Interview We came across what seemed like just another file sync and sharer, and sighed. Yet checking ownCloud's product out showed there was a lot more to it than that, which made us curious.
So we asked Markus Rex, its CEO and co-founder, some questions to find out more. His answers certainly filled in the background and scope of ownCloud's approach, pulling no punches on the way.
El Reg: Is the rise of enterprise file sync and share evidence of a failure by file storage suppliers to provide good-enough file sharing to distributed end users?
Markus Rex: Yes. If Enterprise Content Management or storage vendors got it right, we wouldn’t be here. But it is more complicated than that – we are seeing two additional trends as well. First, people around the world care now more than ever about data sovereignty and privacy.
Second, in the enterprise, vendors are learning that solutions are not deployed on-site in a green field. There is of course more to it than that, but those are the high points. All told, storage suppliers find themselves in a pretty deep hole that they now need to dig [themselves] out of.
El Reg: Is the complexity and control needed by enterprise file-sharing software counter-productive in that such complexity works against ease-of-use?
Markus Rex: The answer is a resounding “no.” It is very easily possible to provide a super sweet experience to the end user, who will never see the complexity. If this appears complex to the end user, then the software sucks.
El Reg: Enterprise file sync and share looks like the addition of another silo of storage: a virtual one. Isn’t this a bad thing?
Markus Rex: Yes – it is a very bad thing, but it is only a bad thing when you use your enterprise file sync and share as another data silo. If you use the appropriate software, it does not have to be a data silo; it can be a unifier of data silos.
El Reg: Isn’t ownCloud really a unifier of different storage silos rather than a file-sharing product?
Markus Rex: Yes. [Customers] can use ownCloud which does not create another virtual silo but instead unifies existing silos and makes them disappear in the eyes of the user.
El Reg: Why is this needed?
Markus Rex: The unifier is needed for simple, yet very important reasons. If you look at enterprise corporate IT today, it is so unnecessarily complex. In fact, it is a complete nightmare – you have a SharePoint and multiple drives and half a dozen locations everywhere. A lot of hard thinking is outsourced to the user’s brain, whereas a computer can do these tasks without frustration and getting a lot of gray hair. The end user should not be bothered with these mundane tasks.
And now add the exponential data growth – if you’re annoyed today, don’t even think about the future.
The end user has far better things to do than worry about different data silos. The consumerisation of IT did an awesome job of training users to expect ease of use. There is no reason why enterprise users should expect anything less than consumer users – they want and deserve ease of use as well. That is why a unifier is needed.