Dropbox has hired Matt Eccleston, the visionary architect and engineer in VMware’s end user computing group, as GigaOM’s Barb Darrow reported last week. This is part of several converging trends:
- Dropbox is pushing hard to gain the confidence of IT buyers in large enterprises, and VMware is a trusted name there. Eccleston is coming from the group that built View, the company’s desktop virtualization product. Clearly, this veteran brings skills in security that will be of immense benefit to Dropbox.
- Dropbox and its competitors in the file sync-and-share market — like Box, Hightail, and IntraLinks — are all growing fast, as traditional vendors seem to be expending their energies in application and enterprise cloud initiatives. But the real action is supporting the workforce, which is increasingly on proximal (mobile) devices and communicating and sharing through social applications.
- There is a lot of jitter over at VMware as it is shedding its various social technologies (see “Short takes: SocialCast Strides to shut down, VMware sells Zimbra to Telligent, $37B in lost productivity“), and although VMware has a suite of tools for smartphones and tablets, it is grounded in a desktop mindset. Also, there is a well-discussed brain drain going on at VMware (see “Is VMware’s brain drain a sign of its influence, or of its demise?“) and likely more to follow.
This hire is only the newest in a recent flurry of similar cases. In July the company hired Ross Piper, the former SVP of enterprise strategy and alliances at Salesforce.com, and he assumed a new position — VP of enterprise strategy (see “Dropbox hires Ross Piper from Salesforce to speed enterprise adoption“) — and Kevin Egan, another former Saleforce.com exec, is now head of sales for Dropbox.
What most don’t see is that file sync-and-share is the new foundation of computing. The shift has already occurred, because users have adopted a new metaphor for work.
- First, people want to take care of their own work in a simple, convenient, and easily accessible way. So they start using Dropbox to back up files and to sync them across their own devices. In my case, for example, I have Dropbox backing up my hard drive — including my iTunes library — and I am subscribing to its Packrat service so that I can delete files and folders on my hard drive but have them retained in the cloud. I can access all of my documents on my iPhone or from any other computer, which is very handy.
- Second, a user shares a file or a folder with a friend or coworker. After all, it’s only a few clicks.
- Third, the user and her coworkers begin to employ that folder as a common repository for a project, and they rely on Dropbox synchronization to keep things updated without sending email attachments.
- Fourth, perhaps IT gets wind of this and has yet another instance of Dropbox to deal with.
This bottom-up model of use is now unstoppable.
Dropbox is moving aggressively to add the features and team that will give IT buyers better certainty about security and manageability, but the new pattern of work is already established. Dropbox is working hard to build a level of trust for IT, and that will get the IT staff to take their foot off the brake. But the accelerator has already been pressed to the floor by the workforce.
Disclosure: Hightail is backed by Alloy Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of GigaOM Research, Giga Omni Media.