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IBM Makes Enterprise Mobile Security Move

IBM partners with mobile security vendor Arxan Technologies to secure apps created with its Worklight platform against malware and other attacks.

As though the above weren't enough, the extent to which sensitive content will be accessed is another consideration. IT admins might need no more than remote-wipe capabilities for employees who use smartphones to view low-level docs. But users whose on-the-go work involves streaming valuable data or running a variety of business apps might necessitate not only remote wipe, but a fleet of additional mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) capabilities. Those might include geo-fencing, which restricts a device's access if it leaves a pre-defined area; app containers, which separate corporate data from the user's personal data; corporate storefronts for the secure deployment of line-of-business apps; secure browsers for accessing the corporate Intranet; and micro-VPNs for securely linking apps to a business's data center, among others.

The complexity has exploded over the last year. When BYOD forces thrust iPhones and Android tablets into environments more accustomed to BlackBerry phones and Windows PCs, IT vendors scrambled to simply secure the devices, and an MDM industry sprang up to accommodate. Businesses quickly learned that mobility can be as much about boosting productivity or changing workflows as meeting employee preference, however, which pushed the focus toward apps. Companies also became more aware that devices are usually less valuable than the information they access, prompting MDM to morph into MAM. With cloud technology, antivirus software and virtualization also in the mix, and with the BYOD market packed with an increasing number of operating systems, businesses have had to juggle more and more as they enact mobility initiatives.

At the same time, MDM and MAM vendors have been forced to add differentiating features. Essential functions such as remote wipe became ubiquitous as enterprise mobility exploded, so with the bare minimums effectively commoditized, startups had to innovate, hope for a buyout from a big company, or fold. Established PC players were similarly forced to make moves to accommodate the growing diversity of enterprise computing devices.

Recent examples of this trend have been numerous and varied. Earlier this month, Symantec updated its mobile suite to include not only its trademark malware protection but also a unified MDM/MAM console, a secure email client and single sign-on capabilities. Last week, Dell touted how its numerous software acquisitions now constitute an end-to-end BYOD-enablement platform.

Absolute Software, whose Computrace technology is already built into the firmware of many PCs, has expanded its end-point management tools to include single-console control of iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. The company also introduced a certificate-based authentication method that allows users to access the corporate network without repeatedly entering passwords. It also partnered with Samsung, bolstering the South Korean giant's Knox platform, which is intended to make its smartphones and tablets enterprise ready. MDM vendor AirWatch also signed on with Samsung Knox, and notable mobility players Zenprise and IonGrid were snapped up by Citrix and NetApp, respectively.

The enterprise mobility industry, in other words, looks a lot different today than it did even a year ago. Navigating this landscape is increasingly challenging, and it's become clear that companies need to plan before entering the changing terrain. The key to making mobility a good investment, as InformationWeek's Chris Murphy recently suggested, is to define the opportunities and problems at the start, and establish a strategy before heading in.

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