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Microsoft Expands Partnership with Box and SAP

Box Inc., an enterprise content management system provider, announced that it is expanding its partnership with Microsoft Corp through a new offering called Box Using Azure, which combines Box's cloud content management platform with Microsoft's global-scale Azure cloud platform. The service is currently available with content storage in US data centers. As a result, joint customers will be able to:

  • Simplify, cross-company collaborative processes between employees and external stakeholders.

  • Securely manage content for the enterprise, with integrations for 1,400 best-of-breed SaaS apps, including Office 365 apps, while allowing users to work in their familiar productivity and line-of-business tools.

  • Bring Box cloud content management capabilities to their own custom applications that deliver new digital content experiences and streamline business processes for their employees, customers, and partners.

One of the joint customers, Herve Coureil, Chief Digital Officer, Schneider Electric commented: “The integration of Box and Azure services is a welcome development for our digital transformation journey as a company. This can help deliver a more streamlined approach to our content management and ensures that Schneider Electric employees can securely and quickly work together and with customers and partners in a much more productive way, adding more value to our use of Box and Microsoft solutions.”

Box and Microsoft tied the knot in 2016, and since then both tech giants have been working hard to build out integrated capabilities. With this deepening relationship with Microsoft, Box started co-selling its cloud content management platform with Azure to enterprise customers. The first set of integration announced enabled users to save their Office files directly to their Box accounts without having to leave the page they are on or visiting the Box web app. The integration also allowed users to flip between Excel spreadsheets, search for specific cells, and sort content all from view mode in Box without ever downloading the file or launching Excel.

Here’s the video of Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group on stage with Box CEO Aaron Levie, discussing Box and Microsoft Azure's expanded partnership and joint commitment to delivering open and valuable solutions for customers.

What’s More to Box Using Azure

This new integration with Azure will be followed by more capabilities in the upcoming months. One of the offerings in the making is powering Box content with intelligent capabilities from Microsoft Cognitive Services. With this upcoming service, Box aims to make content more discoverable for users as they will be able to automatically identify and categorize content, as well as trigger workflows. Box integrating Microsoft’s cognitive services didn’t come as a surprise because the vendor has already turned up the heat on developing content capabilities powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. After having successfully capitalized on the transition to cloud and mobile, Box is making strategic bets on cognitive technologies. Another premise of the deeding partnership between Microsoft and Box is injecting Microsoft's machine learning and artificial intelligence services into Box’s content management platform. That way, Box will save time and money on R&D while providing Microsoft a leg up on the stiff competition against its rival cloud vendors Google and Amazon due to the potential exposure to Box's enterprise customer base, which includes 64 percent of the Fortune 500.

Microsoft is not the only cloud provider darling to Box, though. Last year, the vendor announced Box Zones, which is designed to enable businesses to centralize their content while still addressing local data storage requirements, which differ from country to country in the EU and in Asia. To do so, the solution utilizes both AWS (Amazon Web Services) and IBM Cloud data. Therefore, the announcement of the partnership with Microsoft marked the first time the cloud document-management company will offer customers the option of specifying which public cloud provider will store their Box data. “We want to be the most open cloud content management platform in the world. We will go wherever the innovation goes,” Jeetu Patel, Box SVP of Platform and Chief Strategy Officer, told in an interview.

Another important enhancement coming up is the ability to meet data sovereignty requirements and ensure compliance with industry regulations or corporate policies through leveraging Azure's broad global footprint.

Microsoft and SAP Join Forces in the Cloud

Box wasn’t the only enterprise software provider who is taking its partnership with Microsoft a step further as SAP on Monday announced integrated offerings to provide enterprise customers with a clear roadmap to confidently drive more business innovation in the cloud.

Through their unique partnership, the companies will co-engineer, go to market together with premier solutions and, provide joint support services to ensure the best cloud experience for customers. With SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud - SAP's private managed cloud service- on Azure, the joint customers such as The Coca-Cola Company, Columbia Sportswear Company, and Costco Wholesale Corp. get the best of both worlds: application management and product expertise from SAP and a global, trusted and intelligent cloud from Microsoft Azure.

It is not the first time the two tech providers are dancing as 18 months ago, Microsoft agreed to integrate Microsoft Office 365 into SAP, while SAP agreed to run its HANA database software on Microsoft Azure. However, just like Box, SAP’s partnership with Microsoft is not exclusive either as the vendor offers its products also running on rival cloud platforms from Amazon, Google, IBM and SAP’s own in-house cloud services.

"Microsoft and SAP are strategic partners helping us grow our wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses. Their close alignment is an integral part of advancing our technical architecture and cloud strategy to better serve our customers around the world," said Mike Hirt, vice president and chief information officer at Columbia Sportswear Company. "We produce innovative products that allow our customers to pursue and enjoy their outdoor passions. Our partnership with Microsoft and SAP is essential to us continuing to deliver on that commitment."

Microsoft currently runs a number of legacy SAP finance apps, but in the scope of the partnership agreement, it will be moving to SAP S/4HANA Finance on Azure. Additionally, moving forward, Microsoft will connect S/4HANA to Azure AI and analytics services for use in finance. In return, SAP will be moving more than a dozen "key internal business critical systems" to Azure.

My POV

Given the market leader Amazon is offering almost 100 different services under its AWS umbrella, these expanded partnerships are certainly critical for Microsoft to have a leg up on the steep competition for the cloud supremacy. Microsoft seems to continue to be a formidable challenger and narrowing the gap with Amazon.

On the other hand, from SAP and Box’s perspective, an expanded partnership with Microsoft gives them a great competitive edge through the enhanced AI-powered capabilities that help their customers and employers make more informed and effective business decisions.   

Regarding the agreement between Microsoft and SAP, there is one thing that stuck out most for me. Microsoft announced that it is currently in the process of modernizing and transforming its internal systems, replacing its legacy SAP finance applications with SAP S/4HANA Central Finance on Azure. The deployment of each other’s cloud solutions internally demonstrates a great faith in each other’s solution for sure but doesn’t it also show that Microsoft doesn’t have enough faith in its own software? Or are they still staying with SAP simply because to make that kind of a shift would be too expensive and impractical, given they have been using the SAP products for years? Any thoughts?

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.