Featured Partner: MobileIron

by Peter_vdL Motorola 02-10-2012 09:21 AM - edited 02-10-2012 02:48 PM

“When we do our job properly, users don’t even notice we are there!”  That’s emphatically not true for most products outside of the “ninja” category, but I heard those words on a recent visit to MobileIron.  

MobileIron is one of the leading vendors of Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.  As more and more companies update their workflows with Android mobile devices, more and more IT departments are turning to companies like MobileIron for help with MDM.  MDM software enables companies to set policies on mobile device use for work, and have those policies stick.

IT needs to be able to set and enforce a variety of policies for both corporate-owned devices as well as BYOD (privately owned) devices that employees bring to work, for example:
  • password length
  • whitelists and blacklists for installing individual apps
  • X.509 certificate management (certificates are frequently used in enterprises to identify, and provide the public key of, both servers and individuals)
  • remotely locking and wiping a lost device
  • data partition encryption, with password required at boot time
  • remote configuration and provisioning
  • asset tracking and management
  • troubleshooting and remote diagnosis of problems
In short, MDM provides IT departments with tools to keep everything secure and working in the mobile world, just as they have on desktops and in the data center.   MobileIron has products that support the entire ecosystem of mobile devices, not just Android.   Gartner reported in November 2011 that Android accounts for more than 50% of all smartphones sold worldwide.  Android will thus soon have the largest installed base of all smartphones, so is clearly of central importance to MobileIron.

Helping Enterprises say “Yes” to Android
I spoke with MobileIron’s Bryan Pelham about the MDM opportunities for Android.  Bryan explained “Our job at MobileIron is to help enterprises say ‘yes’ to Android.  It’s not enough to have a back end server that manages mobile devices in the field.  You also have to integrate successfully with all the other IT systems a company uses.”  That often means Microsoft software, like Exchange’s ActiveSync component, and LDAP for the company White Pages.

The challenge for MobileIron is supporting the same functionality across all Android platforms, regardless of manufacturer or API level.  Brian outlined a recent issue uncovered by their QA testing.  When a recent device first shipped, the hardware to support a removable SD card was in place, but the software was not yet complete.  The hardware manufacturer opted to give customers the choice of having the product now, and getting SD support in a future update.  But that created a situation where, depending on an over-the-air software update, the hardware profile of a device might change! That was an issue for MobileIron, whose product supports “remote wiping” (data erasure) of a lost mobile device.  MobileIron needed to know with certainty if a given device had an SD card or not, but that answer might change unpredictably.

In this case, it wasn’t too hard for MobileIron to “special case” dealing with that hardware.  But it is an example of the general class of problem that MDM software must solve: how do you present a consistent enterprise solution to managing mobile devices with widely varying support for the things you are trying to do?   Well, as Bryan said, “When we do our job properly, users don’t even notice we are there!”  
Peter van der Linden
Android Technology Evangelist

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