Is Managed File Transfer dead?

Now that Gartner has marked the “Managed File Transfer” magic quadrant as “Retired” (see this), vendors, buyers and consultants alike are anxious to know whether or not the managed file transfer industry is dead.

However, before we can answer that question, we need to make sure we can define the role managed file transfer (“MFT”) plays in the modern enterprise.   At its core, MFT is a type of middleware that specializes in bulk data transfers (i.e., files) rather that point-to-point transactions, queued messages or streamed media.   It can be used to serve individuals (e.g., self storage or movement from desktop to device), people (e.g., “send from Outlook”), application UI (e.g., browser-based submissions) or interfaces (e.g., unattended, lights-out transfers).

 


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In  recent years there has been a tremendous push from other transaction-oriented industries to collapse the MFT industry.  Almost everyone has heard the question, “why are we still using FTP/SFTP/FTPS?” – especially from our SOA brethren.  In response, many MFT vendors have introduced SOAP or REST interfaces into their technology and extended their functional reach to interface with MOM (especially IBM WebSphere MQ) and ESBs.

There have been attempts to chip away at MFT from the perspective of well-established B2B (“business to business”), BPM (“business process management”) and EAI (“enterprise application integration”) industries.  Just from the titles, it can be seen that much of the work MFT performs overlaps these industries.

Despite all the pressure, MFT endures because bulk data transfers solve a common business function – “just send me the file: I’ll deal with it” – faster and cheaper than highly structured interfaces.   There’s also an enduring element of cleanliness of bulk transfers involving batched transactions: once you “toss a file over the wall” it clearly becomes someone else’s problem to check and reconcile the data.

In conclusion, until the need for individuals, people and applications to exchange files goes away, there will be a need for managed file transfer technology, though the future is calling.  MFT is not dead , but how long the MFT industry remains distinct from the B2B, EAI and BPM industries remains to be seen.

 

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.

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