BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer networking company, is today taking the wraps off two big updates to Sync, a file-sharing app that BitTorrent presents as server-less alternative to cloud-based storage and file-sharing services like Dropbox.
First, in partnership with Onehub, BitTorrent is making its first play as a software maker for large enterprises. Onehub Sync is the first app built using the Sync engine that is aimed at groups of hundreds or thousands. The service, which actually borrows more than a little from cloud-based architecture is priced at $29.95 per year for every three users (after a 14-day free trial) and is available for desktop, mobile and web.
And second, in a move to expand Sync’s ubiquity, BitTorrent is releasing a new version of the Sync API, which will include a higher limit on API calls and introduce a special program for OEMs to encourage more Sync integrations. Onehub, in fact, is BitTorrent’s first OEM partner.
Together, the two also point to how far the company has come from its earlier days as a hotbed of illegal file sharing, and underscore the company’s new push to position itself as a viable and more secure alternative to the likes of Box, Dropbox, Amazon and other cloud-based storage providers.
Sync, which BitTorrent offers both as a free and pro service (the latter is priced at $40 per license per year), exited beta in March of this year and has built up some decent traction on its own, with over 10 million downloads to date. Many of those downloads, the company says, are for smaller workgroups and “power users.” The API has also been popular, with 6,000 keys having been issued to developers interested in building on the Sync API.
The new Onehub Sync app will take the growth of the app to the next level, targeting organizations with hundreds and thousands of users.
Onehub is BitTorrent’s first enterprise app partner, but it’s not a new player in off-premise business software: It has been around since 2007 building file-sharing platforms for companies of different sizes, with some of its more notable customers including Starbucks, Dell and Phillips.
“They discovered an opportunity to differentiate themselves by radically improving their sync capabilities, and I’m very excited they chose Sync to enable this,” writes Erik Pounds, BitTorrent’s VP of product management.
The idea behind Onehub Sync is that it will give end users more of the kinds of controls that they are used to having in their enterprise software. That will include more detailed and granular permission settings and activity-tracking features. On the other side, this will now be complemented with some of the features that characterize services built on a P2P architecture: for example, faster file transfers and file security that bypasses documents stored in third-party clouds.
Interestingly, to make Sync more enterprise-friendly, Onehub has created a workaround that it refers to “peer-to-peer-plus-one.” Effectively Onehub itself becomes what BitTorrent describes as a “persistent peer” in the company network. It’s not quite the same as a cloud-based server, but it’s a hybrid variation all the same that will make all of your files consistently available.
“If we’re looking at the two products side-by-side, Sync is about sharing files across your devices and other people as efficiently, easily, and as privately as possible,” Pounds says. “Unlike Sync, Onehub is a cloud-based solution that has rich sharing, auditing, and control functionality demanded by larger organizations.”
Another notable difference between using Onehub Sync and Sync directly is that a customer doesn’t interact with the BitTorrent Sync interface in the former. “Our technology is integrated into the Onehub platform in the back end; so as a user, the primary benefit they will see is the increase in syncing efficiency that scales as an organization grows,” he says.
Pounds notes that BitTorrent is aiming for more partners like Onehub in the future, either providing similar and even competing services, or altogether different ones. “There’s no set timing we can share, but we are open to working with all types of enterprise app partners,” he tells TechCrunch.
This is where the new API comes into play, he adds. “The new API caters to this specifically, allowing developers to embed the Sync engine into their own apps.” He notes, too, that the OEM program is geared specifically at enabling much larger deployments.
Indeed, if you could distill a theme from the new API update, it would be “supersize.” The new API version of the Sync API triples the number of API calls to 42 from 14. As a RESTful API, it will now stay consistent with any future updates to Sync functionality, meaning changes will be more easy to implement across the network. The free and paid tiers will continue to exist alongside the OEM program for future applications and services.
In addition to integrating Sync sharing into applications, BitTorrent says that developers have used the API to help manage workflows, build custom reporting and automate Sync functions.