Corporate networks are not just about PCs anymore. The infiltration of tablet computers into the workplace, coupled with the bring-your-own-device movement, has prompted a growing number of IT solution providers to build practices focused on mobile device management.
“The opportunity is massive,” said Michael Strohl, CEO of Entisys Solutions Inc., a VAR based in Concord, Calif. “I will invest as much as I can as fast as I can in order to capture as much of it as possible. The device management aspect of mobility is just one of the many prongs of mobility being driven by the workforce. IT organizations are being forced to become more service-oriented, more responsive to their users.”
In particular, the decision by some companies to allow employees to use their own smartphones, tablet computers or notebooks as work tools heightens the need for tighter security and management policies.
Wil Ankerstjerne, wireless networking group lead for Computer Design Integration LLC (CDI), an IT services company in Teterboro, N.J., said businesses have to lock down devices accessing their networks for fear that data could be compromised. The alternative to managing these devices is barring them from the network altogether, Ankerstjerne said.
“It is happening to these companies whether they like it or not,” said Mauro Lollo, CTO of Unis Lumin Inc., a technology integrator in Oakville, Ont. “The concept of bring-your-own-device is here, and it is not going away. The consumer market is tipping the business market on its ear. IT organizations have to be ready with plans to deal with this.”
The challenge of managing BYO devices
Two of the biggest beneficiaries from a technology point of view have been Citrix Systems, with its ability to virtualize client devices including tablet computers; and MobileIron, a software developer founded in 2007 that offers a full-fledged suite of tools for mobile device management, solution providers said.
Software of this nature helps IT teams support distributed devices that could not otherwise be secured or updated, according to Strohl. “It is not just the maintenance activities; it is getting applications out there so that people can do their job,” he said.
Ojas Rege, vice president of products and marketing for MobileIron, said the average IT organization will need to support three to five different operating systems at any given point in time. And the platforms it needs to support will change over time, he noted. “We make sure that you can manage and secure all of these devices from a central console,” he said.
Tablets, in particular, spurred interest from organizations interested in offering more flexibility to employees without compromising data security or privacy.
Alan Arenas-Grube, practice manager for mobility at Paragon Development Systems Inc., an IT solution provider in Oconomowoc, Wis., said client virtualization software helps unify the way that users connect with their applications securely regardless of the exact mobile device they have opted to use.
“Regardless of whether you are on a laptop, a tablet or a phone, you [have to] be able to interact seamlessly,” he said. “The data and the applications never leave the building.”
Health care IT opportunities
Vendors and VARs alike agree that the health care sector is a prime candidate for mobile device management solutions.
Christopher Fleck, vice president of mobility solutions for Citrix, said two forces are at work here. On the one hand, hospitals need to accommodate doctors and other clinical professionals that come and go frequently. Those same individuals themselves need a secure, managed way to connect from multiple points of care, Fleck said.
“Desktop virtualization is enabling IT to allow those kinds of use cases,” he said.
There is also a strong case for mobile device management solutions targeted at legal professionals and business services consultants, Fleck said.