MDM/EMM: a meta-analysis
Mobile device management and enterprise mobility management have been hot topics for several years, and many analysts cover this well-populated market. To get an idea of the size of the MDM/EMM vendor population, and some consensus on the leading players, we've generated a simple ranking based on five 2012 research reports -- from Aragon Research, Forrester Research, Gartner, Info-Tech and The Radicati Group.
Most of these analysts distil their research by placing vendors into quadrants defined by various axes: Gartner's well-known Magic Quadrant, for example, has axes for 'Ability to Execute' and 'Completeness of Vision', resulting in quadrants named 'Leaders' (top right), 'Niche players' (bottom left), 'Challengers' (top left) and 'Visionaries' (bottom right). To generate our aggregate MDM vendor ranking, we simply gave three points for the 'best' (top right) position, one for the 'worst' (bottom left) and two for each of the remaining spots (top left, bottom right). The resulting chart looks like this:
The ten top-ranked vendors (green bars) include a mixture of 'pure-play' MDM specialists and companies like Good Technology, SAP, Symantec and RIM with broader offerings. Some -- like AirWatch, MobileIron, SOTI and Zenprise -- offer both on-premise and cloud-based (SaaS) deployment, while others -- notably BoxTone and Good Technology -- only currently support on-premise solutions. The sole leading MDM vendor to go the cloud-only route is Fiberlink with its MaaS360 suite. In total, the five analyst reports covered 31 vendors -- and this isn't an exhaustive list by any means.
As well as mobile specialism and deployment method, key factors to consider when choosing an MDM/EMM vendor include whether mobile app and content management is supported, how well the separation of personal and corporate data is handled and whether the solution integrates with existing IT infrastructure management systems. Check out ourfor more detail on the companies listed above.
We've seen from Good Technology's survey quoted earlier that in many BYOD-supporting companies, employees are prepared to pay for their own devices and data plans. In other companies, some or all of these costs are covered by the employer. However, all businesses need to avoid alienating employees by effectively turning their BYOD notebooks, tablets and smartphones into locked-down devices that hold little more appeal to work on than standard corporate-approved hardware. The key here, it seems, is how well MDM/EMM suites can separate personal and corporate usage -- particularly when it comes to remote wiping capability. But is there an alternative approach?
Mobile virtualisation: the alternative
Virtualisation has had a huge impact in datacenters and has long been used to run multiple OSs on desktop systems, but has yet to make similar inroads in the mobile space. That's likely to change, though, because virtualisation seems tailor-made for BYOD -- especially as mobile devices become ever more functional in terms of CPU and GPU power, storage capacity and connectivity.
The idea is that IT managers create a secure, managed, virtualised space on the mobile device in which all business-related activities occur. This is completely isolated from the device's native environment, which remains the user's personal domain.
Several solutions along these lines are available, including VMware's Horizon Mobile, which is now available for Android and iOS devices, along with the server-side Horizon Mobile Manager (HMM), where IT managers provision and administer users' virtual workspaces:
Desktop virtualisation is a well-established field, with products like Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View able to deliver secure virtualised desktop, web or SaaS applications, or complete desktop environments, to a variety of devices -- PCs, Macs, tablets and thin clients, for example. Such installations require a lot of on-premise infrastructure and IT management expertise, however, and so desktop virtualisation as a hosted service may prove a more attractive option for many smaller companies. Nivio, for example, provides access to Windows desktops, applications, storage and an administration interface on any device with an HTML5-compliant browser and an internet connection, and costs from $35-$60 per user per month. A similar service, Cloud Desktop, has just been announced by Mikogo. Desktone is a leading player in the DaaS (Desktop as a Service) market, its technology underpinning third-party offerings from Dell, Navisite, Fujitsu and Quest.