Keeping Pace with the Changing Face of Mobile Management

"You can't pick your family, but you can pick your mobile phone." What this modern take on the old proverb aims to convey is the close personal attachment that many people feel toward their phones, in the same way that 20 years ago they formed bonds with their diaries or Filofaxes.

Apple's iPhone is nothing short of a consumer phenomenon -- a defining trait for many people. It's a phone, a music and movie player, a portable computer and games machine, an organizer and a fashion statement all rolled into one delectable piece of glass and shiny metal. For those with a more open-source, Linuxy, slightly anarchic aesthetic, Google's new Android phone operating system, currently available on the Droid, Eris, Cliq and HTC Hero, among others, is also likely to tug the heartstrings.

Consumers vote with their wallets, and they are buying iPhones in massive quantities, as Apple just posted its most profitable quarter ever. For the third-quarter, AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the iconic handset, said that 40 percent of its record-breaking 3.2 million iPhone activations were new subscribers.

What you don't see consumers buying for themselves in vast numbers are corporate phones. This is fine, unless they happen to need to use their phones for business purposes. What a consumer looks for in a phone and what the corporate IT department look for are two very different things. Security, manageability and compatibility are the sorts of things that that IT is interested in -- not style, features and a choice of 10,000 downloadable programs and games from the App Store.

Manageability is where the action is at the moment —and the action is about to get a lot more intense. That's because apart from making calls, most corporate smartphone users currently don't use their devices for much more than accessing the Internet for e-mail and surfing the Web. But research firms, including Gartner and IDC, concur that these devices will increasingly be used to run mobile corporate applications— either standalone programs or ones that rely on a connection to backend corporate systems.

When that happens, the need for manageability and security will increase.

Server, storage and network automation are revolutionizing the way computing resources are managed in the data center, and automation is also going to revolutionize the way large enterprises manage their fleets of corporate mobiles in the coming years.

"Large companies need automatic provisioning and the automatic application of software patches and updates," says Sean Ryan, a research analyst at IDC. This is a complicated matter that needs a certain uniformity in the devices being managed, as well as some sophisticated management software. "You need to be able to manage these devices over a low bandwidth, unreliable connection, so you have to be able to handle compression and the ability to restart an operation in case the device's battery dies or loses the signal half way through a firmware update."

It's also vital to be able to run device management software in the background so it can hum away without interfering with the user's ability make calls and generally be productive.

TAGS:

Android, server, iPhone, wireless data, wireless management
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