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VMware AirWatch is an enterprise mobility software provider based in Atlanta. AirWatch, a division of virtualization vendor VMware, provides technologies that help IT administrators deploy, secure and manage mobile devices, applications and data, as well as Windows 10 and Apple Mac computers. These products work thanks to a combination of an app installed directly on the endpoint device -- called the AirWatch Agent -- and back-end software that allows IT to set and enforce policies.
VMware AirWatch's flagship product is its enterprise mobility management (EMM) software, which aims to protect corporate applications and data accessed from any device on any network. It includes the following features:
- Mobile device management (MDM) for configuring, securing and enforcing policies on smartphones, tablets and Windows 10 PCs;
- Mobile application management (MAM) for deploying, securing and enforcing policies on smartphone and tablet apps;
- Secure productivity apps for email (VMware Boxer) and web browsing (AirWatch Browser);
- Identity management for user-based control and security;
- AirWatch Content Locker, an enterprise file sync-and-sharing (EFSS) service; and
- Telecom expense management.
AirWatch's EMM suite is available for on-premises deployment or as a cloud service. It comes in four editions; the lowest tier offers MDM and MAM, and the highest tier includes all features.
The product supports Apple iOS, Google Android and Chrome OS, BlackBerry QNX and Samsung Tizen. It supports MDM on Apple macOS and Windows 10, as well.
A managed cloud-based MDM service, AirWatch Express, is also available. In addition, AirWatch's EMM product is part of a larger suite, VMware Workspace One, which aims to provide end users a centrally managed portal to access all of their physical and virtual desktops, physical and virtual applications, mobile apps and data.
This promotional video from AirWatch provides an overview of the software's management console:
How AirWatch works
The core VMware AirWatch MDM functionality requires a mobile app to be installed on each device IT wishes to manage. This app, AirWatch Agent, allows the device and the AirWatch MDM server to communicate with each other. Once the AirWatch MDM app is installed and the user is authenticated -- a process known as device enrollment -- the agent helps IT administrators deploy, configure, secure, monitor, manage and support smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices across multiple operating systems.
AirWatch's MAM functionality does not require an agent. Instead, the management console can communicate directly with code built into each managed app installed on the device. This approach allows administrators to take a more granular approach to how they manage and secure corporate mobile apps and data.
AirWatch's MAM capabilities also include an enterprise app store through which administrators can enable self-service access to corporate as well as public apps. The goal is to increase mobile productivity by allowing users to select the most engaging enterprise apps.
Another MAM feature, the AirWatch Container app, lets IT segregate corporate and personal assets on users' iOS and Android devices.
VMware AirWatch can provide reports on user activity and usage patterns, and admins can use its remote-control capabilities to support and troubleshoot mobile devices as needed.
AirWatch grew out of Wandering WiFi, a wireless security vendor founded by John Marshall in 2003. AirWatch was originally the name of Wandering WiFi's MDM product.
Over time, AirWatch grew into a leader in MDM and then EMM. In 2014, VMware acquired AirWatch for $1.54 billion -- the largest EMM acquisition in history.
Marshall and co-founder Alan Dabbiere served as AirWatch CEO and chairman, respectively, from its 2006 inception until 2016. At that time, VMware fully integrated the company.
Marshall remained with VMware AirWatch as an advisory board member. Dabbiere went on to acquire Wandering WiFi, which changed its name to Aware Software and shifted focus to internet-of-things monitoring.