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IBM Expands Mobile Security, Management Suite

With new BYOD and app development tools, IBM wants customers to look at mobile as an opportunity, not a risk.

IBM announced Friday new software and service additions to its Mobile Enterprise suite. A mixture of consulting programs, first-time features and repackaged combinations of existing technologies, the offerings are intended to span the gamut of mobility needs, from mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) to app development and analytics.

IBM's unveiling arrives as the market around IT consumerization continues to evolve and grow more competitive. BYOD initially ushered in the MDM phase, which was focused on provisioning and managing the phones and tablets themselves. As it became clear that devices are less important than the information they carry, BYOD security shifted to the MAM phase, which emphasized management of apps. New acronyms continue to pop up, with mobile enterprise management (MEM) gaining use as an MDM-MAM hybrid, but a more significant development might be gaining attention from industry powers.

Many BYOD needs were met by specialty vendors and security firms. Earlier in November, though, Dell declared its intentions to contend in the crowded arena. IBM is likewise stepping up its efforts, with attention paid not only to device management and security, but also to unlocking new business opportunities through the use of mobile devices.

[ Don't be caught behind. Check out Gartner's 5 Emerging Enterprise Technologies. ]

On the security front, IBM's unveiling included updates to the company's Endpoint Manager. Many of the features are expected in a competitive, enterprise-class product including remote wipe and management capabilities and support for iOS 6, Android, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry devices. That said, IBM offers a possible point of differentiation in its context-sensitive security functions.

In an interview, Mike Riegel, the company's VP for mobile enterprise and Websphere, explained that if a nurse uses a tablet in an operating room, he or she should have immediate access to medical records and other sensitive materials. If the nurse uses the same device down the street, outside the company's firewall, meanwhile, precautions should be more aggressive.

IBM allows a variety of security profiles to be defined depending on specific circumstances, such as whether the user is inside or outside the corporate network, and establishes authentication requirements and permissions accordingly. Other proximity-aware products exist, but Riegel said IBM offers "everything they do and more," noting that the company offers not only more security profile options but also a management dashboard intended to "save companies from having to manage multiple sets of IDs."

Most management tools "got started with point projects," he said, "but companies need a holistic approach."

The announcement caters to a holistic viewpoint thanks not only to specific security features but also to general enhancements to IBM Mobile Foundation, the company's platform for device management, app development and cloud integration. Riegel said that rather than struggling with multiple OSes and platforms, businesses can use IBM's Mobile Development Lifecycle Solution, which harnesses the company's Worklight and Rational technologies, to write code once and then deploy content across a range of OSes, form factors and corporate app stores.

Riegel noted that the demand for custom apps is rising, stating that IBM allows companies to enjoy cost savings through a streamlined, comprehensive process that cuts down the development cycle.

In a related vein, IBM also offers app analytics that have been bolstered by its recent Tealeaf acquisition. Riegel said the company can do more than simply track how often an app is launched. Instead, it takes a big data-like approach.

"It gives you every degree of insight into how people are using the mobile app," he stated, noting that it can track whether UI option such as pinches, swipes or display rotations have been accessed. Data can also be culled from factors that include security logons, time spent in certain modules, the sequence in which modules were accessed and other usage patterns. Riegel mentioned that the information could be used to personalize retail offers or simply to understand what users like, which should lead to higher feedback ratings in app stores and thus to more widespread use.

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