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Fiberlink connects IBM's mobile pieces

IBM will integrate Fiberlink’s EMM with its Worklight app dev platform this quarter and has added other mobile tools to aid IT mobile strategies.

LAS VEGAS – IBM’s Fiberlink acquisition is starting to pay off for customers.

Later this quarter, the company will integrate Fiberlink’s MaaS360 enterprise mobility management (EMM) service with its own Worklight application development platform. The move will allow IT departments to deploy custom apps built on Worklight to end users’ mobile devices via the MaaS360 Secure Workspace, a container that manages and secures apps and data.

In addition, IBM will add some of its existing data protection and application security technologies to MaaS360.

It’s impressive how quickly IBM has integrated Fiberlink’s technology – the acquisition only closed in December – and built out a comprehensive mobile offering said attendees here at this week’s IBM Impact conference.

“IBM has such a broad mobile portfolio, and what they’re capable of doing is integrating everything together to make a really nice solution for their customers,” said Eric Klein, a mobile analyst with VDC Research Group, Inc. in Natick, Massachusetts.

IBM's got to move fast. They have to demonstrate leadership here.
Eric Kleinanalyst, VDC Research Group Inc.

IBM also moved quickly to deploy MaaS360 internally. The company made the service available to employees five days after the acquisition closed, and 70,000-plus employees adopted it within one month, said Jim Szafranski, a Fiberlink senior vice president.

That rollout will be a good selling point among large IBM customers in the market for an EMM product, Klein said.

“That really demonstrates that Fiberlink did hold up to its claims of scalability and rapid deployment,” he said.

Fiberlink has 5,000 customers, including 1,000 that use the Secure Workspace product, Szafranski said. There was no overlap between those organizations and customers of IBM’s previous EMM products, he added.

There are Fiberlink customers that use other IBM products and services, however. A.O. Smith Corp., a water heater and boiler manufacturer in Milwaukee, works with IBM to manage its SAP implementation and uses MaaS360 for EMM.

"We already have a strong relationship with IBM, and this will only enhance it,” said David James, A.O. Smith’s infrastructure and security manager.

Another benefit of the acquisition is the ability to provide secure mobile access to IBM’s content and collaboration applications, such as Connections and Sametime, through MaaS360, Szafranski said.

IBM’s new BlueMix mobile backend as a service and the Cloudant database as a service it acquired in March will also help customers as they make mobile a core part of their businesses, said Jack Gold, a mobile analyst with J. Gold Associates.

“If you don’t have a mobile play, you don’t have a play,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘I don’t support the Web.’”

Although few vendors can match the breadth of IBM’s mobile products, the challenge is how they all work together to benefit businesses – and quickly, before competitors such as SAP and VMware catch up.

“IBM’s got to move fast,” Klein said. “They have to demonstrate leadership here.”

The company will also need to form successful partnerships in certain strategic areas, such as application development. IBM Ready Apps – customizable starter apps that do much of the heavy development lifting – could eventually be made available through a portal alongside partners’ apps, for example.

“IBM can’t be their own ecosystem,” Gold said. “You can’t cover all the bases. It’s impossible.”

Next Steps

EMM vendor consolidation timeline

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