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Box's new partner program could yield benefits to enterprise customers

More Box relationships with ISVs, developers and resellers could result in broader integration of the cloud storage service with other apps

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A new partner program from Box could help its end customers by making the cloud storage and file sharing service more broadly and easily integrated with third-party enterprise Web and mobile applications.

The new program, called Box Partner Network, is designed to let Box increase and deepen its relationships with ISVs, developers, resellers and systems integrators. By turbo-charging its partner ecosystem, Box hopes to advance its ambition to become the file and document repository for all its customers' cloud applications.

Box's goal is to simplify for end users the process of storing documents from a variety of applications in a central cloud-based container, and from there sharing them internally and externally for improved collaboration among employees and outside parties.

Partners are key to this goal, Box says. The company expects the new Partner Network, announced Tuesday, will result in more effective relationships with partners and lead to an increase in the number of companies working to enhance its offerings for end users. "It's a key area of focus for us for growth," said Whitney Bouck, general manager of enterprise at Box.

The Box Partner Network has three main categories: alliance partners, including system integrators and ISVs; channel partners, including resellers; and application development platform partners.

Alan Lepofsky, an analyst with Constellation Research, said an important indicator of a vendor's success is the size of its partner ecosystem, so customers should pay attention to this when evaluating a company.

"If partners are signing up to build on your platform or resell your product, that's an indication they have faith in the company. Companies don't win on product alone. Customers like to buy from a vendor they know they will be able to get service and support [from] and be able to integrate with the other tools they use," he said via email.

Box announced several new partners Tuesday, including CollabNet, Clarizen, Fonality, TIBCO's tibbr and Tidemark, all of which will to use the company's Embed HTML5 framework, launched last October. They join existing partners Oracle, SugarCRM, Zendesk, Jive Software and NetSuite.

Box has also signed 50 resellers in the past four months, and has a distribution agreement with Ingram Micro. Partners can provide referrals and be compensated for that, or they can be actual resellers in three different tiers -- Member, focused on a high volume of small deals from small and mid-size businesses; and Choice and Premier, focused on mid-to-large enterprises and involving licenses and services.

Box may add components to the Partner Network in future, Bouck said, such as a certification program.

There are now more than 17,000 developers using the Box platform to build third-party applications and integrations. That includes partners that use a service called Box OneCloud, designed to consolidate companies' mobile applications and the data they generate.

With OneCloud, Box aims to help IT departments better manage their end users' mobile applications, data and documents by making them accessible and manageable through a central console and thus avoid fragmented "silos" of mobile data and documents. Partners participating in OneCloud include Quickoffice, Mindjet, Adobe's EchoSign and Brainshark's SlideShark.

In addition, Box offers Box Embed, which is pre-built code that can be deployed on an iframe and is designed to let companies integrate Box capabilities into their Web applications.

Constellation's Lepofsky said Box appears to be making it easy for channel partners to send it sales leads and to share in the license revenue. If Box can continue to nurture those relationships with training, marketing and other initiatives, and can make money for its partners, its ecosystem will continue to grow. It must, however, be good at managing its relationships with partners of all sizes, not only the large ones, according to Lepofsky.

Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester Research analyst, called the new partner program central to Box's overall success. "Box is trying to position [itself] as the content provider to other cloud services and [its] platform play is key to drawing a partner ecosystem," he said via email.

In a statement, Paul Hoffmann, senior director of cloud and technology solutions in the Ingram Micro Services Division, said that demand for easy to use collaboration products is growing.

Scott Reese, vice president of cloud services at Autodesk, said in the statement that the company's collaboration with Box supports its "vision for helping customers view, edit and share design files anywhere, anytime and with anyone" via the Autodesk 360 cloud service.

Meanwhile, through an integration with Tibco's Tibbr enterprise social networking system, users can access documents stored in Box from their Tibbr feed, according to Ram Menon, president, social computing at TIBCO.

Last July, Box raised $125 million in funding, bringing its total to $287 million since it was founded in 2005. The company increased its revenue 150 percent in 2012, compared with 2011, and added to its client roster companies including Discovery Communications, Electronic Arts, Johnson Lambert, McCann Worldgroup, MGM Resorts International, Netflix, Nationwide and Random House. The company's cloud service is used by more than 150,000 companies and more than 15 million end users. Box CEO Aaron Levie told Bloomberg last month that the company plans an IPO, probably for next year.



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