No More Project Octopus — A Corporate Dropbox Gets A Corporate Name

Last year at VMworld, there was this news story from VMware that was so refreshing. It concerned a new effort called Project Octopus. It had all the markings of a modern service — the kind so rare in enterprise circles. Even the name sounded cool.

Today Project Octopus is now Horizon Data – a service that is being called a corporate Dropbox. And fittingly, it has a corporate name.

Project Octopus was promised to be an enterprise cloud file sharing application. What’s noteworthy is to look at the service in context with what VMware CTO Steve Herrod discussed this morning about working in a world where we use services that have to work across the iPhones, iPads and smartphones that we carry.

It’s why I like the Project Octopus name. It’s fitting to this multiple device world. Sometimes it feels like you need eight arms to manage all the devices we use. Horizon is fine but Octopus tells me far more about this world that we work in.

The service is promised to provide anywhere access to files from any device. Users can share and collaborate on their files with anyone inside or outside the company.

But the promise does not necessarily fit with reality. Julia Mak, who works for Oxygen Cloud, made the point to me on Twitter today that Octopus was in beta and now Horizon Data is in alpha. It is taking time to get it right. In a demo this morning, the presenter warned the audience that the code was in “alpha” stage.  Oxygen Cloud is a partner with EMC, providing a storage service that accesses content from anywhere by connecting to a customer’s private storage system.

The difficulty shows the complexity that comes when developing services that are meant to work across many platforms and secure environments.

Herrod called Dropbox an insecure file sharing service. But here’s the thing. You can scoff at Dropbox all you want but people still love the service for its elegance and simplicity. It’s robust, able to manage millions of users.

Security is essential. But without the consumer services, there would have never been a Project Octopus in the first place.