Open-Xchange makes a suite of web apps that ISPs, hosting firms and enterprises can rebrand and roll out as an alternative to the likes of Google Apps – we’ve previously covered the German company’s innovative OX Text collaborative document editor and the $20 million in funding that Open-Xchange received last July. It’s a really interesting company, boasting tens of millions of users despite few ever having heard of it.
Now Open-Xchange is adding another couple of strings to its bow: OX Drive, which will let its customers take on the likes of Dropbox and Box, and a communications app developed alongside Dutch VoIP provider Voiceworks, offering browser-based instant messaging, voice and video chat based on one of the most promising web technologies of the moment, WebRTC.
OX Drive is, as usual, available as a standalone service or as part of the OX App Suite, in which case it’s nicely integrated with all the other apps (fusing it with OX Text is a no-brainer).
“We give you the middleware, the web UI and major applications,” Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna told me, noting that OX Drive offers a photo-viewer, music player and “all the things you would expect” from a modern storage-and-sync app.
Providers can use OX Drive with their own storage backend and combine it with other cloud storage systems, and the app offers file and folder synchronization across a variety of platforms including Windows, OS X, Android and iOS – Open-Xchange’s apps are browser-based and work across desktop and mobile.
The firm’s services end up used by a wide variety of people. As Laguna explained, hosting companies usually cater to small businesses (Open-Xchange counts 6 of the top 10 European hosting outfits as customers), and telcos generally offer these services to consumers.
As the company’s software is all open source for non-commercial use, enterprises can also freely turn it into their in-house collaboration system – the police force in the German state of Lower Saxony apparently does this.
Like Skype, WebRTC is a peer-to-peer technology. It doesn’t require any plugins or other downloads, and many major players are trying to standardize its implementation (though, as is usual with the collisions of industry giants, arguments are raging about the specifics).
Although WebRTC is mainly about communications, the technology can be wrangled to allow file transfer and even surfing anonymization. And, being P2P, it comes with resiliency and security benefits too – the system doesn’t depend on centralized servers.
In a statement on Monday, when the company revealed its WebRTC play, Laguna said it was exciting to see peer-to-peer technology used in the browser. “Voice chat, instant messaging and file sharing — without the need for third-party plug-ins – eases the adoption of such technology and provides a more secure communications platform,” he said.
But what of the ongoing WebRTC codec dispute taking place between the likes of Cisco and Google? “The big boys will figure it out; especially Google has a big interest in doing so,” Laguna said.
Open-Xchange and Voiceworks will take this new application to their existing partners later this year, and will be showing it off at the Parallels Summit in New Orleans next week. OX Drive is available now, though of course Open-Xchange’s customers need to start deploying it before end-users see it.