Note: This is a re-print of Brian Clendenin’s May 15, 2015 article, “Gartner ‘cool vendor’ offers simplicity for moving to the cloud,” which originally appeared in IT World Canada. View the article here.
By Brian Clendenin
May 15, 2015
In Gartner’s latest research note, Cool Vendors in Content Management, 2015 you will find a very unique and innovative solution called SkySync, by Portal Architects. Gartner advises that the report is “designed to highlight interesting, new and innovative vendors, products and services.” The CEO of Portal Architects, Mark Brazeau, is a visionary and saw a significant problem facing organizations with regard to how they manage content and founded the company. Growing rapidly, with 1,500+ clients around the globe, they are helping solve critical challenges within organizations. I caught up with Brazeau to talk about the Gartner report and gain a deeper insight into SkySync’s popularity with forward-thinking IT leaders.
Cloud content management and collaboration platforms are increasingly top of mind for CIOs and IT leaders looking to modernize and improve business process workflows. Businesses need new solutions and platforms to support the how people work today and in the future. The desired business outcome is to increase productivity and ultimately, competitiveness. The ability to transform from ‘Old IT to New IT’ requires a migration path forward. SkySync is well positioned as a critical enabler of that transformation.
Gartner Cool Vendors in Content Management, 2015
Summary: “Enterprises need new content management solutions that can be deployed in the cloud and easily integrate the disparate content silos.”
Strategic Planning Assumption: “By 2018, 50% of enterprises will be managing their content using a hybrid content architecture.”
Brian Clendenin: Mark, you and your team have certainly received a lot of attention from the analyst community. Why do you think that is?
Mark Brazeau: “We’re solving a huge challenge that has plagued IT for 30+ years. In the ’90s, many companies wanted to integrate existing NFS storage to image-based ECM systems, in the 2000s, it was content and portal-enabled ECM systems, now it is cloud-based platforms. The question is, no matter the destination, how do you get there and the answer was, until now, painful and for good reason.
System consolidation via migration and/or platform hybrid co-existence is complex. Each system is unique; managing files, folders, permissions, metadata, versions, file locks, etc. differently. Compound that with filenames that may be incompatible such long-paths or illegal characters and the problem multiplies which is why you still see a varied mix of network shares, SharePoint and legacy ECM systems within organizations. By way of example, we’re working with one client who has 67 different storage systems and all of them are virtually siloed.
Let me put it this way; think of moving/syncing files as analogous to a school-bus driver, you can’t get most of the kids to class and call it successful. Within an organization, content is a mission-critical asset, you can’t have a solution that just addresses 95% of the files; the remaining 5% may represent millions of exceptions. You must have a solution that automatically manages and resolves every file and their associated artifacts that you will undoubtedly encounter.
So not only did we solve a huge challenge that manages all files and file-expectations across 30+ different on-premises and cloud-based systems, but moreover we deliver it in a download, point, click and go paradigm. To my knowledge, that’s never been done within the enterprise-scale software space.”
Clendenin: Gartner is extremely positive on your SkySync technology as being the bridge from legacy ECM models to modern cloud-based platforms for sharing, storing, collaborating and managing corporate content. So much so that Gartner states, “one of very few vendors that offers simplicity and ease in managing the synchronization and/or migration of large volumes of files (along with their associated permissions, ownership and metadata) across any number of dissimilar content platforms.” Why should a CIO and their enterprise architecture teams responsible for ECM take action now to investigate SkySync and what is the compelling event and desire for CIOs to innovate?
Brazeau: “To maintain and/or increase their competitive position, lower costs and to increase business speed and agility. It’s no secret that cloud content management and collaboration platforms enable unprecedented storage options as well as enabling companies to easily integrate 3rd party stakeholders within their existing business processes. That’s fantastic, however, much of their mission-critical and active content is generally stored and maintained within their legacy on-premises storage systems. So unless they have a means to easily migrate to or unify/co-exist these disparate systems together, they’ll never realize the full benefits or potential of their cloud investment.”
Clendenin: One of the key findings from Gartner is that “A hybrid content architecture can help with the simplicity and ease of synchronization/migration of content across multiple content platforms.” Let’s take a data residency perspective for a moment as there are situations unique to every organization where certain content may need to reside in an on-premise system in Canada (not even in a Canadian hosted cloud environment) or locally in another country, but they would like to use a cloud-based platform for all the benefits Gartner recommends. Given your deep expertise in the ECM world, what are some ways to successfully architect a hybrid solution?
