AirWatch vs. XenMobile EMM: Which is right for you?

When evaluating AirWatch and XenMobile EMM products, consider their MDM, MAM and mobile email capabilities. And don’t overlook their IT admin consoles.

AirWatch by VMware and Citrix XenMobile are two of the leading EMM products on the market. They offer similar functionality but also have important differences that IT should consider during the evaluation process.

Any solid enterprise mobility management (EMM) product should include fundamental mobile device management (MDM) capabilities, including: OS configuration management, app provisioning, remote wipe -- and possibly remote control -- and the ability to take inventory of an organization's mobile devices.

It should also offer top-tier mobile application management (MAM) technology, including an enterprise app store. From this perspective, when comparing AirWatch versus XenMobile, both meet the requirements. IT experts I talked to, who have evaluated these EMM products, told me AirWatch's MAM was a bit lacking compared to XenMobile, particularly in the area of integration with MDM, however.

AirWatch vs. XenMobile: A tough choice

The major similarities between AirWatch and XenMobile start with the vendors themselves. VMware and Citrix both have strong virtualization roots and bolstered their EMM offerings via acquisitions. Citrix purchased Zenprise in 2012, and VMware acquired AirWatch in 2014.

For the most part, if you compare AirWatch versus XenMobile solely on their capabilities, you may find yourself at a bit of a loss when it comes to making the right choice. They both offer single sign-on capability, a full suite of productivity apps and mobile content management -- although AirWatch requires integration with additional VMware products to unlock some of those features.

The major similarities between AirWatch and XenMobile start with the vendors themselves.

It's also crucial to evaluate the products' mobile email capabilities. ("I want my email to work on my mobile phone" is a cry I have heard 1,000 times dating back to the early MDM days.)  Email is a baseline capability, but it is something that EMM products need to do well.

AirWatch provides the its own client, plus the ability to use a mobile device's native email app. XenMobile EMM uses its WorxMail app to provide a containerized environment in which corporate data can safely interact with other Worx apps, such as those for note taking and file sharing. Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Mobility Management Suites noted that some users have had problems with AirWatch's email. But IT administrators I spoke with pointed out that every EMM product has some issues with its email, mostly having to do with syncing with desktop applications.

An often under-looked feature of EMM products is the administration console. The IT administrator may need to add a large number of users quickly or enforce new policies on the fly, so the usability of the console through which they perform these actions can be paramount. AirWatch's console provides an easy-to-use interface with access to all of the product's capabilities. XenMobile EMM offers a dashboard for orchestrating activities, viewing real-time performance statistics and managing and configuring devices and apps.

The battle for EMM market supremacy these days comes down to AirWatch by VMware, Citrix, IBM, MobileIron and Blackberry. When comparing AirWatch versus XenMobile, remember they are both ever-improving products with thousands of customers. Obviously cost is a large concern, but what it may come down to in your company is how each product fits in with other end-user computing products you've already implemented. If you currently use VMware or Citrix in some capacity, that may drive your decision.

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