Inside Zenprise's Newest BYOD Tools

MobileManager 8, and Zensuite attempt to boost usability along with security.
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As mobility and BYOD have become enterprise fixtures, IT's challenge has evolved from simply provisioning and managing devices to securing the data those devices carry. It's important to remember, however, that smartphones and tablets are popular because of the user experiences they offer and the business opportunities they facilitate; if security precautions and administrative controls infringe on these qualities, the benefits are negated.

Zenprise intends to help users preserve this balance with two new products announced Tuesday: MobileManager 8.0 (MM8), the newest iteration of the company's MDM platform, and Zensuite, a collection of productivity tools built on the MM8 foundation.

The new offerings follow an industry trend of defining mobile devices in terms of opportunities rather than risks. IBM underscored this angle, for instance, when it announced new mobility products earlier week. Zenprise, though, has been espousing this view for some time. September's release of MobileManager 7.0, for example, included standard fare such as policy controls and encryption -- but also productivity boosters, such as native SharePoint integration and annotation support.

Zensuite preserves these existing features while adding several new capabilities designed to keep mobile devices both secure and appealing. Chief among these is a maturation of the company's app tunneling implementation, which creates a secure, VPN-like pathway between the corporate intranet and the device.

[ Read BYOD Security Tops Doctors' Mobile Device Worries. ]

Though not ubiquitous, tunnels are supported by other mobile enterprise management (MEM) providers, such as MobileIron, which incorporated the function into its product earlier this month. Even so, Zenprise hopes to differentiate its takes on the technology by associating it with specific uses and benefits.

"Some companies provide IT with a toolbox and say, 'You put together a solution,'" Zenprise CMO Ahmed Datoo said in an interview. "The productivity suite is not a series of technologies. It's driven by use cases."

Those use cases include the need to collaborate through browser-based tools and apps. Zensuite offers a secure browser that filters inappropriate or malicious content, and over which IT has many controls, including the ability to selectively wipe caches of intranet data; push approved bookmarks; and set content-specific, role-based policies. More novel, though, is the browser's compression capabilities; somewhat like Windows Phone 8's Data Sense, the Zenprise browser is designed to reduce data transfer costs by translating webpages into smaller packages. Datoo said some pages' data footprints can be reduced by as much as 95%.

Amit Pandey, the company's CEO and president, said in an interview that the browser is not only more data conscious but, because less information is being pushed around, it's also speedier. This benefit should extend to all apps within the Zenprise wrapper, he said. "We can make apps look faster than they are," he said. "If you can't make the apps fast, no one's going to use them."

Pandey emphasized that the browser preserves the look and feel of the OS's native UI without skimping on security. He said that deploying a full VPN could allow every app to tap the intranet "by making [the tunnel] specific to the app itself." Zensuite "reduces the chances that rogue apps have access," he said.

Productivity is not impeded by the individual pathways, noted Datoo -- all apps within the Zensuite container can interact with one another to the extent that they comply with IT policy, eliminating the need for cumbersome extra steps, such as unique authentication for every app. The tunnels provide additional cost-minimizing controls, noted Datoo. An administrator can allow a user to transfer data across a cellular network in certain situations; for example, while limiting transfers to Wi-Fi in others.

The new product also gives emails and attached documents a boost. Like the browser, the Zensuite email interface maintains the UI of the native client -- but it applies encryption that can make popular-but-risky collaboration tools more secure. Services such as Dropbox are "petrifying to IT," but Zensuite reduces these concerns, said Pandey, because files are encrypted within the suite and read within a secure container. As a result, if they're saved to Dropbox and then accessed by an unauthorized device, the content will "show up garbled."

Despite the new features, Zenprise still faces stiff competition from other MEM vendors, particularly now that huge companies such as IBM and Dell are trying harder to muscle in on the BYOD action.

Chris Hazelton, a research director at 451 Research, likes Zenprise's odds. Not all players within the MEM space are going to survive, said Hazelton in an interview. "Zenprise will be one of the few because they've rolled with the punches the MDM market has taken," he said. While many vendors play catch-up, Zenprise often has been at the vanguard, said Hazelton, citing the company's shift from device management to app management earlier than many of its competitors. Another example is the benefits of Zenprise's SDK, which allows developers to, among other things, apply app-wrapping while complying with user agreements and policies.

Zensuite offers immediate support for iOS and Android. Windows Phone 8 is currently supported by Zenprise's management tools and will be integrated into the productivity suite in the first quarter of 2013.

Time to patch your security policy to address people bringing their own mobile devices to work. Also in the new Holes In BYOD issue of Dark Reading: Metasploit creator HD Moore has five practical security tips for business travelers. (Free registration required.)