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New BFFs: IBM and Box

June 24, 2015, 6:04 AM UTC
Photograph by Ben Hider — Getty Images

Over the last year, IBM has sparked partnerships with unlikely bedfellows like Apple and Twitter. Now, Big Blue is linking up with another hot Silicon Valley company: cloud storage and collaboration provider Box.

The partnership spans across several aspects of the respective companies’ businesses. For starters, users of Box’s file-sharing service will now be able to tap into IBM’s “enterprise content management” tools. IBM’s email and collaboration products, meanwhile, will feature Box’s file-sharing capabilities built in (that’s right, Box will come out of the box). Notably, IBM customers will be able to keep their Box documents on the larger company’s global cloud–IBM says it will have 46 cloud data centers, nearly half of which will be based overseas, by end of this year.

Not all partnerships result in meaningful benefits to customers or to the companies that link up, of course. But in this case both sides stand to gain: IBM gets instant Silicon Valley cred with customers and developers (Box APIs, used to create applications, will be integrated into the enterprise behemoth’s cloud platform) and Box gets to harness the bigger company’s massive sales and consulting organizations. (Box isn’t yet cash-flow positive but it has signed on impressive customers like Nationwide, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric).

“For us to be successful and really transform the enterprise we have to be able to partner up,” Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, said in an interview with Fortune. “That’s where IBM has excelled tremendously–providing for the core of the enterprise.”

According to Levie, the two companies started talking shortly after IBM (IBM) announced its partnership with Apple (AAPL). Its subsequent hook-up with Twitter (TWTR) made IBM even more attractive to Box. “The partnership with Twitter showed us that IBM had a new strategy around how they work with Silicon Valley,” Levie told Fortune. “We went out to Armonk [IBM’s New York-based headquarters] and realized there were a number of ways we could work together.

IBM has shown Silicon Valley lots of love since CEO Ginni Rometty took over in 2012. In fact, just weeks into the job, Rometty flew all 17 of her senior vice presidents out to the Bay Area to meet with top venture capital firms like NEA and Accel Partners. Her quick pace–by IBM standards–of inking partnerships with sexy tech firms is part of her strategy to push the 104-year-old company into the modern era.

But the pivot has been slow. In April, IBM announced its 12th consecutive quarter of declining revenue, with sales of $19.6 billion coming in 12% lower than the year before. Growth in its cloud services and analytics tools weren’t enough to offset the declines the company is facing elsewhere. Any lift IBM receives from its recent slew of partnerships is unlikely to have significant impact on its revenue anytime soon either. Much of the joint products, including the integrations with Box (BOX), are still in the works.