RIM Updates BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5 Software

Research In Motion just issued an update to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5 software, version 5.0.2, which includes a new single sign-on feature, the ability to separate business and personal content on BlackBerrys, self-service security options for users, expanded Web browser compatibility and support for Microsoft Hyper-V for server virtualization.

Single sign-on allows users and administrators to directly and securely access BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager and the BlackBerry Administration Service once they’ve signed in to the network without the need to re-enter their user ID and password.

Smartphone users can be allowed access to the Intranet, files and business systems behind the corporate firewall directly from their BlackBerry without the need to enter their network password because the device will already be authenticated through the Active Directory and BlackBerry Enterprise Server, according to RIM.

New BlackBerry OS to Support Selective Data Wipe

As more employees use their personal smartphones for work, vendors such as Sybase Afaria are starting to roll out services that allow mobile IT to selectively erase business data on the devices, and RIM is following suit.

Remote removal of corporate data from employee-owned devices is a new function built into BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2 that will be supported with an upcoming version of the BlackBerry OS, allowing IT administrators to remove only corporate data from an employee-owned BlackBerry without affecting the employee’s personal information and applications. Additional features for keeping corporate content separate from personal content on employee-owned devices are expected later this year.

Another 5.0.2 feature that helps manage personal BlackBerrys in the workplace is the Individual-Liable Devices Policy. It permits employees who have purchased their own BlackBerry smartphones and have been connected to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server to access their personal email and calendar and make calls on their personal voice plan when the device is locked. It also prevents users from accessing data from within social networking applications on their BlackBerry smartphones.

DIY Mobile Management, URL-Based Authentication, More Browser Support

New security self-service options for mobile office workers is also part of the upgrade. Users with BlackBerry smartphones connected to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server can reset their device password and lock the device, or remotely delete all device data and disable it in the event that it is lost or stolen. Previously, these functions could only be performed by contacting their IT administrator. Mobile managers can allow or disallow these self-service features.

Another security tool that benefits mobile IT is flexible URL-based smartphone authentication. IT administrators can now assign different authentication requirements for specific URLs. For example, 2-factor authentication can be enabled for specific internal business systems containing customer information while no authentication may be required to access the Web.

Support for additional Web browsers has also been added to the new version of server software. This will allow IT staff to access the BlackBerry Administration Service using the latest versions of popular Web browsers, including Google Chrome 4.0, Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and Safari 4. Employees get the same support for accessing the BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager.

Standardized BlackBerry Administration Groups for Mobile IT

BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2 ships with a set of predefined administration groups for IT administrators to quickly assign permissions and access to BlackBerry Administration Service for different IT staff responsibilities, including junior IT staff, help desk and senior administrators. These predefined administration groups reflect best practices and can help IT departments standardize permissions across their staff.

A new IT policy reconciliation tool gives administrators the flexibility to leverage group administration to deliver IT policies to end users. IT policies can be assigned to groups and a blended IT policy can be delivered to the end users device based on their group memberships.

Support for Windows Server 2008 R2, upcoming support for SQL Server 2008 R2 and new support for MS Hyper-V 2008 have been added to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform certification list. SQL Server 2008 R2 is expected to be supported within 30 days of release.

Businesses using the free BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express companion to BlackBerry Enterprise Server to connect employee-owned BlackBerry smartphones to their corporate network can expect many of these new features in the next release of that software later this year, according to RIM.

The upgrade to RIM's signature server software comes at a time when the mobile industry is experiencing unprecedented competition on all fronts as major players release significant OS upgrades and compelling new smartphones at a rapid clip. BlackBerry OS 6 is slated to come out in the next few months.

BlackBerrys are still the most popular corporate device, with 70 percent of IT departments currently supporting them, but about 29 percent of businesses now support the iPhone, up from 17 percent last year and none in 2007 when the iPhone first launched, according to research firm Forrester. Apple's iPhone 4 and iOS include a lot of mobile management and security features that make the new smartphone more suitable for enterprise use, and the industry is bracing for a huge increase in corporate use of the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Google's mobile Linux OS Android is on the rise. Android-powered handsets are gaining traction in the marketplace, but they will need to be embraced by the enterprise to sustain steady growth, and it appears Android 2.2 and the Motorola Droid X are poised to help make that happen.

Once the Android 2.2 update is rolled out, "corporate users can enjoy push delivery of e-mail; live widgets that stream messages to the home screen; filter widgets to differentiate work and home e-mail; corporate directory and Global look-up along with a unified calendar for Enterprise and sync with Google Calendar," according to a Droid X statement.

Sales of Android devices in the first quarter of 2010 spiked 707 percent year-over-year in North America, from 575,000 units sold to about 5.2 million units sold, according to the research firm Gartner. But as of mid-May, the iPhone is still ahead of Android by some 3 million units globally, Gartner noted in its mobile phone sales report, which obviously won't take into account sales of the new iPhone 4, which already surpassed 1.7 million by June 28.


Blackberry, mobile IT, RIM, mobile management, BlackBerry Enterprise Server