For several years, Box CEO Aaron Levie has been trying to get people to understand his company is not in the storage business. To drive that point home Box announced Box Zones today, a product that lets customers choose a storage component from another vendor, enabling customers to store files in-country when their privacy laws require it.
Box is actually announcing the product today, while rolling out a Beta in May. Initially it will work on Amazon Web Services in Ireland, Germany, Japan and Singapore, but the plan is to expand that over time adding new zones using IBM data centers later this year. Eventually Box hopes to make it flexible enough to add any approved storage you like.
The product will allow customers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe with legal and regulatory requirements to store their content in-country using third-party storage, and still use the Box service and everything else it brings to the table.
In order to make it as simple as possible, Box is taking care of the billing relationship with its partner vendors and giving customers a single invoice. “You will pay for Box Zones, but you don’t have to think about storage differently than how we think about it today,” Levie said.
Storage has always been a means to an end for Levie, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s giving customers a choice now. This is a big deal because it truly lets the world know Box is not about storage, but the underlying platform, a point Levie made to TechCrunch in an interview in September, 2014: “Storage is just a piece of the content management puzzle, not the business model,” he said.
It’s another way for Box to pursue new business opportunities where in-country storage requirements might have limited its markets. Since Box went public just over a year ago it has seen its stock price fluctuate wildly as investors seem to have had a hard time wrapping their arms around the company’s business strategy.
To answer critics, Box has brought new products to market including Box Enterprise Key Management, a product that enables customers to control their own encryption keys and a vertical strategy to deliver a set of products with third-party partners specific to the needs of a given industry. Today’s announcement is a clear signal for those who still don’t understand the Box business model, that this market is much more than pure storage.
This is yet another creative way for the company to differentiate itself, while expanding its markets across the world without having to invest in data centers or run up against local laws.
It’s worth noting that the data travels briefly through the Box service where encryption and metadata processing happen. Levie called this is transient or ephemeral processing. The actual storage takes place locally and that’s what should be key to regulators, he explained.