Amazon Web Services (AWS) is once again looking to disrupt a segment of the cloud computing market, this time by launching Zocalo, an enterprise-class secure file sharing and content management service designed to compete against the likes of Dropbox, Box and similar services.
The new service, branded with the Spanish word for town square, provides enterprises with a file-sharing service with centralised administrative functions, secure transfers and storage, and the ability for users to synchronise files across multiple devices.
In essence, it's no different from the services and functionality of Box or Dropbox for Business.
"Customers have told us they're fed up with the cost, complexity, and performance of their existing old-guard enterprise document and collaboration management tools.
AWS was increasingly being asked to provide an enterprise storage and sharing tool that was easy to use, allowed users to quickly collaborate with others, and met the strict security needs of their organisations. That's what Amazon Zocalo was built to do," said Noah Eisner, general manager of Amazon Zocalo, in a statement.
Amazon appears serious about building out Zocalo as a leading file-sharing service. It's offering the file-sharing service free with 50GB per user to Amazon Workspace subscribers.
New subscribers to the service will pay $5 per user every month for 200GB of storage for each user in the account.
Amazon is wading into already crowded waters currently dominated by Box and Dropbox. Scores of other services exist, including SugarSync, Huddle, Egnyte, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive.
Several other vendors incorporate file sharing features in their platforms, such as Salesforce.com's Chatter.
Several backup services and vendors are looking to branch into the file-sharing segment. Last year, eFolder merged with Anchor to combine backup and file sharing, as well as to provide solution providers with resources for hosting their own file-sharing services.
Other backup vendors are planning to launch file-sharing functions to augment their core capabilities and value propositions.
The file-sharing segment is difficult and unforgiving.
While Box and Dropbox are the most recognised brands, the market remains immature, with full penetration a way off. Building file-sharing market share requires huge brand recognition, which leads to adoption.
Vendors that have launched such services without marketing support have disappointing adoption rates. A good example of this is Symantec, which recently pulled the plug on its Norton Zone file-sharing service after just a year on the market.
Even companies considered successful in file sharing are not the most financially sound.
Box, which delayed its IPO, raised another $150m from venture capitalists to bolster its financial health and continued market development. Critics say the company spends too much money on sales and marketing.
In 2013, Box spent $170m on sales and marketing - $50m more than its total sales for the year. Box is taking steps to burn less cash, but marketing remains a priority as the service seeks to sign more paid subscribers.
Working in Amazon's favour is its huge market presence.
Where others have to promote their services, differential features and buy share with attractive pricing, Amazon is using a tried-and-true strategy to get its existing cloud services base to adopt Zocalo as an extension at an affordable price.
The Amazon entry could spell trouble for Box and Dropbox, as well as open a new front in the cloud pricing war with Google and Microsoft.
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