Accellion sees massive upside in decision to dance with Microsoft

Accellion joins the Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner Program, allowing its kiteworks platform to allow users to create or access Office 365 files from any device without having to save or upload the file back to the original content source.

Yorgen Edholm

Yorgen Edholm, Accellion’s CEO

Secure file sharing and collaboration vendor Accellion has announced a major new partnership with Microsoft, in which it joins the Microsoft Cloud Storage Partner Program. The new relationship will significantly add to the ability of Accellion and its channel partners to work with Office 365. It also has massive market implications for Accellion, as their ability to enhance Office’s connectivity adds value that will make them attractive to Microsoft partners, opening up a significant new channel for them. Of course that additional value won’t hurt Microsoft one bit either.

“My world has been turned upside down over the last two years, because Microsoft, which used to be the sleeper company in the cloud space, has moved in forcefully,” said Yorgen Edholm, Accellion’s CEO. “Ever since then, we have been trying out to figure out the best strategy going forward – our decision, to dance with Microsoft or not to dance with Microsoft. That’s the new reality out there.”

Accellion has worked with Microsoft before, but not at anywhere near this level.

“They were just a platform behind the firewall,” Edholm said. “Almost every company we went to – say 98 per cent – were using Microsoft, but for us, it was an arms’ length relationship, and for cloud, you need close co-operation. What’s different now is that Microsoft has been more aggressive pursuing us than we in pursuing them. They are not having a war with us. The big struggle is who will dominate the cloud, and so they are looking for smaller companies with unique specific technology they can work with in different ways. Anything that can make the Azure cloud platform stronger is very valuable for Microsoft.”

The new partnership provides access to Microsoft APIs, which gives kiteworks, Accellion’s content platform, the ability to extend the Office Online Web apps to content stored on-premises and in the cloud without having to duplicate files. In addition, users do not have to save or upload files back to the content system where the file resides. This integration provides users with a single pane of glass to access files, and to do so much more securely because the access to these files occurs in kiteworks.

“It makes it seem that Microsoft is now part of our tool,” Edholm said. “Microsoft is now native inside our product. It gives Accellion more connectivity to different data sources than any other product I’m aware of. This is a major differentiator for us.”

The upside for Accellion from this is massive, Edholm said.

“If it was only Microsoft adding value to us, by us talking to the Microsoft editors, that would be nice but not earth shattering,” he stated. “The exciting upside for us is the value we add to the Microsoft universe, filling in the blanks where some of the customers don’t get everything they need from Microsoft. Every Office 365 user needs more connectivity than Microsoft. We can add value to that much, much bigger market. This also lets us add Microsoft as a channel, which is a dream come true.”

Accellion was a relatively marginal channel player before 2014, when they decided to get more systematic and less opportunistic about partnering. Edholm expects that the deeper relationship with Microsoft will significantly enhance many of their channel relationships as well.

“In Canada for instance, we were working with mostly smaller players, with the only big one being Softchoice, and we didn’t have a deep relationship with them. It was based on a few big customers. But with the Microsoft relationship we will get more critical mass with this kind of partner because of Microsoft’s importance.”

The importance to partners is enhanced because Azure is not just a cloud platform, but also a support platform for mobile.

“Microsoft didn’t have a strong cloud foundation for mobile apps before, so they really couldn’t play there,” Edholm said. “Now they do, so they also have mobile, and with Office 365 they are pretty much the productivity tool of choice on every device for business. So many companies that were slow on adopting mobile are moving out into the cloud on mobile now with Microsoft there, and this is exciting for the partners.”

Edholm isn’t concerned about appearing to have chosen sides in terms of cloud partners.

“We are already a big partner of Amazon, as they are the engine behind our cloud offering, and I think it’s fair to say that before this, we were seen in the Amazon camp,” he said. “Now we are with Amazon and Microsoft. We would hope that going forward, we would be more of a Switzerland, but we haven’t had a solid reason to go in the Google court. If they upped the ante to provide us with more value, like Switzerland we would do business with them too.”

Edholm acknowledged that the Microsoft partnership is rather deeper than the Amazon one, however.

“Amazon only provides us with cloud service. Microsoft also provides applications and joint development of vertical solutions, and this partnership will have more value for us both as things go forward. I don’t think most people realize how fundamentally things are changing with this new Microsoft technology. I believe you will see the development of applications that no one could afford to build for just one company.”