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IBM enters mobile device management market via BigFix integration

Beta version of IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices supports Apple iOS, Google Android, Symbian and Microsoft Windows Phone devices.

IBM is launching a mobile device management suite, integrating its BigFix acquisition to provide management of security policies across iPhone and Android devices.

In general, we still see many enterprises limiting their employees to email, contacts and calendar because they’re waiting  before making a decision on deploying MDM.

Christian Kane, analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices also supports Symbian and Microsoft Windows phones.  It is currently in Beta. The software enables companies to selectively wipe enterprise data if a device is lost or stolen. It can also be used to configure passcode policies, encryption and VPN access.

The software can work on both employee and corporate-owned mobile devices. It uses an agent to provide management capabilities. It can also deny corporate email access if it detects a device is not complying with corporate security policies. The software can be installed in hours, according to IBM. 

This is Big Blue’s first step into mobile device management market, but the company has been bolstering its mobile portfolio, said Christian Kane, an analyst of infrastructure and operations at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. Up until now, IBM has been offering mobile management via its professional services organization, Kane said.

“The mobile management technologies need to move towards integrating with core IT systems,” Kane said. “In general, mobile device management is only one piece of the puzzle; I see MDM moving into mobile application management.”

Forrester has identified more than 40 MDM vendors that offer a variety of on-premise, hybrid and cloud-based software. Sybase and Good Technology are among the established leaders, Kane said. AirWatch and BoxTone are smaller contenders with strong features, he said.

IBM acquired endpoint management vendor BigFix in 2010. The company was rolled into the IBM Software Group, calling it IBM Tivoli Endpoint Manager. Until 2010, Tivoli had few, if any, endpoint management capabilities. Tivoli focused primarily on servers and data center configuration management.  

BigFix has long worked with corporate desktops and laptops, using agents to detect machines that don't have the latest antivirus, antimalware signatures and other vendor patches or aren't configured properly to operate on the network. The BigFix software is scalable up to hundreds of thousands of devices. The company had a big presence in the power management market.

Enterprises that decide to deploy MDM are mainly installing it alongside BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), because most MDM suites don’t integrate well with BES, Kane said. Many more organizations are taking a wait-and-see approach before investing in MDM while the market consolidates and vendors add additional capabilities, such as mobile application provisioning and security, he said.

“In general, we still see many enterprises limiting their employees to email, contacts and calendar because they’re waiting  before making a decision on deploying MDM,” Kane said.

IBM acquires Worklight for mobile development
In another move to bolster its mobile management capabilities, IBM acquired Israel-based mobile platform provider Worklight. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company specializes in mobile development software that enables developers to create mobile apps across mobile device platforms. Worklight’s middleware appliances act as a gateway to tie data center servers with mobile applications using XML files. Centralized management software gives IT teams an overview of the deployed apps.

“We’re not just talking about the apps on the devices (and there are many devices), but also the backend server infrastructure necessary and this needs to be enterprise-ready,” wrote Bob Sutor, vice president of IBM Mobile Platform. “By this I mean it needs to scale and you must be able to integrate it with the services, applications, processes and data that are essential to your organization.”

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