VMware may take lead on mobile application management standards

VMware CTO Scott Davis said the company might take the lead in creating mobile application management standards to make apps more interoperable.

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LAS VEGAS -- Mobile application management software promises to securely provide applications and data on any device, but a lack of interoperability among products could prevent the technology from taking off.

One option to address the problem is the creation of industry-wide standards, which would allow apps containerized by one vendor's product to be accessible on other vendors' platforms. VMware Inc. may lead that charge.

"There is certainly value in standards," said Scott Davis, VMware's chief technology officer for end-user computing. "At some point in the not-too-distant future, it's quite possible there will be standardized ways of securing applications."

In an interview here at the Interop conference, Davis said it's a "definite possibility" that VMware could take the lead in creating mobile application management (MAM) standards, and that it's something company executives are thinking about.

Of course, VMware has a stake in the market; its Horizon Suite allows IT to secure and deliver business applications to physical, virtual and mobile endpoints, and its unreleased Horizon Mobile for iOS product will do the kind of app wrapping that could benefit from mobile application management standards.

Davis spoke with SearchConsumerization about its mobile strategy and trends in the end-user computing industry:

What are the limits of mobile device management (MDM), and why does VMware feel it's not the best approach?

Mobile application management challenges

Mobile application management places a layer of security software around apps, allowing IT to manage them and enforce policies without controlling the end user's complete device.

To wrap an app in that extra layer, MAM vendors must have access to its code, which requires cooperation with the app's developer. Under this arrangement, it's easy to envision a market where only certain MAM vendors offer certain apps, and IT departments may not be able to find one product that meets all their needs.

Scott Davis: MDM is kind of narrow and backwards-looking. MDM is really looking at the way we used to manage physical PCs. It's completely appropriate when the organization is buying the device. It's an important solution when I'm talking with, for example, the federal government or the armed forces. But MDM is really incompatible with bring your own device.

If I'm buying my device and paying for the plan, and I want to use it for both business and pleasure, enterprises need to be able to manage the work content... but not preclude what [users] can do with the phone that they paid for. That's why we're much more aligned with the MAM space.

Do you think that as MAM evolves and begins to incorporate mobile information management it will eventually eliminate all need for MDM?

Davis: It's difficult to say. I personally do believe that mobile content management has a lot to it. There are some challenges to implementation, because you want to deliver both enterprise control and ease of use. I don't think it's one-size-fits-all. I see value in MAM; I see value in MDM in the right niches, as well.

Do you see a gap between the mobile management products you offer and where your customers are?

Davis: A lot of customers recognize today that they have to do something in the mobile space, but it's still early. A lot of them have not done anything yet.

Is it still VMware's plan to have Horizon Mobile for Android use mobile virtualization and Horizon Mobile for iOS use app wrapping? And when can we expect these products to be out?

Davis: I'm not going to talk today about release dates for products. Our efforts on Android and iOS are actually delivering the exact same business value. They have to be implemented differently, but we expect to bring these to market with a common management platform.

In the early days of Horizon Mobile, you were trying to work with Apple to allow mobile virtualization on iOS. Did they finally give a definitive, "No," or did you just give up trying and decide to go in a different direction?

Davis: A combination, but it's also a factor of the market evolving too, and looking at [the question]: What is the problem we're trying to solve?

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