelling EFSS option from the get-go, especially for companies who can’t or don’t want to lob all of their content into the heavens.

“Syncplicity offers a policy-driven hybrid cloud, which enables organizations to decide which data is stored in a public versus private cloud and in what region,” he said.

This is a capability that former Syncplicity general manger Jeetu Patel spent years building out and evangelizing. Now that he’s a vice president at Box, he has changed his tune on hybrid.

The hybrid and local cloud portions are practically must-haves for many companies who do business in Europe, whether they are based there, or not. Especially now that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared the Safe Harbor framework between the US and European Union (EU) invalid. 

“Most of the leading EFSS storage solutions are ill-suited to help customers become compliant,” said Huberman.

What does this mean for European-based organizations that use US-based cloud storage services? 

That’s one of the things that Huberman and his team are talking about at the Gartner Summit. It’s also the basis of the news Syncplicity announced today.

Life After Safe Harbor

“European companies that use US-based cloud storage services (read Box, Dropbox among others) but keep their data stored outside of the EU are potentially out of compliance with EU privacy regulations,” said Brian W. Levine, senior director of security and compliance at Syncplicity.

And simply building European-based data centers won’t necessarily solve the problem, he added. "Their orchestration layers are still mostly US-based,” he explained.

So while some EFSS cloud-only vendors go at it, Syncplicity introduced European-based cloud storage options for its customers today. Now they can choose between a combination of European Cloud, on-premises in Europe, US cloud, and on-premises in US data storage.

Syncplicity’s new EU and US-based cloud orchestration layers give customers more ways to secure their critical data as well. This is something that its larger EFSS competitors don’t offer, according to Huberman.

It’s worth noting, too, that regardless of where the data resides, Syncplicity will show it to the user through a single pane of glass; in other words, where the data lives won't affect your view of it.

Syncplicity Booth

Fallout for an EMC-Free Syncplicity?

EMC’s sale of Syncplicity in July came as a bit of a shock to many industry watchers. After all, analysts Gartner and Forrester pegged it as an industry leader, it seemed to be a success. EMC CEO Joe Tucci had put Patel on the big stage during his keynote at EMC World in 2013, signaling that Syncplicity, which had been acquired a year earlier, held great promise. 

EMC salespeople hawked Syncplicity, each of them incentivized with a higher rate of commission than for EMC’s other products. But something must not have gone to plan.

Exactly how many EFSS services did Patel and his team sell? One analyst, under the promise of confidentiality, told us “not many” using terms like “fire sale” and   "mostly on premises” when he described the acquisition by Skyview Capital. The sale price was not significant enough to appear on EMC’s financial statements.

At the time of the sale, Huberman and EMC spokesperson Dave Farmer both indicated that EMC sold Syncplicity (although it remains a part-owner) because it would be better off in the hands of a company who could focus solely on it.

Huberman told CMSWire at the time, that that meant “new management, investing more, smarter and faster so that the EFSS provider could grow at a higher rate."

Four months later, that’s exactly what’s happening, according to Huberman. He said that by the end of the fourth quarter it will have a record-breaking year “by multiples.”

Although TechCrunch has reported that Patel, who now works at Box, was “hired away” from EMC and thereby Syncplicity, Huberman told CMSWire that he let him go, although the exact words he used weren’t nearly as gentle.

“I wouldn’t normally say such a thing, but I’m angry at him,” said Huberman, explaining that Patel is “running around telling our customers he knows our roadmap.”

“He’s wrong, he doesn’t know it because I changed it,” said Huberman.

Progress Report

Huberman told CMSWire that he hasn’t lost a single customer since the acquisition, but admitted that there was some nervousness during the first month.

And when it comes to Europe, where he stands today, “it may be our largest market,” he said.

If he’s right, then as marketers from Box and Dropbox man their booths in the exhibit hall in Barcelona, they might just wonder if their neighbor might be on to something with its hybrid cloud offering.