Symantec acquires Nukona for MDM, mobile application control

Analyst says move is important step in addressing the need for mobile application control and document management capabilities.

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Symantec Corp. is acquiring mobile application management security vendor Nukona Inc. in a deal to bolster its mobile device management (MDM) capabilities with mobile application control features.

The mobile management market isn’t slowing down; there’s plenty of development and evolution that is yet to come.

Christian Kane, analyst, Forrester Research Inc. 

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close in April.

Solana Beach, Calif.-based Nukona sells a Web-based service that helps companies set up their own corporate app store for mobile devices. Organizations can apply policy to custom apps without using a platform-specific software development kit or APIs.  Instead, the company encapsulates the app in a management-layer environment to support data encryption. The security layer can also control whether the app can write data to local storage, whether off-line access is allowed, and whether document sharing or copy/paste capabilities are enabled.

It supports mobile apps for Apple iOS and Google Android devices as well as custom apps developed using HTML5.

The fledgling company has gained a lot of interest because organizations are starting to consider mobile device management features that incorporate application control and document management, said Christian Kane, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. Meanwhile, Symantec, McAfee and other antimalware vendors are generally playing catch up to provide their customers with mobile device security and control capabilities, Kane said.

Symantec’s acquisition retains the Nukona talent and technology to help it further develop an integrated mobile device management product, Kane said.  

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“This is going to be a stepping stone,” Kane said.  “Symantec is going to get this integrated with their core mobility products, but the mobile management market isn’t slowing down; there’s plenty of development and evolution that is yet to come.”

Symantec said Nukona would be integrated with its earlier acquisition of mobile device management vendor Odyssey Software. Odyssey provides the underlying mobile device management features while Nukona adds the mobile application control capabilities. For example, the Nukona software can be set to alert IT when an employee installs file-sharing software such as Dropbox on their device. It can also add a security control layer around third-party applications such as Dropbox or Evernote to provide an extra layer of security.

The Nukona software supports Active Directory, LDAP and other enterprise identity platforms.  

In a blog entry about the acquisition, Rob Greer, vice president of product management in Symantec’s Endpoint and Mobility Group said Odyssey and Nukona are complimentary.

“Odyssey provides the MDM foundation to enroll and manage all necessary device settings across a broad range of platforms, while Nukona provides an innovative approach to help enterprises seamlessly distribute, secure and control applications and data without requiring them to manage the devices,” Greer wrote. “By securely distributing and managing mobile applications and content, our customers will be able to address corporate data security concerns around data leakage, encryption and authentication on a per-application basis, for both BYOD and corporate-owned devices.”

The technology somewhat solves the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement by allowing employees to self-service their phones through the company-controlled mobile app portal. It ultimately gives corporate IT some control and visibility over certain apps running on the device. As with other MDM software, the technology can remotely lock or wipe a device. It also has the ability to wipe only corporate data in the event an employee is fired or leaves the company.

According to Forrester, Odyssey Software stood out as a best-of-breed MDM vendor because of its integration with Microsoft. It works with the Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). AirWatch, BoxTone, MobileIron and Zenprise have been innovative mobile device management vendors, incorporating some application control and a mobile enterprise app store. The MDM vendors currently with the most widely deployed install base, Forrester says, are Good Technology, Microsoft, RIM and Sybase.

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