5 Key Takeaways about Amazon Zocalo

zocalo “Zocalo,” what a strange name for a document and file sharing service targeted toward enterprises. My first thought upon hearing the name (while viewing the AWS NYC Summit live stream) was that Amazon had acquired Zoho.com, a competent but not well-known document and collaboration service. But Zocalo looks like organic AWS development and I’m excited to test drive the service.

The name Zocalo sounds exotic compared to the standard AWS naming scheme… We’re used to services with three letter acronyms like “SDS – Simple Document Sharing,” but more recently Amazon’s naming scheme is embracing whole words to define a business service as opposed to a three letter acronym for a developer-focused service. “EC2” is for techies, “Redshift” is for data analysts, and now “Zocalo” is for business knowledge workers.

A Google search reveals “Zocalo” is the name of the big public square in Mexico City. I guess “public square” and document sharing are kindred themes in a holistic way.

1. The Big Picture about Zocalo and who gets disrupted

Zocalo shows AWS is interested in expanding into general “bread and butter” IT services. It’s a natural progression from the original IaaS building blocks, and many pundits have speculated AWS will eventually move into the application space. Ok… so now they have in a big way and they are solving a very horizontal problem; file share, sync and collaboration for the masses.

Zocalo requires an AWS account and is managed from the AWS Console. An IT person deploying Zocalo will be exposed to all the AWS services and this will drive growth in their other cloud offerings. “What’s Workspaces… take the remote desktop for a test drive. Easy”

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think Zocalo will me marketed on the main Amazon.com e-commerce  site, alongside boxed Microsoft Office and other information management software.

2. Pricing model

Pricing is simple and predictable. Two themes enterprise IT are demanding from their vendors. The base fee is $5 per employee per month which includes 200 GB of storage per employee. The customer can add additional storage for a very reasonable fee. Starting at 3 cents per gigabyte for up to 1 TB and as more storage is consumed the unit price decreases just like with S3.

Customers using AWS Workspaces receive a discount on Zocalo. Workspaces and Zocalo look to be great complimentary offerings. Each alone are a great value, and I can see how Workspaces will be easier to use with Zocalo integration.

3. Security, audit trail & API

Zocalo customers will be able to choose the AWS region where there data will be stored. This could be viewed as a positive differentiator. As far as I know Google Apps, Box, Office 365 do not offer this feature.

AWS is providing a basic audit tool set in the Zocalo Management Console. IT admins will be able to read access logs, view activity and lock down who can share outside the organization.

It’s unknown if an API is available to allow third parties to extend the compliance features and add more value to Zocalo, in the way ISVs can with Google Apps Marketplace.

4. Enterprise connections

AWS is touting the connection to Active Directory to help IT manage users and permissions from the Microsoft Management Console. This feature will go a long way toward Zocalo’s appeal and adoption in mainstream business accounts.

5. What Zocalo is not doing

Zocalo does not have an email system built-in like Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365. It’s designed to complement an email system the same way Sharepoint or Box complement email. There are certainly hooks into email so that editors can be notified when a comment is added to a shared doc, as one example.

As an aside, It would be cool if AWS stored the customer’s documents in the customer’s own S3 account, but I have a feeling AWS is storing the documents in a separate S3 boundary not controlled by the end customer.

7/15/14 update:  I am starting to trial the Zocalo preview version and I will write  a follow-up post after using the service.