avatar Frank Hoberg, Executive VP - Sales

What makes Swiss Army Knives so successful?

Last week Dropbox announced Carousel, a new mobile app that lets Dropbox users scroll through a visual gallery of their photos. What hit my attention in the respective Wall Street Journal article the following paragraph:

Dropbox is a great place to store files, but it’s not a great place to view the photos and video you have there, said Gentry Underwood, a designer at Dropbox known for creating the Mailbox app that the company bought a little more than a year ago. “What people want in mobile is dedicated apps that do one thing and do them really, really well,” Underwood said. “Swiss army knives lose to specialized tools every time.”

Here at Open-Xchange, we have a strong belief that – for the majority of users to manage their daily tasks – the opposite is true. In the software industry we have seen many “specialized tools” growing to a state where some tools are bloated with features thus rendering them almost irrelevant. This archaic strategy of continuously adding feature after feature has been used for decades to sell software. Along these lines, Microsoft continues to add more and more functionality into Office – functionality that a small percentage of users benefit and fully utilize; even worse, it results in less end user productivity.

Equally, there are quite a few specialized tools that suffer from a lack of integration, which can make it a pain to do simple, daily tasks. For example: it takes you up to 20 steps to edit a document that has been sent as an attachment via email and send it back to them. Truly: productivity hell.

The Swiss Knife Principle – Less features and more integration

Our philosophy takes a different approach: we develop software with features that 90 percent of users need and use. Integrating Apps seamlessly that just work with each other creates the level on simplicity that users need in daily repetitive activities which we all do 100 times per day. Simply said: one integrated tool to manage all communication and files, simple to use and available on all devices: this is the idea behind OX App Suite.

By integrating office productivity with email and file management (chat and video telephony will follow with OX Messenger this summer) into a single user interface, we have reduced the number of steps to 7 (from the previous example above).

Our approach is not to fight the feature vs. feature armageddon. Our aim is to bring fun back into the digital lives of the 90 percent of the generalists out there, and thus by tearing down the walls between their various storage and data silos — including social networks – give them simplicity and choice to how they work and share.

Both, Swiss Army Knives and specialized tools make sense in general, to each their own role and purpose how they are used. Just remember: if you want to carve a huge turkey at Thanksgiving, it makes sense to use a carving knife for that special time of year. But for the various repetitive activities now necessary in our mobile, digital lives: a Swiss Army Knife in the pocket is the best way to get the real meat off the bone.

By the way: has anyone seen someone with a carving knife in the office lately?

avatar Chris Latterell, VP Marketing Open-Xchange

The Secure Future of Open Source

Open source software is in the ascendency. Not only does it seem like every new hot start-up is releasing its source code, even the granddaddies of proprietary, Microsoft, are learning to loosen up and embrace the open development community. And this year’s record response to the eighth annual Future of Open Source Survey is further evidence of this.

A total of 1240 respondents, the majority from a non-vendor background, gave their insight into issues around the open source software space – and increase of over 50 per cent on last year, further demonstrating its growth in the consciousness of the tech community.

For the second year running, the main reason for choosing open source over a proprietary alternative was higher quality of product. This was the belief of 80 per cent of respondents, and is a testament to the great work and innovation flourishing in development teams and open source communities across the globe.

But for me, the real story is the 72 per cent that chose open source on the basis that it provides stronger security than software without source code available for peer review. In light of security and privacy issues raised by Edward Snowden, this case is even stronger than before – back doors can’t be hidden in open code.

In the past, open source often suffered from a reputation of not being secure. Hard work from open source advocates has ensured that perception around this issue has changed for the better, and it took the Summer of Snowden to show that it is actually proprietary systems that are putting your data at risk.

Security is not having to believe what you are told, but knowing what you can find out for yourself. Only open source licencing allows us the insight into whether code is written for non-exploitative purposes.

There is lots of great information and insight in the survey results. Take a look and see for yourself why the future is open, and secure.

avatar Rafael Laguna, CEO, Open-Xchange

Creating a Safe Harbor: Re-securing an Open Internet

Much has been discussed about the importance of an open Internet and the need to keep the Internet Giants from closing us all into their ecosystems. At Open-Xchange, it’s a drum we have been beating for quite some time. It has also become unavoidably obvious how the use of the services provided by the Internet Giants has affected privacy on a personal level. We have Edward Snowden to thank for letting us in on that fact.

