Dropbox, the sync-and-share startup so popular it essentially created a market category, is finally, finally opening up to become an enterprise platform with the launch of a new Dropbox for Business API that enables team-level app management and integration with third-party services.
The short version: Where Dropbox's competitors, notably Box, work to deepen their own platforms with support for the security, workflow, accountability and all the other features enterprises demand, Dropbox is leaving that stuff to its developer partners — 20 of which, including power players like Microsoft, IBM, Dell, and startups like Okta and Skyhigh Networks, are already signed on to the new platform.
"This indicates that Dropbox for Business is a major and attractive development platform," says George O'Brien, product manager at Dropbox for Business.
There are 100,000 businesses on Dropbox for Business, the company said. And there are already 300,000 apps that take advantage of the core, vanilla-variety Dropbox API. That's a heck of a lot of data, enterprise and otherwise, already on the platform.
The thing is, though, there's a lot of data, applications and processes that isn't in or around Dropbox. In other words, a Dropbox customer could be using Microsoft Azure Active Directory for identity, Dell Data Protection for digital rights management and IBM WebSphere for workflows between other enterprise systems.
The API takes the existing Dropbox functionality, which only allows access to individual accounts, and gives it access to the team level. There are six areas in particular where Dropbox sees opportunity for developers to add to the platform: eDiscovery and legal hold; data loss prevention (DLP); security information and event management analytics (with a notable integration with Splunk); identity and single sign-on; data migration and on-premise backup; and custom workflows.
Where the competition tries to work all of that kind of functionality into their core platform, Dropbox thinks that's a dead end: It's hard to be as good at that stuff as the vendors that specialize in it, and it's just another form of lock-in if you're required to use only what your storage and collaboration vendor wants you to use. If you're using one eDiscovery solution with one app and another with another, administration becomes a pain.
In contrast, Dropbox lets you run whatever you'd like to run. In turn, it sees its focus on customer choice as a major incentive, both for using products on the Dropbox for Business platform and developing on top of it.
"Your stuff in Dropbox is more valuable when it integrates with other software," said Ilya Fushman, head of product for Dropbox for Business.
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