Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Nate Vickery, Gopala Krishna Behara

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Wearables

@CloudExpo: Article

Popular Dropbox Store-Sync-Share Cloud Service Morphing Into Middleware

API A Godsend For Partners, Götterdämmerung For Competitors

Yesterday, in a multi-part press release, Dropbox, a popular store/sync/share cloud service, announced software updates for its Apple and Android versions, a new version for Blackberry, and that, since it first published its API in May, the number of applications using it had grown to over one hundred.  The first two are hardly news at all, but a single cloud-based file management service being adopted by 100+ different software products and services is more significant than it might seem when it is buried as a by-the-way in an announcement of little interest to anybody except existing Dropbox customers and maybe Blackberry users.

Dropbox is an on-line subscription services where users can store documents, media and other kinds of files,  synchronize file copies on multiple devices, and share files with other subscribers to the service.  As such, it is very similar in function to dozens of other such services. Largely through marketing and somewhat through actual feature differences, the various services target different types of users and applications, e.g. business document management vs. personal media management or collaboration vs. backup.  Some are only browser-based, while others also provide native clients for Mac and Windows PCs, and many, especially the syncers, also run on smart phones.  And, most of them have business models where users according to the storage volume consumed or a fixed monthly charge bracketed by a storage maximum.  For capsule summaries of at least thirty Dropbox competitors, click here.

What sets Dropbox apart from the pack, though, is its transparency.  Where most of the others have dedicated user interface contexts in the form of a standalone program and/or an elaborate web page with its own menus, terminology and procedural logic, Drobox's interface on all devices, including the browser, is simply a folder that looks exactly like any other.  It has no context of its own, but rather lives within the already-established context of storage and connectivity on each device.  So, when a user takes a picture with his smart phone he can simply save it to the Dropbox folder, rather than another folders, or he can share it to Dropbox, rather than Facebook or Twitter.  In either case, Dropbox is just another choice added to the ones he already has for saving or sharing pictures.  After he saves or shares the picture, within seconds, that picture file will automatically appear in the Dropbox folder on his iPad and PC and, if the selected folder is shared by other Dropbox users, the picture will also appear in the Dropbox folders on their devices as well.  Furthermore, if, one of those people then, say, crops the picture and saves it, the altered picture will then show up in everybody's Dropbox folder on all their devices.  Because it functions as a file folder, Dropbox automatically works with any application on the user's device that uses its file system.

Dropbox adds functional value without adding any contextual overhead, and this points to an important difference between software products and cloud services.  In packaged software, there is a direct correspondence between function, context and value - every feature and function has a menu choice or dialog box through which it is selected and used, and each new version adds more value by adding more features.  Look at each incremental version of Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite for a clear example of this equation.  Cloud services don't exactly work that way.  In the cloud, value comes from reducing latency and context while increasing access and availability for any given resource, asset or workload.  The Dropbox service does this for an individual's or group's accumulation, use, and distribution of files.  It justifies its monthly subscription price by what it saves in time and trouble related to managing and using a given amount of data, not by what it adds in functional bulk.

According to Adam Gross, Dropbox's SVP of Sales and Marketing, the reason for the service's transparency goes beyond the company's desire to offer a product that is simply easy for customers to use and for the company to support.  "The goal all along was to create a universal network fabric that provides rich functionality in a shared context that users already know and understand," he said, adding, "The API was just the next logical step, and clearly the strategy is resonating with our growing list of partners who are finding amazing and creative ways to add value to their products with Dropbox."

When examining the list of Dropbox-enabled services and applications, it is clear that the API serves different purposes for different vendors.  Not surprisingly, for a number of them, it is a tactical one, simply giving their products device sync and backup capabilities that they would otherwise be pressed to add directly, often to little strategic effect.  Granted, their users must now also become Dropbox subscribers, rather than finding the added functionality native in their products, but, as Dropbox is free for users with up to 2GB under management, in most cases, that is a requirement unlikely to rankle most app users.

For others, though, Dropbox provides a new kind of "cloud memory" for consolidating, synchronizing and securing critical information and then making it available on an as-needed basis.  A good example of this is the 1Password app by Agile Web Solutions, an application for creating, storing and retrieving strong passwords for different sites and services, which uses Dropbox to synchronize the latest user's passwords between his or her different devices.

The Dropbox API is even providing the basis for new kinds of applications and services that might otherwise be much more difficult to conceive and create.  One such example is AirDropper, a clever service that lets Dropbox users send requests for files to anyone, even if the person doesn't have a Dropbox account, and enables that person to provide the requested file without using email and attachments.  The person receiving the request gets a link to the AirDropper secure web site, which lets them upload the requested file and have AIrDropper deposit in the requester's private Dropbox folder.

