Mobile Device Management: a market overview

MDM looks set to become a key component in many organisations' IT strategies. The market has seen some consolidation recently, but there are still plenty of vendors to consider.
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor

The Mobile Device Management (MDM) market has seen some consolidation over the last few years, but there's still a wide range of tools and services available. These range from mail servers with integrated MDM functionality, to cloud services, to tooling that can be integrated into large-scale systems management suites. With Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies everywhere from the smallest to largest business, it's possible to find the right tool for your needs — and for your budget.

Microsoft's Exchange mail server is at the heart of its MDM strategy. If you're using Exchange Server to deliver mail to phones and tablets, you're already using the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol — which can also be used to push policies to devices, and control access based on users, roles and groups. You don't even need to have an on-premises Exchange Server installation, as EAS is part of Microsoft's cloud-hosted Office 365 service. EAS is currently supported by Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, iOS and Android, with Windows 8 and Windows RT support via the Windows mail client.

EAS is also at the heart of Microsoft's cloud-managed service tool, InTune. The latest version adds tools for managing EAS policies, integrating with Exchange servers to push policies to managed devices. InTune also adds a local device store that can deliver applications to smartphones and tablets, with support for site licences and locally developed apps. InTune's per-user, per-month pricing scheme makes it attractive for small and medium-sized businesses, while a reseller version allows ISVs and consultancies to use InTune to manage devices across several client organisations.

"Cross-platform MDM is key to a successful BYOD strategy, as it lets you create a level playing field for users."

RIM's BlackBerry platform remains an enterprise stalwart, as the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) management platform provides a wide selection of customisable device management policies. It's easy to control BlackBerry devices from BES, with support for the latest Balance feature that lets you control the separation between work and personal data — ensuring users don't lose data when corporate accounts are removed from personal devices. RIM provides three different versions of BES: a free cloud-hosted version with minimal policies that integrates with Office 365; the small-business-focussed BES Express, also free; and the full-blown BES with a complete range of policies, which requires client access licences on top of the server costs.

With BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, RIM adds support for iOS and Android devices, using the same environment to manage RIM's own devices (including the PlayBook tablet) alongside third-party hardware. Mobile Fusion will also form the basis of the next generation of BlackBerry management tools for the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Cross-platform MDM is key to a successful BYOD strategy, as it lets you set a level playing field for users. One tool that can help is Symantec's Mobile Management for Configuration Manager (the new name for Odyssey's Athena). Integrating with Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager, Symantec's tools mean you can manage mobile devices alongside PCs and notebooks, with the ability to report on the state of devices — as well as being able to selectively wipe corporate data and deliver secure email to Android devices.

The MDM market is increasingly important, and looks set to become a key component in many organisations' IT strategies — BYOD shows no sign of going away, after all. It's not expensive to get started, and the benefits are clear — especially if you're in a regulated industry.



Market surveys of MDM players
The latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management (June 2012) lists the following vendors in the four standard GMQ categories:

MobileIron, AirWatch, Fiberlink, Zenprise, Good Technology

SAP, Symantec

BoxTone, IBM

Niche players
Sophos, SOTI, McAfee, Trend Micro, Tangoe, OpenPeak, Silverback MDM, LANDesk, Amtel, Smith Micro Software, MYMobile Security


In January 2012, Forrester Research looked at on-premises and cloud-hosted MDM solutions and segmented the market like this: 

On-premises: AirWatch, BoxTone, MobileIron, Zenprise
Cloud-hosted: AirWatch, Fiberlink

On-premises: Good Technology, Microsoft, RIM, Sybase

On-premises: Motorola Solutions, Odyssey Software (since acquired by Symantec), SOTI, Wavelink
Cloud-hosted: Motorola Solutions, RIM

New entrants
Cloud-hosted: MobileIron, Zenprise

Cloud-hosted: Good Technology, Mformation Technologies, Sybase

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