So what can the people responsible for delivering, maintaining and evolving the Internet do to reverse the impact these revelations have revealed? The question is being asked this week to the hosting industry is: how to keep the Internet open, yet at the same time, more secure? On the French-German border town of Rust, over 5000 of the most influential computing business leaders and Cloud Hosters have gathered to debate where our industry needs to start.

Thomas, Soeren and the crew at WorldHostingDays created a “safe harbor” for us to expand this discussion as an industry with one of the most outspoken activists for Internet openness and privacy. In a live video keynote, Julian Assange engaged two packed rooms of over 1000 people on this challenge that started with a panel where myself and Ditlev Bredahl of OnApp engaged the very people responsible for delivering honest services and security.

Responsible for over half of the Internet users worldwide, Hosters, Telco’s and value-added resellers deliver value biggest challenge to the further hijacking of the Internet by the over-the-top Giants. And as Julian said, “the NSA invests $350M a year to undermine the infrastructure that Hosters rely on,” the time for honest business models and products we can value and trust, is really upon us. Business models from the likes of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others — who control a vast amount of peoples’ data online through ‘free’ services – depend on our data to make money and now come into question as their exploitative business models become painfully obvious.

The opportunity for hosting companies is in capitalizing on this lack of trust and become partners in building a safe harbor – a secure, private, open Internet. People want to trust their service provider, and equally require tools that are simple, accessible and convenient to use. This additional challenge for the industry – making it easy for ordinary users to set up and manage their own encrypted communication and data – is a next step to pushing back on the state of surveillance. Julian Assange brought it right to the point when he mused that…Russia is blamed for annexing Crimea; but the US has basically annexed the whole world via the Internet.

At Open-Xchange, we develop products that address this head on and ruthlessly open, from a business model and technology perspective. And as we announced last month, we are doing this with great partners like Voiceworks. You’ll have the chance to meet with OX and Voiceworks on April 28th at the Telco Cloud World Forum in Munich.

Stop by our booth and discover more on the technology Julian Assange spoke to during WorldHostingDays, His interview was powered by OX Messenger which will deliver — to partners who have deployed OX App Suite — their own real time communications tool users will simply love. I look forward to sharing with you just how powerful this addition to the OX portfolio will be to open your hosting or Telco business up to new revenue streams. As we like to say back at the office: “the future of secure communications is wide open.”

avatar Rafael Laguna, CEO, Open-Xchange

Race to the bottom: the “Dragnet” of the Google storage war

A decade ago Google launched its webmail service and jaws dropped when they claimed that you would never have to delete an email with its 1GB inbox allowance. How could they afford to give away so much storage for free? This led to some creative use from Google customers – saving attachments as drafts and sending emails to yourself became the precursor to free cloud storage tools, of which Google now has its own.

1GB for free has turned into 15GB. Pretty good, but somehow lacking in the wow factor that Google Mail delivered – I guess even Google can’t give everything away for ‘free.’

What will make you sit up and take notice is when you look at the price list, recently announced, for topping up that storage. Less than $10 a month will buy you a terabyte – less than $100 a month will get you more space than you will ever need – 10 terabytes or more. That’s 10,000 times more than that magic 1GB figure that seemed so amazing all those years ago.

What can we learn from this?

With this move Google has finally, and completely, commoditized cloud storage, much in the way that it commoditized email services back in the day. Does anyone else see this as a case of selling ice cream to eskimos or charging people for breathing air? The value of online storage is in the trust and security Cloud storage presents, not in our saving another Googleplex of our own personal data on a server only to be sold unwanted products. Who is really interested in being dragged down into this net experience?

Well, it’s worthless to try and compete with Google on price. Even if some providers think they can match this, remember that Google is playing a different game than you. You are selling an honest service with a price, Google is making the user the product, exploiting the data reaped from the service provided. Also, Google has a huge war chest and almost unrivalled infrastructure that means it can keep driving down prices.

As service providers found out the hard way with email, not offering valued, easy to use services will mean that you will lose out to OTT providers such as Google. Many providers are only just catching up now with products that can match OTT offerings that offer people good user experiences. Almost as many gave up altogether and simply offered branded services from Google, Yahoo and others – accelerating loss of brand value and ultimately: losing customer mindshare. This is a battle you will lose every time.

So play by your own rules:

Cloud storage is the next battle ground, and it’s not too late to claim a share of the action. While you can’t compete on price, you can compete on trust, features, usability and service. Google can offer many things, but it wants you to operate in its ecosystem and by its rules. But customers want storage that works on their own terms – not on Google’s.

