The rapidly evolving mobile management services space continues to grow in complexity and variety, in tempo with almost daily shifts in the use of mobile devices, enterprise needs, and the introduction of new devices and carrier plans.
Three of the main vendors in the space -- AT&T, Motorola, and Verizon -- recently unveiled new or enhanced solutions in their efforts to secure a firm revenue grip on what is still a tantalizingly elusive, moving target.
Each company is offering a different mobile management solution, says Dan Shey, practice director, enterprise, ABI Research
, but they all want to focus on making the job of mobile IT easier. "What is common to all of the solutions is an effort to reduce complexity for enterprises. Verizon and AT&T are helping companies reduce the complexity of worldwide operations and globe-trotting employees," Shey said. "Motorola is reducing the complexity of managing multivendor WLAN networks and mobile devices."
Because of their different approaches and target markets, it is difficult to compare Motorola's solutions and services to those of AT&T and Verizon Business, said David Krebs, practice director, mobile and wireless, VDC Research
"Motorola's MSP platform was developed with its devices as the target mobile clients and, as such, is closed to other devices," said Krebs. "AT&T and Verizon Business are taking a vendor-agnostic approach to their device management solutions."
Krebs believes the challenge for AT&T and Verizon Business lies in supporting accounts with multi-carrier contracts and managing mobile devices tied to a competitor's network while Motorola needs to begin thinking of solutions that run on a variety of mobile devices.
Regardless of the solution, none of the above mobile management services come cheap. The cost of device management services -- typically charged on a per user per month basis -- range from about $3 to $5 for telecom expense management services to as much as $40 when they support a line of business application, said Shey.
Still, in the ever-changing and increasingly fragmented mobile landscape, investing in a mobile management solution can pay off in the long run.
Mobile Management No Longer Predictable
For a long time, mobile management was pretty predictable. Mobile IT had to manage laptops, wireless network security, mobile Internet connections, mobile VoIP and BlackBerry applications, and perhaps a fleet of ruggedized handhelds using RFID.
Those days are history.
What undid much of that predictability was the explosive growth in employee-owned smartphones in the enterprise -- spurred mostly by the runaway success of the iPhone.
Of course, the use of employee-liable devices didn't just happen -- it was approved and encouraged by enterprises, which see such usage as a cost-effective way of advancing mobility.
Enterprises also want to take advantage of the productivity benefits that increased mobility can bring, said Andrew Borg, senior research analyst at Aberdeen
. To achieve those benefits, enterprises need to control, monitor and manage a vast, heterogeneous network of devices, apps and carriers.
Services from AT&T, Motorola, and Verizon
Enter AT&T, Motorola, and Verizon to save IT departments from global, mobile management chaos -- each in their own way.
AT&T's recent offering, Global Mobile Management
(for enterprises with more than 10,000 mobile users) aims to help companies reduce their management and mobility service costs through a single point of contact.
The service seeks to reduce enterprises' mobile service expenditures through multi-carrier management and consolidation of users to preferred carriers, effective policy enforcement and active telecom expense management.
AT&T's service includes: carrier management, standard operations for mobility transactions and incidents; enforcement of customers' mobile services policies; consolidated reporting and analysis; telecom expense management; and bill management.
Motorola's recent offerings -- Managed Infrastructure Service and Managed Device Service
-- aim to help IT organizations remove the complexities of managing multi-vendor wireless networks and devices, and make mobility solutions accessible to more enterprise and government customers.
The Managed Infrastructure Service (built around AirDefense Infrastructure Management and Network Assurance) is designed to ensure constant availability of customers' WLANs and business-critical applications and services.
The new Managed Device Service leverages Motorola's Mobility Service Platform to provide customers with around-the-clock management of wireless devices from multiple vendors, helping them meet service requirements and lower the total cost of ownership.
' new security-as-a-service portfolio seeks to make it easier and cheaper for enterprise customers to log into corporate networks, share data from mobile devices and enable real-time provisioning from a central location.
The cloud-based offering is not dependent on premises-based equipment because it's delivered via the company's global IP network.
The new service dovetails with Verizon's existing managed security services (MSS) portfolio, giving multinational corporations the option to choose between pure on-demand, on-premise or hybrid networks based on their particular security infrastructure and setups.
Analysts Give Their Views of the Mobile Management Services
Given the relative maturity of mobile device management solutions, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish products purely on feature-sets, said Krebs.
"Most of these solutions do a good job of providing key management services such as: security management; remote control/user support; OTA applications, OS, firmware management; and mobile asset tracking and inventory management," he adds.
AT&T Global Mobile Management Services is a policy, procurement and expense management solution, said Krebs.
The challenge for companies with employees all over the world is that there is no centralized buying authority for wireless services. Employees' wireless services are expensed at individual rates, which limit savings from buying access in bulk.
AT&T wants to be the single point of contact for such services, notes Krebs.
Verizon's new service enforces policies for secure connectivity, and hardware and software installations.
Krebs is enthusiastic about Motorola's offerings.
"Motorola's solutions not only address traditional security, policy and infrastructure management requirements, but also provide network assurance," said Krebs.
"With increasing wireless data traffic, the demand for a solution that can proactively address spectrum management and interference detection will become increasingly critical," he adds.
Motorola's Managed Infrastructure Service and the Managed Device Service recognize that companies will not have a set of WLAN access points and devices from the same vendor across all their business location, notes Shey.
"Motorola's solution is heavily focused on providing management techniques which maintain high uptime of businesses' WLANs and devices," Shey said.
Krebs notes that Motorola's biggest future challenge -- in terms of its device and wireless network management solutions -- will be rooted in its ability to separate itself from its hardware business to deliver hardware-agnostic solutions.
The challenge for all vendors is and will always be how they can make their products easier to use and deploy.
Krebs believes that AT&T, Motorola and Verizon (as well as other vendors) need to invest more in improving basic services such as multi-platform support, and hosted/managed options, as well as improving integration with expense management and network management.