The Cloud Storage Wars, Part… ? (I have lost count)

GDrive is coming… GDrive is coming… GDrive is coming!

Wait… wait… wait… we’ve heard this before, right? GDrive is eminent because tantalizing mysterious screen shots and hints of the phantom service observed in source code & robots.txt files tell us so. But when GDrive does finally arrive (no one doubts it will eventually) will it be a yawn or a yelp of applause?

I love Google Docs, so anything Google does to blur the lines between GDoc content and file-system data will be appreciated. I already have a workflow that would make any Rube Goldberg fan beam with pride. My little Frankenstein is a combination of Dropbox, Cyberduck/Amazon S3, Arc 2, all syncing cloud, Macbook and iPad. GDrive will surely create more options.

When GDrive launches, the “cloud storage” landscape will look roughly like this (pardon me for missing a vendor in my quick search):

Primarily Consumer & SMB Focused

  • Dropbox
  • Microsoft Skydrive
  • LogMeIn Cubby
  • SugarSync
  • Sharefile
  • OxygenCloud
  • Pogo Plug
  • iCloud
  • MokaFive

Primarily Enterprise Focused

  • Egnyte
  • Nasuni
  • TwinStrata
  • Accellion
  • SpiderOak
  • VMware Octopus
  • AWS Storage Gateway

Serves both Consumer and Enterprise with dedicated focus

  • GDrive (If Google Apps integration is available)
  • Box.com
  • JungleDisk

Wow… this space is getting more crowded every Techcrunch news cycle. There are plenty of folks pontificating who ultimately “wins” this war. My guess: There will be less than a handful of major providers and less than a dozen minor players.

[Aside: Being a minor (niche) player doesn’t have to be a negative. Many a successful startup serve niche audiences.]

The majors will be Microsoft, Google, Apple and two others. Maybe Amazon, but not sure if AWS is a “major” on it’s own or because it will be supporting all the minors behind the scenes. The majors may buy a startup like Box or Dropbox. Otherwise Box and Dropbox both become large minors, distinguishing themselves with super sweet user experiences. The majors all have big eco-system-platforms that feed customers to their cloud storage aspiration appetites.

The minors will be everyone else. A shifting landscape of startups outdoing each other with a better user experience. Amazon, Rackspace, and other commodity public clouds will enable the minors to compete on technology, cost and scale with the majors. The one big difference is the majors have their established customer platforms ready for their own plug-n-play cloud storage offering.

Does this analogy work?

A friend suggested Dropbox, SugarSync, Box (et.al.) are like the TiVo and ReplayTV for cloud storage; Satisfying the early adopter’s cravings. The corollary is Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, Verizon FIOS, and TimeWarner (playing the role as the Cloud Majors) got into the DVR business, and their respective established customer platforms muscled Tivo and ReplayTV into minor positions. (Both survive today serving niche, discriminating audiences, willing to pay more for a premium DVR experience.) In typical major’s fashion, Comcast et.al. offer a mediocre but useable service, and it’s the gravitational pull from their customer platforms that is the inertia for their success even though TiVo is a better product. Consumers are lazy (I’m lazy… I dumped ReplayTV because Comcast DVR came built-in to the cable box. But I still curse the inferior UI.)

Anyway… I’m excited to see what GDrive looks like when it finally arrives.