OX Drive allows service providers to do just that. It’s a white label ready Cloud storage and sync solution that enables rapid roll-out of a branded cloud storage to your customers. This in turn, allows them to work and share files the way that they want. Throw in OX Documents, OX Mail, and soon real time communications and crypto to make it a sweet App Suite.

Not many really need 10TB of storage – what they want is ease of use and privacy. The time is now to offer a truly honest solution that openly trades on value and not on non-transparent exploitation models.


avatar Chris Latterell, VP Marketing Open-Xchange

Engage with Open-Xchange at WorldHostingDay, Rust

No joke: WorldHostingDays global is less than a week away. I cannot believe how quickly Q114 has flown by, but here we are – on the brink of experiencing another WHD with over 5,000 partners and peers from the hosting community.

If you are planning on attending WHD.global, you’d be a fool not to stop by the OX booth and see how our portfolio is expanding. From our recently launched storage solution (think mobile Cloud storage), to OX Spreadsheet, the next online App in our collaboration suite, OX continues to pioneer support for the hosting and telecommunications industries. So here are a few reasons why I think it makes sense to come by booth #C02 and talk with OX:

OX Drive – The ‘storage wars in the Cloud’ is being driven by the lowest common denominator: cost – just look at Google’s recent price drops. At the end of this battle, ease-of-use and trust are going to settle the debate with people using these services. The choice is often stark for the hosters and telcos: invest to develop your own branded solution or promote somebody else’s. With OX Drive, there is a far better option: offer a complete white-label solution and focus on building your own brand identity of Cloud services and value. OX App Suite – integrated with OX Drive – is a solution that’s ready-to-go off the shelf and highly customizable. It’s your choice.

Rafael Laguna & the Safe Harbor Panel, Wed. April 2nd – With the ‘Summer of Snowden’ last year and the NSA Revelations that keep reminding us how important trust and privacy are, making the right technology decisions is even more complex. Together with Ditlev Bredahl, CEO of Infrastructure-as-a-Service firm OnApp, this panel will be asked the tough questions around the role of secure software and hardware stacks. Also on the agenda is the effect of agreements like the Safe Harbor Act to secure rights, growth and connectivity on the web moving forward. And as the EU Parliament is in discussion right now on how to redefine EU Data protection regulation, the role of decentralized federations to provide the checks and balance of the web is an ever more critical business requirement.

Stay Open – We will be launching the next App in our OX Documents suite of productivity Apps in Rust, Germany at WHD.global. With a focus on providing products and services that allow service providers to stay open and flexible for new business opportunities, OX continues on its mission to push for open standards and business models that are the basis for innovation, growth and value on the web.

Speaking of value: on Wednesday from 5 – 6:00 P.M., stop by the OX booth for the ‘OX Strongman Happy Hour.’ This is a competition of “brawn:” so come prepared to roll-up your sleeves and show the crowd how strong you are. You may just win a real glass…

FYI – you can catch Rafael Laguna’s session “OX App Suite – An easy to cook recipe for customer engagement” on Thursday, April 3rd at 11:20 on the main.FORUM stage.

Meet with OX next week at WorldHostingDays and come to understand how easy delivering meaningful cloud services to your customers can be.


avatar Rafael Laguna, CEO, Open-Xchange

The feasibility of the development of a European Network

Neelie Kroes, responsible for the European Commission’s Digital Agenda, said at CeBIT last week in her speech to an audience which included Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron that after the Snowden relelations “Trust can never again be taken for granted.”

Instead of an “European Internet” as brought up last month from Merkel, there can be serious enhancements to the current state that will make mass surveillance much harder, to a point where it becomes unfeasible.

The basics are that the European Internet connections are directly routed between the countries, which are easily controllable by the big ISPs and telcos. Currently economic reasons create indirect routings through NSA-land. This needs to be avoided.

Secondly, any services like mail, chat, voice, video, cloud storage must employ encrypted connections only and should automatically encrypt all content. Providers agreeing on some simple standards that have been available for a long time and rolling these out across Europe would be a first logical step forward. Such cooperation was demonstrated recently by Deutsche Telekom and 1&1 with “E-Mail made in Germany” initiative. The next step must be to provide simple crypto to everyone. Application developers like Open-Xchange are working on this, once deployed by service providers this next level of security will be reached.

Thirdly, the chain of trust needs to be worked on. Currently, with proprietary hardware and software, the internet is riddled with bugs, back-doors and easy targets for surveillance by “working with” the large manufacturers of telecom equipment and Internet software. A thorough solution would be to switch to open source software and hardware for all things Internet.

