Box is one of those Cinderella technology stories. The cloud file-sharing and storage company started with just a couple of guys and now has grown to serving over 150,000 businesses, including 92 percent of the Fortune 500. Its vision: to let you share and manage and access your content from anywhere.
With half of activity coming outside of the U.S. and 40% coming from mobile devices, its customers have tested that mission statement. The company has been boosting Accelerator, its global data transfer network, as well as adding several key certifications in a bid to make its global enterprise customer base happy. Further infrastructure expansion lies ahead.
“We really think we’re solving a problem for an end user,” said Jeff Quesser, VP of Technical Operations for Box. “But we’re also solving an IT concern; they can get all the auditing, compliance they need. This can be run in a very safe way.”
Engineering for the Enterprise User
The company is still seeing triple digit growth year over year, with over 150 percent growth last year. That has prompted the company to tailor its service in the best ways possible to serve the enterprise crowd, which requires fast uploads and often has geographically dispersed workloads and workforces.
An astounding 50 percent of Box activity is happening outside of the US, either from international firms or U.S. enterprises with a global presence.
“It’s a tipping point where it became a first class problem,” said Queisser. “Speed is absolutely critical. If you have sites all around the world, you need blazing fast download speeds.”
Accelerator: Infrastructure Plus Intelligent Routing
This enterprise customer need was the impetus behind Box Accelerator. The company has established upload endpoints in key global data center hubs featuring end-to-end encryption. The company has built patent-pending intelligent routing and optimization technology that delivers uploads 2.5 times faster on average. It has built a network that helps you get data into Box as fast as possible.
“(With) most consumer operating systems, networking stacks are not optimized,” said Queisser. “There’s the bandwidth delay problem. TCP is an amazing protocol, but wasn’t made for these types of distances and this kind of bandwidth. It’s a testament to how amazing the protocol is that it’s done what it’s done.
“What we’ve done is unique in that it’s optimizing inbound data,” Queisser added. “How do you ingest 100MB rather than send it out? The other piece is that we built these nodes, and a routing feedback loop technology. It determines the fastest way to get to Box. Sometimes it’s an accelerator node, but there are times when direct is the fastest path.”
Neustar conducted a performance analysis test and found that “Box had the lowest average upload time across all locations, about 66% faster than the closest competitor.”
More Cloud-Based End Points, and an API in Box’s Future
Accelerator started off as nine new points of infrastructure, but has been growing. It’s a small footprint that provides a big performance boost. The ultimate goal is to have cloud-based endpoints in all regions.
The locations of the Box accelerators are also telling in that these are the areas where the company is seeing the most growth, and/or anticipating the most growth. If you see an endpoint pop up, it means a combination of latency mapping and customer growth gave birth to it. For example, one of the latest endpoints not yet on the official map is Dublin, an area that has seen its fair share of Internet infrastructure growth as a key European market.
The future for the company is more Accelerator locations, and an upcoming API that will allow developers to leverage the work that Box has done for its own apps.
API on the Way
“We will have a beta for an API that lets any developer in the world use what we’ve built,” said Quiesser. “If you’re trying to build something that’s as fast as possible, you don’t want to have to do all we had to do. Instead you get all of that with an API call.”
The company is also planning to apply this technology to file downloads. Accelerator has added speed to enterprise uploads, but the company says it is looking to speed up downloads in similar fashion. “We need to do that in a way where it’s encrypted and it isn’t cached,” said Quiesser.
It in terms of certifications, it just added ISO 27001 this week, and announced support for HIPAA last quarter. ISO 27001 is the international standard for information security management systems (ISMS) and demonstrates how the policies and controls put in place at Box protect user data. In short, the standard prescribes requirements and best practices for systematically building, deploying, verifying and managing information, content and data. It also has SOC-1/SSAE16 Type II, SOC-2 Type II reports.