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IBM Expands MobileFirst Consulting Services

IBM adds infrastructure-consulting, app-platform-management, and device-procurement services to its mobility services portfolio.

The name IBM may put you in mind of mainframes and middleware rather than mobile devices, but the IT giant is trying to change perceptions with three new services announced Monday aimed at bolstering the vendor's two-year-old MobileFirst strategy.

IBM's Global Technology Services (GTS) unit has helped "hundreds" of customers with various aspects of mobile deployments in recent years, according to Rich Esposito, IBM's general manager for mobile services. Large mobile consulting customers have included Sprint, Ford, ING Direct Canada, and Air Canada, according to IBM. The offerings detailed on Monday are what Esposito described as "hardened and productized" mobile-infrastructure-consulting, mobile-application-management, and mobile-device-procurement-and-management services. They extend the MobileFirst portfolio to a total of eight focused services.

[Want more on IBM's latest MobileFirst acquisition? Read IBM To Buy Fiberlink For Mobile Management.]

Mobile infrastructure consulting services are designed to help customers think through the strategy and infrastructure required to become a mobile enterprise. Where organizations often think in terms of piece parts -- networks, mobile-device-management software, security, devices, and so on -- Esposito said IBM approaches the problem in a more holistic way.

"We help them assess their readiness on each front and then develop a 12- to 24-month roadmap," Esposito said.

IBM can, of course, help clients implement infrastructure components including its own (recently acquired) IBM Fiberlink mobile-device-management (MDM) software, Worklight mobile app-development platform, and IBM Security AppScan offerings. IBM GTS also works with partner software from SAP, Oracle, and Citrix as well as existing customer investments in third-party software, Esposito said.

Application platform management services help customers think through app-development choices. Here GTS can build out, configure, and manage the Worklight platform, but Esposito says the unit also helps customers determine which apps to take mobile and in what order.

When selecting devices, some organizations go directly to Samsung, Motorola, or Apple to procure. But Esposito said IBM's new device procurement and deployment service can save companies as much as 40% through IBM's bulk purchasing power. IBM handles purchasing as well as installation of customized operating systems and applications, provisioning, and shipment directly to employees. It also handles device replacement, refreshes, and recycling.

Among GTS' five other mobile services, IBM has recently extended its network consulting into location-based services specifically for retailers. IBM develops WiFi-based opt-in/opt-out services that offer retail customers push notifications of special offers based on purchase histories and locations within a store. Even if customers opt out, it's possible for retailers to anonymously detect the presence of smartphones (and, thus, traffic) in specific areas of their stores, Esposito said. Detection provides insight that can be used in planning sales and cashier staffing.

The four other MobileFirst services include managed mobility services focused on MDM, collaboration services focused on social and collaboration platforms, mobile virtualization services centered on Citrix mobile deployments, and device security services focused on testing and hardening mobile device security.

IBM isn't the only vendor pushing into the mobile arena. VMware is trying to extend beyond virtualizaiton with a push into desktop and mobile device management. The company recently spent a whopping $1.54 billion to acquire MDM software vendor AirWatch.

Far from fading away in the face of consumer-class competition from Google, Skype, LinkedIn, and others, unified communications is enjoying new relevance in enterprises -- there's even an SDN connector for UC. To reflect these updates, InformationWeek revamped its UC survey for 2014. Take part in the InformationWeek 2014 Unified Communications Survey and be eligible to win a great prize. Survey ends April 18.

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