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Mobile and enterprise management issues: Mobile management, Part II

This article offers recommendations for IT managers planning mobile management solutions and looks at services that enterprise management platforms provide.

Mention "enterprise management" to mobility managers and you're apt to get a range of responses. Some IT managers will roll their eyes and talk about how they've had to implement their own asset management and device management solutions for mobile deployments.

Mobile and enterprise management issues: Podcast
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Others will tell you that they rely on BlackBerry Enterprise Server and that's about it. A third group will talk about how they can't get anywhere near Active Directory, let alone (take your pick) Unicenter, Tivoli, OpenView, Patrol, and so on.

Regardless of the sentiments, the fact remains that enterprise management platforms provide a number of services that are necessary for a successful mobile deployment. So far, mobile solutions have been beyond the purview of these platforms and, as a result, IT departments have had to make do with other technologies. As mobility grows to become an aspect of virtually all client-related computing and communications, IT departments will find themselves integrating between enterprise and mobile management platforms.

Later in this article, we will talk about the recommendations for IT managers interested in planning for that future integration challenge. But first, let's talk about a few of the services that enterprise management platforms provide.

Asset management
Any mobile device is considered to be an enterprise asset, and it is managed as such. Just like desktops, servers, routers, storage devices, printers and the like, mobile assets must be tracked, inventoried, and managed. This "asset management" allows the IT organization to know where the device is, what software is installed on it, how it connects, and how to replace it if it breaks. Asset management features do not generally address permissions and other user/directory-related functions.

Security management
Like asset management, managing security relies heavily on an IT organization's ability to inventory computing resources and to know which software, certificates and other resources are installed on a mobile device. Key components of this inventory are antivirus software version control, firewall status, and (when applicable) intrusion-detection capabilities.

Corporate Mobile Management Series
Part I: Introduction

Part II: Mobility and enterprise management

Part III: A crisis of architecture and process

Part IV: Mobile-specific management solutions

Part V: Carrier mobile device management approaches in the enterprise  

Part VI: Security, certificates and authentication

Part VII: Policy and process

Part VIII: Best practices for corporate mobile device management

As security policies go, a security management platform will inspect the software load on a mobile device and update the software and device configuration before allowing the device to connect to the corporate network. Most traditional enterprise management platforms offer this level of security management for laptops, but not for handhelds, PDAs or smartphones.

Network and connectivity management
As networks incorporate mobile and wireless components, enterprise management platforms have been able to keep pace with the fixed network components. This means that an IT organization can manage a Wi-Fi network in the same way that it handles Ethernet, the campus network and even the wide-area infrastructure and services.

Mobile connectivity is another story, and enterprise management platforms have been less focused on managing the connectivity for mobile devices and users. Part of the challenge from an enterprise perspective is how to manage connectivity for a device that the enterprise cannot "see." If the device is not connected to the enterprise network, it becomes problematic to troubleshoot the (nonexistent) connection -- the chicken and the egg, if you will.

Trouble tickets and remote management
Oddly, trouble tickets are an area where mobile integration is fairly well developed, though not in the way that you'd imagine. As IT departments use mobility in-house, they have seen the need to extend trouble ticket platforms, such as BMC/Remedy, to mobile devices. This has enabled IT managers to use mobile devices to manage trouble tickets, as well as to remotely re-configure servers, routers and other enterprise assets.

However, the ideal scenario for enterprise management platforms is to provide integration between mobile devices and trouble ticket platforms so that mobile workers can initiate a trouble ticket and have a help desk remotely assist in resolving an issue with a mobile device.

What to do?
The above are a few of the ways in which enterprise management platforms provide services that can be useful to anyone responsible for a mobile solution. Since many IT managers find themselves building these capabilities in-house, here are a few things that IT managers can do along the way.

  1. Ask for features. Talk to every vendor imaginable, and tell each and every one what you need. Tell the mobile people that you have, for example, OpenView in-house and that you'd like to integrate between the two. Describe precisely what you mean when you say this. It also helps to write this down and to make certain that the request makes it past sales to a product manager – the person at the vendor who's responsible for incorporating feature requests into product updates. And remember, it never hurts to ask.

  2. Develop parallel processes. Think about the last time you went through a merger or acquisition. Then think about how much time you spent integrating between the two organizations. As you develop a solution for mobility management, consider developing identical, parallel processes for mobility management wherever practical. This way, you will already be managing the mobile aspects of your business in precisely the same way that you manage the fixed assets with the larger enterprise management platform, and it will ease (but not eliminate) the pain of integrating between the two down the road.

  3. Plan on technology integration. Today, mobile is considered to be "different," but the day will come when an enterprise architect or the CIO will take a look at the mobile solutions and will ask why there is a separate infrastructure for everything from management to applications. When that happens, someone will say that mobility is just another characteristic of an enterprise solution and not the other way around. Be prepared for this day.

And that's the goal. We know what enterprise management does. We know that we need many of these services. And we also know that we need to build many of them with tools that are distinct from existing enterprise management platforms. We can justify the business case today, but we should also start preparing for the day when we can extend our enterprise management platforms to include mobile services.

Daniel Taylor
About the author: Daniel Taylor is managing director for the Mobile Enterprise Alliance, Inc. (MEA), and he is responsible for global alliance development, programs, marketing and member relations. He brings over fourteen years of high technology experience and is well known as a subject matter expert on many of the aspects of mobility, including wireless data networking, security, enterprise applications and communications services. Prior to the MEA, Dan held a number of product marketing and development positions in the communications industry.

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