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Box and BT launched a new partnership yesterday aimed at combining their cloud services expertise for the benefit of their customers. The companies will collaborate on improving cloud connectivity, with Box poised to join BT's high-performance cloud infrastructure, while BT customers get a dedicated connection to the Box service.

The file sharing and content management platform's EMEA SVP and general manager David Benjamin was a fitting figure to announce the alliance at the Box World Tour 2016, as Benjamin had worked at BT for almost 10 years prior to joining Box.

"Whilst we're connecting the enterprise from two different perspectives – them very much from the network perspective and us from the application and platform perspective – there's also a high degree of commonality in terms of how we view the marketplace as well and some of the challenges we saw in enterprises," he told Computerworld UK.

"From our perspective, we're very keen to form part of BT's Cloud of Clouds portfolio," he said. "That gives our joint customers a better experience in terms of security and interoperability, and where BT has a broader reach in terms of enterprises, we see the potential for us to talk about how we can collaborate and co-sell Box into those organisations as well."

The Cloud of Clouds strategy was designed to give customers an easy route into cloud computing, letting them connect quickly and securely to the applications and data that they need.

Box will benefit by giving its customers access to the central service of the strategy: BT Cloud Connect, the company's high-performance connectivity to cloud services. BT can add the Box service to their suite of products.

"We call it cloud content management, the ability to put all of your content in one platform that gives you file storage, information governance, the ability to do file sync and share, and to integrate with more leading cloud platforms," Benjamin explained.

The companies have so far signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) setting intentions to work together and will now devise a formal agreement on how to take the service to market. The collaboration could extend to include co-selling Box and expanding cloud technologies across borders.

New Box strategy

"Box World Tour" may sound more rock and roll than cloud content management, but the name fits the energetic stagecraft of Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie. In his keynote presentation, Levie shared his vision of how the company could provide a foundation for digital transformation.

"Digital is more than just adding software to a traditional product or service," Levie breathlessly explained, in a sharp dark suit and bright blue trainers, bouncing across the stage. "Your whole company has to start operating like a digital company."

This means that a company must digitise its underlying processes rather than just adding an app on top, and become "digitally operative from the ground up" in the style of industry disrupters such as Netflix. The idea is that a truly digital experience needs a digital business model behind it. 

"The fundamental aspect of that is information," said Levie, which is the point where he believes Box comes in."Our mission at Box is to help companies manage their information and manage their content in this environment that is constantly changing."

Box wants to offer simple and secure methods for modern enterprises to bring their applications, information and people together. Levie pitches Box as a way for companies to simplify their digital operations by keeping all their information in a single place, while also ensuring compliance with global regulations.

"Robust cloud content management enables the world’s large companies to be more connected and collaborative than ever before, which leads to entirely new ways of working," Levie added.

In the next few months, the company will launch a new version of Box to strengthen its value in business transformation, and Levie promises it will be faster with new features like HD video streaming.

New Box features

The Box World Tour returned to the same London Brewery venue as the previous year. Since then, Box has rolled out its Box Zones in-region data storage centres, Box KeySafe customer-managed encryption service, Box Governance regulatory compliance tools, and Binding Corporate Rules EU data certification. 

Levie was accompanied by a large display, presumably to depict how much can change in a year –with a photograph of Barack Obama and David Cameron sharing a barbecue quickly replaced by Donald Trump and Nigel Farage posturing in a golden doorway, to the inevitable groans of the 800 attendees.

The special relationship on screen was quickly replaced by another Anglo-American partnership on the stage, as Levie handed over to his British colleague Benjamin. The EMEA boss elaborated on the recent announcement of a London Box Zone joining those in Frankfurt and Dublin.

"That'll become generally available in the next couple of months," said Benjamin. "What that signifies is the flexibility we have in our architecture. We're able to relatively quickly spin up new data centres with our partners at IBM and AWS to meet our customers demand.

"As you see the political landscape evolving in Europe, what we see is a scenario where our customers will want either data residency on mainland UK, data residency in mainland Europe, or a combination of both.

"Over time what you're going to see is for our multinational customers we will be giving them the ability to have multi-zones, to store their data in a region of their choice depending on businesses they have. That's where it gets even more interesting and challenging."

Box will also soon add a desktop version known as "Box Drive" to its portfolio of products. SVP Chris Yeh revealed that the public beta version for Windows and Mac is due to ship in June.

Also on the way is workflow management tool Box Relay, native mobile applications for Box Notes and enough integrations for Box to become what Yeh calls "the Switzerland of content", including calendar, meeting notes and full Google Docs integration.