When Amazon announced its enterprise document management service Zocalo back in July, it was tough to see who might pony up for it. Isn't the question of enterprise document management mostly solved, courtesy of whatever productivity system is already in use (such as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office)?
But now that Zocalo is in general availability, it's easier to see why Amazon is pushing it. It's not a replacement for an existing or entrenched product, even with features designed to appeal to existing enterprise setups. Instead, it's meant to be an appealing alternative for those who are starting entirely anew or are relocating their infrastructure onto Amazon's cloud services.
The basics of Zocalo, and its appeal for enterprises, were laid out around the time of its first announcement courtesy of InfoWorld's David Linthicum. Aside from Amazon handling all the heavy lifting around storing and transmitting documents, he noted, Zocalo authenticates against any Active Directory store to ensure that documents are only seen or read by the people who have access to them, transmitted using encryption, and made available through an intuitive interface.
According to the FAQ, Zocalo supports annotations and markup for many common document types (PDFs and Microsoft Office documents, mainly), and no special software other than a recent-generation Web browser is needed to read documents or add markup. Storage allotments start at 200GB per user, with additional amounts available on a monthly basis.
Ovum analyst Richard Edwards didn't see Zocalo as being a hugely disruptive technology by itself. Rather, he viewed it as a complement to Amazon WorkSpaces, that company's virtual desktop-on-demand solution designed to compete with similar products from Citrix and VMware.
"As a standalone product, Zocalo will initially target the document review process -- one notch above the commodity file sync and share service typified by Dropbox," Edwards wrote. "Ovum believes that Amazon is unlikely to woo customers away from established enterprise file sync and share vendors with Zocalo alone, but things get more interesting if one considers this product alongside Amazon WorkSpaces." There, he noted, one need only add $2 a month to the $52 per-user-per-month cost for WorkSpaces to get Zocalo as an add-on. Normally, the cost is $5 per user per month for Zocalo.
The idea of Zocalo as part of a larger pitch to consolidate on Amazon's services can be seen in some of the ways Amazon is stumping for the service. For instance, users can choose the geographic region in which their files are stored, which helps reduce latency and compliance with regulations.
Then there's the matter of Zocalo's existing competition: Box, Dropbox, and Google. All three already have strong presences in enterprises. According to the MIT Technology Review, Box in particular has aggressively built a presence in verticals like health care, legal, and finance, which a relative newcomer -- even on the scale of Amazon -- will have a hard time disrupting.
Alex Gorbanksy, writing for VentureBeat, believes Zocalo is a sign that cloud storage as a market is in a race to the bottom, and the real value is added functionality of one kind or another. Like Edwards, he didn't believe Zocalo would be an immediate hit: "In the short term, Zocalo's clients will be existing AWS clients that have yet to adopt a file-sharing platform," he wrote. "That said, Zocalo's aggressive price points will put margin pressure on Box as it seeks to grow quickly and gain share."
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