One of the less appealing aspects of using cloud services is integrating various applications--both those in the cloud and those in your enterprise in an easily manageable way. A practical use case is the ability to use one CRM (customer relationship management) system and a different file storage system, both in the cloud.
So, Friday when I saw that Box.net was directly integrating its cloud-based storage service with Salesforce.com, I saw the confluence of two major trends, cloud storage and integration appear all in one fell swoop.
Salesforce.com has been the leader in cloud services and has consistently offered users ways to integrate other services into their SF.com installation. And Salesforce has also become the prime target for vendors who want to tap into their enormous customer base already using on-demand services.
But, Salesforce is far from infallible with certain aspects, such as storing files somewhat clunky and definitely costly when you start making it your system of record.
With the new offering, Box.net business users will now be able to add a Box.net app to their Salesforce accounts, allowing them to access their documents, media, and other files from directly within their SF.com instance. And they'll have unlimited storage for their files.
It sounds rather mundane, but it is the future of collaboration. Customers want to use best-of-breed solutions and be able to directly integrate with their applications of choice without being forced to use a third-party integrator.
As Phil Wainewright notes on ZDNet:
Box.net is not yet in the topmost league of cloud providers so may need to continue its expansion before it can afford a fully redundant architecture. But convenience and competitive pricing are also important considerations in the small- to midsize business market that produces most of the customers of this service.
This is precisely how companies like Box.net can grow into more meaningful entities. Customer demand will subsidize architectural growth just as it did for Salesforce.com. And while I don't know for sure that Box.net will be the ultimate winner in this space, it's a logical offering for them and an appealing addition for Salesforce.com users.