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Box and Cisco today announced they will integrate their cloud platforms to reduce the friction end users encounter when collaborating over WebEx.

Rather than forcing individual enterprise IT organizations to incur the expense of integrating their platforms to enable collaboration, the companies have decided to make that bi-directional capability available to all customers, Cisco exec Jeetu Patel told VentureBeat.

Users will be able to access any Box folder from within Webex messaging, and any content shared in the space will be securely added to the same Box folder. Starting next week, users will also be able to access Webex as a Recommended App within Box and view Webex App Activity in Box Preview.

Seamless workflow

The goal is to enable end users to remain within the context of the application they are primarily using without having to exit either Webex or Box to access data residing in one platform or the other, Patel said. That level of embedded integration will make it easier for organizations to create workflows that span the two platforms. “Application platforms shouldn’t break the flow of work,” Patel added.

The level of integration most organizations achieve across multiple cloud platforms is not nearly as deep, Box CEO Aaron Levie told VentureBeat. Providers of cloud platforms expose application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable their applications to be integrated, but these tend to be brittle and difficult to employ, Levie noted. The onus for integration is now on the provider of applications because organizations otherwise won’t employ them within the context of a digital business process that can more easily be implemented elsewhere, Levie noted. “The future of software is one of seamless connectivity,” he said.

Integration outlook

It’s not clear to what degree the level of integration provided by Box and Cisco will force this issue. However, enterprise IT organizations do spend an inordinate sum of money integrating diverse applications by relying on either an internal IT team or a systems integrator to write code that then needs to be secured, maintained, and updated. All the time and effort spent on creating those custom integrations is a drain on productivity, Levie said.

Going forward, the expectation will be that even cloud platforms with overlapping capabilities will be seamlessly integrated to enable organizations to more affordably create workflows that can be accessed from anywhere, Levie added.

The COVID-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on the cost of cloud platform integration as organizations relied more on multiple cloud services to accomplish tasks. The lack of integration across those platforms also resulted in workflows that were in many cases disjointed, at best. Now that more individuals will be returning to their office more frequently, many organizations are trying to determine how to best optimize workflows that the bulk of their employees need to access from anywhere.

Box and Cisco are essentially making a case for a best-of-breed approach to constructing those workflows versus standardizing on a single platform from Microsoft or others. While acquiring services from a single vendor might present some cost savings opportunities, the level of integration provided across a wide range of services can be uneven, especially if it involves platforms a vendor gained via an acquisition.

Regardless of approach, the cost of application and platform integration should decline in the months and years ahead. The challenge will be determining which vendors are willing to assume that cost on behalf of end customers who prefer to allocate resources to something other than application integration.


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