A lot of the Internet infrastructure is already based on open source including Linux, MySQL and Apache but a lot isn’t, including Google, Microsoft and Apple services, and Cisco, Huawei, Apple and Samsung hardware.

A transparent chain of trust that rids the world of back-doors and central surveillance can only be built with open source. Thus governments can create rules that critical Internet infrastructure and services need to be based purely on open source solutions. And they should start with themselves to avoid being victims of surveillance to begin with.

Privacy and trust sit atop of the Summit agenda at the 6th annual OX Summit in Munich this year in September. A Summit like no other, OXS14 is the place to connect and exchange with the over 400 Cloud experts on the most pressing opportunities that challenges the industry today. Free registration is now open at summit.open-xchange.com

avatar Rafael Laguna, CEO, Open-Xchange

Putting service providers in the driver’s seat

Over the last decade we have seen notable technological changes that have re-defined the way we use computers. Firstly, the availability of high speed broadband in the home has provided the bedrock for consumer driven ecommerce. Home broadband has also matched speeds of the workplace network, it has facilitated a cultural shift in the way people work, with many now working from home, or even on the move. Similarly the dramatic drop in the price of storage has enabled people to conveniently store their data without having to take cost into account.

The ubiquitous nature of mobile internet paved the way for the popularity of mobile devices which fed into the trend of Bring Your Own Device, where people began working on multiple devices in parallel which in turn created a need to sync data across these devices. The reduction in storage cost and this cultural shift in device use meant consumers and SMBs began demanding cloud storage and file sync services, demonstrated by the popularity of Dropbox and iCloud, where they could host their personal and professional lives in one convenient, and easily accessible, location.

The reality is that storage and cloud services are now as important as email to most users; and in some cases more so. Users demand their files to be seamlessly synchronized across all their devices and want to be able to share them instantly and easily with friends, family or business colleagues.

This notion of collaboration is crucial in understanding how service providers play in the market. Online storage is no longer considered a luxury – it’s essential. File storage, sharing and productivity are still rapidly growing in the SaaS and cloud market, and it’s the OTT services that are winning. Unless quick action is taken, service providers risk losing another slice of the pie to the big Internet companies. That’s where OX Drive comes in.

To compete with OTT giants, service providers must offer their customers a slick and efficient tool that makes it as easy as possible for their users to synchronise their digital lives. OX Drive does just that, and has the added benefit of being white label ready, allowing service providers the ability and flexibility to rapidly build their own bespoke, branded cloud storage platform. OX Drive also works seamlessly with OX App Suite, making it easy for you to control all your email, collaborative documents and other data from one place.

The storage race is still heating up, and it’s not too late to take your place on the grid. Give your customers what they need before they start to look elsewhere.

avatar Rafael Laguna, CEO, Open-Xchange

It pays to be secure – The Internet spring following the ‘summer of Snowden’

I’ve rarely been at an event full of so many contradictions as this year’s SXSW. The who’s who of the Geekerati and Intelligentsia have assembled in Austin for a full 10 days to discuss the advances of technology and culture, but this year’s event was special – it heralded the end of Internet innocence that the Summer of Snowden so swiftly provided.

The “Whistle-Blowers” (or “Light-Shedders” and “Illuminators” as they should more accurately be known) weren’t there physically; they’re resigned to hiding in the shadows and can’t come to the US – or any other place for that matter. Instead we heard them via Skype and Google Hangout links, while we the audience relished in taking pictures of them with our iPhones and Android devices, tweeting and posting messages on Facebook with our Macs and Windows laptops, just to let the world know we were in the pseudo-presence of Snowden and others. Ironically it is these exact tools and services that are now under scrutiny thanks to their defining revelations.

As a result, we realise that there are really no practical options; so have we already given up on privacy and the dreams of the new society that the internet would help us build?

Some are asking for the policy makers to fix the mess. Others say that it is really about educating people about what is going on so that they at least can make educated decisions on how they conduct their lives online. Some propose encryption tools like PGP and TOR, but others say it’s currently too complex.

Many of the extremely tech-literate people at SXSW say that we’re now in a stalemate. There are no viable alternatives for the tools and services that we use close to the level of functionality and usability that we are currently used to and expect.

