Top Three Managed File Transfer Trends of 2011

Since we aren’t tightly coupled to one particular vendor in the managed file transfer industry, File Transfer Consulting has the opportunity to see things from a slightly different perspective.  We also got some interesting feedback from the folks who participated in our free 30-minute industry consultations and the dozens of people we talked to running MFT deployments around the world.

Without further ado, then, here is our list of the top three trends we observed in managed file transfer this year, plus one we expected to see but did not.

#3 – “Person to Person” Becomes a Table Stake

2011 was the year that the “YouSendIt effect” in managed file transfer pretty much ran its course.   Almost every MFT vendor selling above the $30K price point now has a “secure messaging”, “ad hoc” or “send” product or module that allows end users to send files to other people.

A minimal “person to person” solution works like this: an end user signs on to a web site and upload one or more files.  At that point an email notification to the recipients is automatically sent.  When they open their email, recipients may click a link in the email to download the files.

Diagram by JSCAPE, but it could apply to a few dozen other managed file transfer vendors too.

Of course, there ARE variations, including:

  • Outlook and Notes plug-ins to “offload attachments” from central email servers (e.g., Ipswitch’s MOVEit)
  • Exchange plug-ins that scan emails and strip attachments from a central location (e.g., Axway’s Tumbleweed w/ MailIntercept)
  • Email passthrough servers that also scan emails and strip attachments from a central location (e.g., Primeur’s Spazio Ad Hoc)
  • Various degrees of integration with AV (antivirus), DLP (data loss prevention) and data classification systems
  • eDiscovery integration and archiving
  • Web-based interfaces to upload/download multiple or large files without browser limitations

(There are several advantages and disadvantages to each approach, but that’s another article.)

#2 – Even More New Entrants Arrive

Does anyone remember the 2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed File Transfer?  The one where it looks like someone sneezed on a cross and then labeled it?

2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant on Managed File Transfer. Gesundheit!

At the time Gartner covered about thirty-five vendors in the space.  The high number of vendors combined with the maturity of the industry hinted that a few would soon merge (e.g., IBM/Sterling, Ipswitch/Messageway, TIBCO/Proginet) and others would leave (e.g., SSH Communications).

However, since that time even more vendors entered the managed file transfer industry.  Our own internal market research suggests there are now at least 75 vendors and more than 100 products or services advertising “managed file transfer” on a regular basis.   Within the ranks of the new entrants (at least from the point of view of the 2009 Gartner report), there were about five vendors we watched with particular interest.

At the low end, RhinoSoft and JSCAPE have continued to invest in their secure file transfer platforms and appear poised to battle for price-sensitive MFT customers.  At the high end, established B2B/EAI player SEEBURGER entered MFT with a bang, winning the Golden Bridge Award for Managed File Transfer in its first year.  And in the middle, Linoma Software charged in with their full-featured GoAnywhere product and began to eat up market share (as well as Globalscape’s spot in Forrester’s 2011 MFT survey).

#1 – Unmet Thirst for Governance Grows

Believe it or not, the managed file transfer industry STILL hasn’t solved the desire for an easy-to-use and affordable technology that lets people see where their data is – or isn’t.   That’s not to say that the industry hasn’t taken some shots at it – e.g., Axway’s Sentinel, Primeur’s File Governance and IBM/Sterling’s Control Center.  However, affordability remains in doubt, especially when vendors or their salespeople refuse to decouple their governance technology from the core file transfer technologies they’d rather push.   (Some do, some don’t – ask!)

Everyone wants it. No one has it.

Despite my present concern, there is good news on the horizon for transmissions departments.   We have heard that at least two of the three vendors I cited, two other MFT vendors and an independent business intelligence (BI) firm are all working on new or improved governance solutions in 2012.   Firms that have already mastered defining and monitoring service level agreements (SLAs) such as UC4 with its “Service Level Governor” are also beginning to enter the MFT space and adapt their solutions to MFT problems.

Missing Trend – “Where’s the Cloud?”

We expected to see, but did not see, much movement toward the cloud by established MFT vendors.  There are a few “all cloud” players out there such as Thru and HubSpan.  There are also a handful of hosted solutions, such as the one I put together for Ipswitch in the mid-2000’s and a similar offering Globalscape launched recently.   However, all-inclusive cloud services that completely encapsulate MFT benefits like guaranteed delivery and total visibility to business owners and IT alike continue to be elusive.  Established vendors’ communications to their customers about cloud solutions likewise remain missing in action.

Internally, we have a couple of theories why there is so little “cloud” in the MFT industry, but no conclusions.  Here are two of our favorite theories – debate amongst yourselves or send us your thoughts!

  • Theory #1: MFT Vendors Don’t Know How to Sell to Business Units. Most MFT vendors currently sell general purpose middleware to teams of IT professionals in multiple industries.  Vendors may be afraid that if they get too close to any specific industry or away from their usual audience in IT that industry-specific applications will beat them.  (There’s some of this going on with SAP-based solutions in particular verticals today.)  Since cloud solutions are often sold “over the heads” of IT and into specific business units, MFT vendors may be afraid to directly engage business unit managers with an MFT cloud solution that looks like it could cut out IT.
  • Theory #2: MFT Buyers Worry That Clouds Threaten Their Jobs. In the current economy people are either busy or working hard to look busy.   To managers and employees competing against the constant price pressure of outsourced services comprehensive MFT services in the cloud may be a threat, even if those services would save the company money, time and aggravation.    In such an environment, MFT services that only outsource the infrastructure and application installation functions may be less threatening to traditional MFT buyers because they still require on-premises staff to configure, manage and maintain.


Why Managed File Transfer In the Cloud Often Doesn’t Sell

About Jonathan Lampe

Andy White and I started File Transfer Consulting in 2011 to solve secure file transfer and managed file transfer issues through strategic analysis, training, integration and custom development. Our unique approach allows us to address complicated issues like no one else.

Before FTC I created and then led the development of Ipswitch's MOVEit managed file transfer software for ten exciting years, including three as VP for R&D and Product Management at Ipswitch (WS_FTP, MessageWay and hosted services). I also served for VP for Product Management for RhinoSoft (Serv-U), where I guided the development of managed file capabilities and marketing that led to its eventual sale to SolarWinds.

Come meet me on Google+ or LinkedIn today!