Mobile Device Management: Another Approach Transformed By the Cloud

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Eliminating the CIOs' BYOD Blind Spot

The future of mobile device management (MDM) came a bit more into focus this week as IBM purchased Fiberlink. The story on the deal at CITEWorld suggests that MDM–which was seen as one of the key ways to seamlessly integrate bring your own device (BYOD) capabilities into the corporate landscape–has fallen from favor:

While the deal shows MDM still matters, it also proves that MDM won’t survive as a standalone function. ‘I think the reason IBM pulled the trigger now is they’re seeing this progression,’ said Hazelton. ‘IBM needs to continue that evolution and be that one stop shop.’

Writer Nancy Gohring suggests that the move by IBM may accelerate interest by the biggest companies in still independent MDM vendors. She mentions MobileIron and AirWatch as significant MDM players that could be targets, though she does note that the former is preparing for an IPO and may not be on the market. HP, CA, BMC and Oracle may be interested shoppers for these and other MDM firms, she suggests.

The problem for MDM is that it is device-based. That is a great alternative for dealing with BYOD–if it is the only alternative. Israel Lifshitz at The Next Web builds on the idea that MDM’s day is passing. The idea is that managing an exponentially increasing array of devices is too cumbersome and complex. It is as an approach, he writes, that will fade into the dust bin of IT.

Like so many other traditional processes that existed because they were the only ones feasible, MDM is being confronted by the coming of age of the cloud. The cloud is doing to MDM what it has done too many platforms and procedures: In essence, providing an updated version of the thin client idea of storing important data and/or functions somewhere other than the end user’s device. Lifshitz thinks the changes will be dramatic:

In my opinion, MDM will be wiped out by technology that ignores devices and relies strictly on the cloud. CRM and marketing analytics platforms contain some of the most sensitive information that companies have, and they now live in the cloud. Many more applications and categories of data will go in that direction.

In response to questions that I asked via email, Vikrant Gandhi, Frost & Sullivan Mobile and Wireless’ principal analyst, observed that the 20-plus MDM vendors on the scene two years ago are being winnowed down significantly. Gandhi agrees that the cloud is a game-changer:

[T]he MDM market is shifting to a cloud-based deployment model due to the obvious advantage of cloud architecture (ease of deployment, lower cost, rapid and foolproof software upgrades, better data management capabilities, and improved security). Our analysis indicates that cloud-based MDM will support upwards of 90 percent of new deployments within the next three years. We include BYOD in this analysis.

Gandhi sees consolidation continuing, and thinks Fiberlink is a player with a lot to offer:

[W]e do see more consolidation happening—partly because of the need for large companies to quickly ramp up their MDM or secure mobility strategies, and also because of the desire of some of these smaller or midsized companies to exit when they can. With that said, Fiberlink was a tier-I provider, and its expertise spanned both mobility and traditional networking deployments for corporate IT.

The short- and long-term fate of MDM is tied, at least to some extent, with the fate of BlackBerry. To the extent that outsiders are interested in buying the failing company—and it is a famously on-again/off-again affair—its management capabilities are the focus.

The company is not fading completely, although its remaining strength is its management capabilities, not its devices. That was evident this week, as the company announced that German companies Mitsubishi Motors Deutschland, Grohe AG and Sudzucker AG have migrated to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10. The platform, which is widely deployed, is positioned as an MDM, enterprise mobility management (EMM) and mobile application management (MAM) platform.

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