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VMware Project Octopus: Dropbox Alternative

VMware's enterprise-grade answer to Dropbox aims to balance effectiveness and IT control.

VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
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VMware seems to have struck a nerve with its Project Octopus file-sharing and collaboration technology preview, as requests to participate in the upcoming beta of the platform number in "the thousands," said John Robb, senior director of marketing for end-user computing at VMware.

Though Robb declined to provide a more specific number, he said, "we got great positive feedback" from the demo of Octopus at the recent VMworld 2011 conference in Las Vegas. He considers the response an indication that people need a file-sharing program that offers a great user experience and the appropriate IT controls--something they're not getting now.

"We think that there is a false choice between a great user experience [and] IT control," Robb said. "We think that products like [Microsoft] SharePoint have over-pivoted toward IT control with a limited experience for users and we think that the right answer is great user experience and great IT control."

Project Octopus will enable users to access files from any device, including smartphones and tablet computers and share them with people both inside and outside the corporate network, while also providing a project workflow platform, he said. At the same time, IT managers will be able to control access to files, apply security policies, and manage data, particularly that which is out of date.

"We found that 80% of files in a collaboration system are not accessed after more than two years," wrote Sam Khavari, director of product management for end-user computing at VMware, in a blog post that coincided with the preview. "Octopus will automatically identify these orphaned files, warn their owners, and if it never hears back, it expires those files and deletes them."

[VMware set forth some lofty goals at VMworld 2011. Read more in VMware Lays Out Mobile Vision At VMworld.]

That's just one of the features in the technology preview. Others will likely be added based on feedback from participants in the beta. Asked if the thousands of inquiries means VMware might limit the number of participants, Robb said it might be rolled out in two phases. Octopus might first be rolled out to a relatively small group of users "and get them initial validation and feedback" before rolling it out to all comers.

Octopus is designed to be integrated with other VMware end-user computing technology such as the Zimbra Collaboration Server for Web-based applications, VMware View for virtual desktop delivery, VMware Horizon for application management, and AppBlast, another technology previewed at VMworld that delivers applications through an HTML5-based browser regardless of operating system or device type.

Octopus has been compared to Dropbox, the Web-based file-hosting service that runs on laptops, smartphones, and tablets. However, Octopus is positioned as an enterprise-level offering. Dropbox provides a free service but for only 2 GB of capacity, while paid accounts max out at 350 GB.

"When asked when Octopus would be generally available, VMware spokesman Christian Bateman noted that VMware Horizon was introduced at VMworld 2010 in late August of last year and became generally available this past May. He said that nine-month timeline would be a good yardstick for determining when Octopus would be G.A."

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