IBM, Siri, And How MDM Can Save BYOD

Did IBM really need to shut down Siri on its company-issued iPhones? <em>BYTE</em> interviews Zenprise about mobile device management tools and the future of BYOD.

Boonsri Dickinson, Associate Editor of BYTE

May 30, 2012

6 Min Read

Last week IBM banned Apple's personal assistant Siri on its company-issued iPhones, among other products due to security concerns, sparking a larger discussion of the bring-your-own-device movement. BYTE interviewed Ahmed Datoo, chief marketing officer of Zenprise, about BYOD and his company's smartphone management tools. Datoo believes effective BYOD programs are less about managing devices than about managing the data and applications on the devices.

BYTE: Did IBM make a smart move by banning SIRI and related apps from its networks due to privacy and security issues?

Ahmed Datoo: I don't understand the logic for IBM banning Siri from employee-owned devices. The argument given was that sensitive emails dictated via Siri would be stored on Apple servers, and that Apple would then have access to the sensitive information. By banning Siri, IBM's CIO is creating a sure fire way of ensuring their BYOD policy will fail. Good luck telling someone who's spent hundreds dollars of their own money on a new iPhone 4S that Siri will be disabled.

Most companies looking for MDM solutions are looking to do more than just secure devices--they want to use mobile to help optimize their business. And how do you do that? By enabling employees to use their mobile devices, whether smartphones or tablets, to their full advantage. With the right MDM solution, IT can ensure they have the security and safeguards in place without banning various features and applications. It seems that, rather than seeing the future of mobile and seizing its true potential, IBM is looking at mobile as more of a hindrance than an opportunity.

BYTE: Who is Zenprise competing with?

AD: There are a number of companies in this space including Symantec, McAfee, SAP, RIM, and IBM.

BYTE: What are the biggest IT issues with BYOD?

AD: The number-one concern for IT is security. Not just securing the devices, but also making sure that the corporate network, the applications, and the data are managed and secure. Ease of use, for both the IT admin and the end users, is another concern. IT wants a solution they can easily manage--basically be able to "set it and forget it." They also want the experience to be transparent for their end users--the MDM solution should be one that does not impact the end-user's experience. Performance is key. Ideally, once the MDM solution is installed, the end user shouldn't even know it is there.

BYTE: How are IT people using Zenprise compared to when it was founded in 2003? Obviously, we weren't all carrying smartphones into the office then.

AD: What we offer today is entirely different than what we offered in 2003. We entered the MDM business in 2006. The big difference in 2006 was that there was no iPhone, no Android devices, no concept of tablets that were actually usable. BlackBerry was the only game in town, and companies bought and controlled those devices for their employees. Now it's the wild West. People buy all types of devices with their own money (including the Kindle Fire), and want to be free to use them for work.

BYTE: How do you plan on selling your MDM solution? Who are your major clients and how are they using it?

AD: We sell direct and through partners via the Zenprise Partner Network. We have also partnered with Sprint, Dell, F5 Networks, and Palo Alto Networks.

BYTE: What worries you about the MDM space? What are people not talking about?

AD: It is a highly competitive and fast-moving space. The market is evolving quickly and customers now have a multitude of choices. BYOD is still huge, and it is here to stay.

BYTE: What is the trend in BYOD?

AD: Two years ago, the BYOD trend was focused on managing and securing devices. Today, it's less about managing the device and more about managing the data and applications on the devices. As well as supporting multiple platforms--iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, and Symbian.

I attended the Gartner Symposium and IT Expo last fall and spoke to a number of CIOs from large Fortune 100 companies who were just beginning to think about BYOD. They knew it was out there, but they weren't ready to deal with it and security was the biggest concern. However, they realized that it was time to start putting a mobile strategy, plan, and solution in place. And for those companies who already have a mobile strategy, they are now looking at the next stage--how can we use mobile to optimize our business and drive top-line growth while keeping security top of mind?

Photo By: Christian Yves Photography

BYTE: Is there any real difference between MDM solutions for managing iOS devices? You're all using the same APIs Apple provides, right?

AD: We do use the same APIs Apple provides all of the MDM vendors. Our focus, though, is on solving real-world business problems. For us, it's about enabling the business, not just managing the device. The introduction of mobile data leakage prevention (DLP) for example, leverages Apple-provided APIs to provide secure document delivery to devices. As mentioned, it's being used to solve real-world business problems.

BYTE: How big a problem for IT and for you is the fragmentation of the Android platform?

AD: MobileManager is designed to work with any version of Android, so fragmentation is not an issue for us.

BYTE: Are iOS configuration profiles an attempt to marginalize MDM products?

AD: No, we actually work closely with Apple and they are big supporters of MDM solutions.

BYTE: What do you have in the product cycle?

AD: We're working on some exciting new offerings that we aren't ready to talk about just yet--but I can say that we are focused on helping businesses optimize mobile to make their businesses more competitive while driving top-line growth. One of our recent product announcements was around our mobile DLP offering.

We're seeing customers use this product in some very cool and interesting cases. For example, using this product, restaurants can deliver recipes to employee iPads without fear of them getting printed or emailed to competitors. Boards of directors can view sensitive company financial information for a specified time period before the documents are automatically removed from the device. Pharmaceutical sales reps can have constant access to the latest product information and marketing tools.

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About the Author(s)

Boonsri Dickinson

Associate Editor of BYTE

Boonsri Dickinson is the Associate Editor of BYTE

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