At SXSW we didn’t hear an easy answer to these questions, because there probably are none. But there are a couple of things that we can improve in the areas that the crowd members, like myself, are heavily involved in. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Crypto – it actually works, but only very few are using it, so we need easy to use encryption for messaging, email, files, our hard drives and cloud storage services – it doesn’t need to be perfect but it needs to be perfectly easy to use
  • More open source – we need fully transparent services provided by more suppliers, and not just one service from a Silicon Valley advertising company
  • A shift to open source based hardware and less reliance on proprietary, closed, backdoored devices from very few secretive companies
  • A focus on services that do not rely on advertising for their monetisation. This would allow for end-to-end encryption

People are absolutely willing these days to pay for privacy; and this is a huge opportunity for the people at SXSW. Like Cory Doctorow said in the pre-Snowden panel: “I hope that ten years from now we will be talking about the technology that was created by us all in the meantime to fix privacy and the Internet.”

avatar Rafael Laguna, CEO, Open-Xchange

#Transparency is a duty; not a privilege

Twitter’s recent transparency report is an encouraging, and very public, call to arms. In much the same way Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church; Twitter predicates its report by boldly asserting that, in the wake of Snowden and the NSA, the US government is limiting freedom of speech and still not disclosing the full picture.

The robust report positions Twitter as being firmly committed to free expression beyond international borders, whilst taking a decidedly public stand in support of global government surveillance reform and increased transparency.

Looking at the statistics over the last two years, Twitter has seen a 66% increase in requests for account information. Such requests came from more than 45 countries but unsurprisingly the US continues to make the lion’s share; forming well over half (59%) of all requests received. Baiting the US Government to allow greater transparency, Twitter claims it is considering legal options against the Department of Justice to defend its citizens’ First Amendment rights.

If anything, the report highlights the contrast in attitudes towards respecting data privacy between certain governments and the public. Large Internet companies like Twitter are custodians of huge amounts of personal and potentially sensitive data, and unless more take a similar stance they are complicit in propagating an environment of secrecy and breach of trust.

The industry has a responsibility to uphold the ideals of a free and open Web, as originally set out by Tim Berners-Lee. This will require a united effort to ensure that customer and user needs are given the highest priority in order to regain trust or we run the risk of forever damaging the greatest single innovation in communication known to man.

avatar Chris Latterell, VP Marketing Open-Xchange

Berlin – Home of (the) Privacy; Land of the Free(dom)

California has a silicon valley; London even has a silicon roundabout. Germany’s Berlin is a thriving silicon city.

Berlin, the bohemian city of reinvention, has become the go to destination across Europe for tech startups, venture capitalists and privacy advocates. To be exact, there are already 2,500 startups that call Berlin home, and the city has attracted huge investment from some of the big tech players, as well as ‘bleeding-edge’ venture capitalists keen to identify the next tech success story.

There are a few key reasons why Berlin has proved to be so successful a breeding ground for innovation. It has always long been an international cultural hub for artists, musicians and writers, driving creativity and inspiration. Klaus Kinski made his name in the Berlin theatre scene in the late ‘40s before moving into cinema and becoming Werner Herzog’s inspired and erratic muse. David Bowie and Iggy Pop famously decamped to the city during the 70s, a move which inspired them to produce arguably their finest albums.

There’s a very simple and practical reason for why Berlin has attracted creative types: the rent is cheap.

The freedom this allows means that entrepreneurs can take more risks, without always having to worry where the next paycheck is coming from. This has in turn fostered an incredibly strong and pioneering spirit of innovation.

Berlin has also drawn forward thinkers from all over Europe. Effectively a bridging point for where East meets West, it has acted as a melting pot for different cultures and ideologies for centuries.
Increasingly there is another important and often overlooked factor in why Berlin has experienced such a boost: Germany’s privacy laws. In the wake of PRISM and the NSA, security and privacy has been at the forefront of the international conscience. Both Facebook and Google have clashed with Germany’s data protection laws and understanding why is crucial to understanding Berlin’s success.

Germany has some of the world’s most stringent data protection laws, and personal privacy has been a primary concern for Berliners given the turmoil the city has experienced in the past. The actions of the NSA have haunting echoes of the Stasi, and there is a pronounced sense of reluctance to allow history to repeat itself amongst the people of the city. With Berlin also being the headquarters of the German government, cafés are chalked full of debate–both political and cultural—around the ramifications of the NSA revelations.

As a result, by adhering to local laws, startups operating in Berlin are by default exceeding almost all international data compliance laws. To investors this presents a hugely attractive proposition as the companies are effectively born ready to play on the global stage. Berlin has always been an incubator of leftfield thinking, and now this outsider approach is paying dividends for tech savvy entrepreneurs.