Enterprise mobility is not exactly a new concept, but the growing number of mobile devices and the diversity of the platforms they represent is becoming a headache for the corporate IT department.
How is an administrator to keep track of all these devices, support users and minimise the risk of company data being lost or stolen?
Managing endpoint devices has long been one of the bugbears for IT departments, even when these devices mostly consisted of Windows PCs directly connected to the corporate LAN.
The desktop issue has now largely been tackled by mature management suites, but mobile devices present a host of different challenges.
Not least among these challenges is that the devices in question may not be owned by the organisation, thanks to the bring your own device (BYOD) trend.
The very nature of mobile devices means that users could be trying to access company information from anywhere in the world.
And where IT departments previously had to worry only about Windows, there will typically be Apple iOS devices in use, as well as Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.
This diversity means that the focus of device management has shifted from controlling the device itself and locking it down, to enabling a secure way for people to access company data across multiple platforms.
Mobile device management (MDM) is thus a broad ecosystem of tools with a range of capabilities.
Most provide a way for administrators to control at least some of the settings of the device, either to limit the actions users can take, such as disabling the camera, or to enable IT staff to remotely configure the device for the user.
Some mobility platforms provide a way to provision approved applications directly to the device over the air, while others have taken the alternative approach of offering an app store that allows the end user to download the software they need themselves.
These app stores may be populated by the MDM vendor itself, or could be private app stores curated by the IT department of the organisation, or a mixture of the two.
A third function typically addressed by MDM tools is to secure corporate data. Often this involves the creation of an encrypted container on the endpoint device to ensure that documents and other data can be accessed only by the owner of the device, in case it should be lost or stolen. Another key capability is the ability to remotely lock or wipe the device if it goes missing.
Worthy of special mention here is BlackBerry, which has been offering MDM capabilities for well over a decade. BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) was designed to deliver emails from the corporate server to BlackBerry's own devices, but also served as the point of administrative control.
BlackBerry still offers BES, now renamed BlackBerry Enterprise Service, but has extended support to include iOS and Android devices as well as its own smartphones.
The latter are unique in offering a feature called Balance that partitions the device into separate work and personal environments, with the work environment controlled via BES.
The firm offers an analogue to Balance for iOS and Android users in the shape of BlackBerry Secure Work Space, which sees corporate applications and data placed inside a secure container.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is also becoming a more significant player in the MDM space with Windows Intune, which enables administrators to manage and secure Windows laptops as well as its own Windows RT and Windows Phone mobile devices, Macs, iOS and Android.
Windows Intune is a cloud-based service to which customers subscribe, instead of the traditional approach of deploying a management server behind the corporate firewall.
This is another trend sweeping the MDM sector, as customers seek a solution that is quicker and easier to deploy and which they do not have to maintain or procure hardware for.
While Windows Intune started life as a somewhat basic product to deliver centralised management capabilities to smaller companies, it has gained features and started to be integrated more closely with Microsoft's enterprise-grade System Center platform, and may become the preferred way to manage even desktop PC systems when Windows 10 is released.
Another trend is for MDM to be delivered as part of a broader software suite, as mobile devices simply become another part of the enterprise ecosystem.
This can be seen in VMware's recently announced Workspace Suite, which combines its Horizon platform for delivering virtual desktops and applications with the mobile device management tools gained from the acquisition of Airwatch earlier this year.
Citrix followed a similar strategy by acquiring MDM specialist Zenprise and integrating the platform with its own products such as XenDesktop and the XenMobile suite.
Likewise, software firm Cortado includes MDM as simply a part of its Cortado Corporate Server, which is designed to enable groups of users to access and share company documents on mobile devices.
This means that, while there is still a somewhat confusing array of MDM tools available on the market, MDM itself is gradually being subsumed into other management tools or solutions.
Before too long, mobile management, like mobility itself, will become simply a standard part of corporate IT.
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