Brazeau: “This is a very common requirement, not only for regulatory purposes but also that many of these on-premises systems are deeply integrated to their existing line-of-business systems. Even if they wanted too, they can’t move to a cloud-only paradigm as in some cases it would take years to re-engineer all of the integration points. That said, I can’t emphasize enough how easy SkySync makes it to create a hybrid environment with cloud-based content management and collaboration platforms like Box.
We’ve tackled the technical challenges and deliver SkySync in a highly-consumable model. End-users can continue accessing the existing system while reaping the benefits of their new content collaboration platform. And, since it’s already populated with active content, they’re most apt to embrace and adopt it sooner than later. The net is you can ‘slow-walk’ the user-base while mitigating a tremendous amount of user frustration and push-back.
Clendenin: Going a level deeper from a technical perspective: Gartner recommends to identify the different content repositories spread across the enterprise. What can be done with SkySync to surface the content located in the variety of information silos that may be within an organization such as SharePoint, OpenText, and FTP servers and sync with a more user-centric friendly cloud content management and collaboration platform?
Brazeau: “This is one of the core strengths of SkySync. It’s an administrator-based tool and can tightly-integrate any supported ECM system, SharePoint, OpenText, NFS, SAN or NAS to a cloud service in literally a few minutes. From there, SkySync can migrate or fully bi-directionally synchronize files, folder hierarchies, properties, versions as well as map permissions, user-accounts and metadata automatically.
Again, though these systems may surface these functions/properties very differently, SkySync automatically manages and resolves all of the friction between them. So from both an admin and user perspective, the process is seamless. Users are not aware that SkySync exists all of the processes are completed in the background fully under the admin’s control.”
Clendenin: Information Security is a top priority from IT to the boardroom. What is critical for people to know about the SkySync solution from a security perspective?
Brazeau: “SkySync is an application that installs on the client’s hardware, behind their firewall and fully under their control. It’s not a cloud-based service however it can certainly be hosted in Azure, AWS or any other compute cloud.
There is no outside access to content, it’s fully under the client’s domain and it integrates to any supported cloud service leveraging their native APIs, connecting via HTTPS /O-Auth2. Plus, SkySync is a streaming application. As the bits go in, they go out; it does not even save or cache a file. The net is, SkySync’s architecture fits comfortably within an enterprise and does not impact their existing security model whatsoever.”
Clendenin: Gartner shares in their analysis that a cloud content management solutions using an API-based approach can provide lower costs and be quick to deploy which means faster time-to-value. Is SkySync really as simple and easy as Gartner states in the report?
Brazeau: “The proof is in our sales model. A client can simply download a trial and test-drive SkySync for themselves at no cost. I think this was one of the factors that Gartner found interesting because when you think of enterprise software; and moreover software that’s solving an incredibly complex technical challenge, you certainly don’t consider a trial-download go-to market model. We hear all the time that, it sounds too good to be true, we just say, “Fair enough, trial it and see for yourself.”
Clendenin: What are typical customer reactions about their experience with SkySync driving innovation in their IT department and, ultimately, driving innovation to the business?
Brazeau: “The common theme we hear is that customers are simply amazed that SkySync performs as advertised. We have dozens of emails saying, ‘Wow! I’m amazed, it just worked.’ Anyone in IT knows that is a bit of an anomaly within the enterprise software sector.
The other remark we often hear about is its ease-of-use. Almost all of our clients, including clients moving/syncing 100’s of terabytes across multiple platforms perform the setup and configuration themselves. Obviously they enjoy the self-reliance and control that SkySync enables.
Lastly, the interesting feedback we hear is how they expounded on SkySync’s capabilities and leveraged it within their enterprise for other storage system-to-system hybrid integration and/or consolidations. SkySync provides a new level of agility without the historical pain and costs. In late 2015 we will release an entirely new level of control for enterprises. Future releases will enable organizations to administratively control sync or migration operations at the user-desktop level as well and will also have built-in PII (Personally Identifiable Information) controls. What I can publicly say about other future releases that today you point to a content source and to destination and SkySync does the work. Soon, you’ll no longer even have to know where the content resides, just tell SkySync what content you want and it will find it, virtualize the result then copy/migrate it to the new platform, in literally 7 clicks of a mouse.”