With the uptake of mobile IT, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend and cloud computing, what are the prospects for a virtualised device as a viable solution to the problems of effectively managing devices?
The answer depends, as always, on specifics.
For the client organisation, it is contingent in part on how many non-standard mobile devices are being used. But there are also questions of what these devices are being used for, and who is driving BYOD within the organisation. Does the client have a BYOD policy? Is the organisation in the midst of a virtualisation initiative or planning one? How much money do they have to spend?
The answers to these questions will help resellers develop a cost-effective BYOD solution for your clients.
There is no question that BYOD is hot. There are heaps of stories in circulation about it, with titles like BYOD makes employees work extra 20 hours unpaid per week and BYOD means soaring IT support costs for mobile devices.
The fact remains that BYOD is being driven from the bottom up, by worker demand. One source, referring to a survey, pointed out that 92 percent of polled companies had up to 28 percent of employees using non-company-issued computing devices for work, but only 42 percent of companies in a separate survey said they have a formal BYOD policy in place.
In other words, there is a serious gap between what organisations should be doing and what they are doing about BYOD.
Resellers can help their clients address this disparity. There are three BYOD strategies making the rounds currently: virtualisation, mobile device management and mobile security, specifically identity and access control.
Each one has specific advantages and associated issues. For resellers, the challenge is to be able to identify which solution is the most appropriate for their clients and then be able to help them implement an effective BYOD programme.
Organisations in the process of implementing a virtualised environment may look to a virtualised mobile solution.
“I use my iPhone during the day, my iPad in the evening for a larger interface and a laptop when I need to prepare documents,” says Hamish McNee, channels development manager for New Zealand at Citrix.
“And I’m not alone. More and more people, from executives to sales, are using mobile devices of all stripes to access the corporate network and enterprise applications. Virtualisation allows me to use all of these devices in a secure manner and presents my enterprise applications in the right format. And, because all virtualised devices can be managed centrally, the burden on the IT team is reduced.”
For organisations that have adopted virtualisation, adding a BYOD device to the network is as easy as installing a software client. Citrix markets its Citrix Receiver, which requires the organisation to show the user how to log in. Citrix Receiver runs under iOS, Android, Windows PCs and Macs even RIM Blackberries.
Working in tandem with a Citrix-enabled IT infrastructure, Citrix Receiver is designed to provide consistent, secure access to enterprise applications from any device without introducing layers of management complexity for IT.
“Organisations are moving from the PC to the cloud,” says McNee. “The education sector is a great example. For instance, a large South Auckland-based institute of technology found that the majority of their students had their own mobile devices raging from laptops to smartphones. And these students wanted to be able to tap into the school’s educational and administrative resources.
Because the school was running Citrix virtualisation, students can download Receiver from the app store, install it on their mobile device or even their desktop for that matter, and have full, secure access to the available resources. It’s essentially self-service virtualisation.”
The proposition is that virtualisation can scale up to meet the demands of the end user organisation and at the same time provide centralised management, all setting the stage for a potential movement into the cloud.
Organisations not embracing virtualisation will look to mobile device management and identity and access control for BYOD solutions that can fit into their overall IT framework. And both offer significant opportunities for resellers.
Mobile device management
Mobile device management, or MDM, is a fast-growing market. In essence MDM allows mobile users access to enterprise applications in a secure manner.
Like virtualisation, an MDM solution is based on a client-server architecture in which an agent is uploaded to the mobile device and then connects directly to the MDM server. However, unlike virtualisation, MDM does not address the ‘look and feel’ of enterprise applications on the various and sundry mobile devices. That being said, MDM can provide a secure BYOD environment without re-engineering the enterprise for virtualisation.
“Resellers need to understand all of the dynamics behind a client’s BYOD challenges before they can successfully help them implement a BYOD strategy,” says Jaynean Leaupepe, business development manager at Observatory Crest, the New Zealand distributor for MobileIron MDM solutions.
“How many devices are involved?" Leaupepe asks, hypothetically. "Which operating systems? What enterprise apps do which people access? There is a huge learning curve for resellers and, to add to the mix, new devices, upgraded operating systems and new applications are constantly being released. So, in the first instance, the reseller has to help the end user organisation define the scope of their BYOD engagement and then design the most appropriate management tools.”
MobileIron has developed an ‘Evaluation Checklist’ to help resellers cover all of the salient points when discussing BYOD options.
“At the heart of any MDM or BYOD implementation is the policy,” says Leaupepe. “You have to be able to define what your end users want to do and only then can you help them achieve the desired results. Our evaluation template walks users through the entire process and helps them decide on their options.
For instance, the IT team can limit the types or classes of mobile device that can tap into the network, sort of a ‘choose your own device’ instead of ‘bring your own device’. Not only does this help the IT team manage their BYOD rollout in an incremental manner but it also cuts down on help desk requests as well.”
Training is an essential component for resellers. “Our quarterly training sessions have been well-attended,” says Leaupepe. “We are seeing a lot of interest from resellers that want to improve their MDM sales and technical skills. Their clients are talking about their BYOD challenges and resellers are realising that there is a tremendous opportunity for offering solutions.”
Identity and access control
Managing the mobile device is one option. Managing the applications, especially in a cloud-based environment, is another. “Mobile device management is the first step in the process,” says Sean Kopelke,
Symantec's director of specialist solutions in the Pacific region. “Then you need to think about the applications. Native applications, those installed on the device itself, as well as cloud-based enterprise applications, need to be secured. We’ve just released a new solution set, called Symantec O3 Cloud Identity and Access Control, that enables a single sign-on across all web-based applications. This gives IT managers more control and provides a much more simplified process for the mobile users.”
“The key is to provide a simple, easily-accessible solution for both resellers and end users,” says Kopelke. “If BYOD is placed in the ‘too hard’ basket, then IT managers will lose control of the process.
Equally difficult is to try to implement an all-encompassing BYOD programme that covers every single contingency. At Symantec, we’ve developed a suite of BYOD and MDM security solutions that can be implemented incrementally - say a few key enterprise applications to begin - and then build on that foundation.”
The demand is there. “We recently had around 400 attendees for our Symantec Symposium 2012 in Auckland and Wellington,” says Kopelke. “And most wanted to know about securing mobile devices.”
Resellers that understand the opportunities, challenges and solutions of BYOD will do well but which is the best solution for their customers seems to be dependent on what the customer wants and needs.