There are also apps that exist for the purpose of adding value to Dropbox itself, like the obviously named, Send to Dropbox, which allow subscribers to use email as still another way to get files into their Dropbox folders.  Still others use Dropbox as an integration tool, like PixelPipe, which uses Dropbox as a unified sharing interface for getting content onto virtually all mainstream social networks.  And, a number of others use it enable rich functional integration between apps on different user devices.  The variety of applications is indeed impressive.

Now, in the abstract, there is little preventing Dropbox competitors from trying to do something similar, except that most of them have been built to be apps and services, not as a universal fabric with no context of its own.  To do what Dropbox is doing, most would have to deconstruct their existing offerings to build a different kind of service that would get little leverage from their existing ones.  And so it is that most them are doomed to a protracted war of feature escalation and market attrition and consolidation, with the only kind exit being acquisition by subscriber-hungry cloud service giants for pennies on the sunk dollar.  Not pretty.  Meanwhile, Dropbox is well-positioned to grow and prosper on the strength of a head start, a clear vision, and a unique and vital ecosystem of customers and partners plugged into its network fabric.

More Stories By Tim Negris

Tim Negris is SVP, Marketing & Sales at Yottamine Analytics, a pioneering Big Data machine learning software company. He occasionally authors software industry news analysis and insights on Ulitzer.com, is a 25-year technology industry veteran with expertise in software development, database, networking, social media, cloud computing, mobile apps, analytics, and other enabling technologies.

He is recognized for ability to rapidly translate complex technical information and concepts into compelling, actionable knowledge. He is also widely credited with coining the term and co-developing the concept of the “Thin Client” computing model while working for Larry Ellison in the early days of Oracle.

Tim has also held a variety of executive and consulting roles in a numerous start-ups, and several established companies, including Sybase, Oracle, HP, Dell, and IBM. He is a frequent contributor to a number of publications and sites, focusing on technologies and their applications, and has written a number of advanced software applications for social media, video streaming, and music education.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
Digital transformation is about embracing digital technologies into a company's culture to better connect with its customers, automate processes, create better tools, enter new markets, etc. Such a transformation requires continuous orchestration across teams and an environment based on open collaboration and daily experiments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alex Casalboni, Technical (Cloud) Evangelist at Cloud Academy, explored and discussed the most urgent unsolved challenges to achieve f...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
The past few years have brought a sea change in the way applications are architected, developed, and consumed—increasing both the complexity of testing and the business impact of software failures. How can software testing professionals keep pace with modern application delivery, given the trends that impact both architectures (cloud, microservices, and APIs) and processes (DevOps, agile, and continuous delivery)? This is where continuous testing comes in. D
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
The “Digital Era” is forcing us to engage with new methods to build, operate and maintain applications. This transformation also implies an evolution to more and more intelligent applications to better engage with the customers, while creating significant market differentiators. In both cases, the cloud has become a key enabler to embrace this digital revolution. So, moving to the cloud is no longer the question; the new questions are HOW and WHEN. To make this equation even more complex, most ...
Blockchain is a shared, secure record of exchange that establishes trust, accountability and transparency across business networks. Supported by the Linux Foundation's open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost as well as advance trade. Are you curious about how Blockchain is built for business? In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, discussed the b...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone in...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
As you move to the cloud, your network should be efficient, secure, and easy to manage. An enterprise adopting a hybrid or public cloud needs systems and tools that provide: Agility: ability to deliver applications and services faster, even in complex hybrid environments Easier manageability: enable reliable connectivity with complete oversight as the data center network evolves Greater efficiency: eliminate wasted effort while reducing errors and optimize asset utilization Security: imple...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
Modern software design has fundamentally changed how we manage applications, causing many to turn to containers as the new virtual machine for resource management. As container adoption grows beyond stateless applications to stateful workloads, the need for persistent storage is foundational - something customers routinely cite as a top pain point. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Bill Borsari, Head of Systems Engineering at Datera, explored how organizations can reap the bene...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Michael Burley, a Senior Business Development Executive in IT Services at NetApp, described how NetApp designed a three-year program of work to migrate 25PB of a major telco's enterprise data to a new STaaS platform, and then secured a long-term contract to manage and operate the platform. This significant program blended the best of NetApp’s solutions and services capabilities to enable this telco’s successful adoption of private cloud storage and launching ...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...