The mobile revolution is well underway and shows no signs of waning. At the hardware level, smartphone penetration has moved into hyperdrive: according to the Boston Consulting Group, it took a decade to reach the first billion in global smartphone penetration; however, falling prices have meant the next billion was achieved in the last three years. At the organizational level, driven by need to encourage greater productivity and by employee demand for more workplace flexibility, the majority of companies have introduced mobile devices and policies that, increasingly, are defined as BYOD. As Techaisle Research shows in the figure below, use of mobile solutions is pervasive across the midmarket and near ubiquitous in organizations with 100 - 1,000 employees.
Perhaps more intriguing are plans for the future. If the deployment of mobile solutions is well entrenched across this midmarket group, there are also signs of the steady extension of mobility into new application areas. As the chart below featuring Techaisle research for 2015 shows, US SMBs across each size category are expecting to double their deployment of mobile applications this year.
For the vendor community, this acceleration of interest in mobile solutions represents significant opportunity; however, it also introduces a requirement for continuous innovation if providers are to remain relevant in a market that is experiencing rapid transformation. Taking up this challenge, VMware announced four enhancements to its business mobility portfolio this month in the areas of strategy, partnering, new product capabilities and platform heterogeneity designed to address outstanding issues that may be hampering mobile adoption.
VMware defines its first enhancement as “vision” to help businesses outline mobility strategy. As background, VMware Canada executive director for systems engineering Shawn Rosemarin described evolution from a traditional model of IT in which client-server technology supported individual productivity to “business mobility,” today’s mobile-cloud model, characterized by the consumption of IT infrastructure by multiple users – “an incredibly complex association between not just business assets, but personal assets and mobile assets” – and confusion produced by devices that run the gamut from PCs and tablets to smartphones, watches and cars. In VMware’s new schema, there is progression from the enhancement of individual productivity via the smartphone, to team collaboration, and ultimately to the 'holy grail' – business mobility that can accommodate the multiplicity of users/devices described above. Currently VMware survey findings for 1,000 customers have convinced the company that only 17 percent have reached this most advanced stage, where mobile devices are empowered to access key applications and information.
According to Rosemarin, a business mobility strategy is required by virtually all businesses, irrespective of size or vertical: “today when we look at organizations where users are not at their desks within a corporate office 100 percent of the time [we believe these organizations] have a vested interest in getting on the business mobility trend.” But more important in his view, are the range of applications that now need mobile enablement – a perspective that harkens back to Techaisle findings on the expansion of mobile deployment. “Email is easy, and most organizations have email functioning to a smartphone without issue” Rosemarin explained, “but the challenge is that there are a litany of corporate applications that we need to interface with every day, some of which are SaaS, some of which are sitting within a firewall of the organization. Getting those key apps to the mobile workspace has been a major challenge in terms of security and functionality, and this has precluded businesses from taking advantage of the benefits of mobility.” VMware’s vision for true business mobility is one that features simplicity of experience that users have found in their consumer devices which is surrounded by enterprise-grade security.
To deliver this vision, is relying on the development of new iOS vertical solutions and increased investment in iOS application configuration, including relationships with 15 new partners in its Application Configuration for Enterprise program, to produce a consumer grade experience, and the integration of NSX (VMware’s software defined networking platform) and AirWatch MDM capabilities to provide end-to-end security from data centre to device. New to this security platform is the VMware Identity Manager solution from the End User Computing Group that will simplify access to corporate apps through one-touch single sign on via fingerprint scan or passcode that is tied to enterprise (rather than personal or consumer device) security policy. So while the experience is simple, security is dictated by the enterprise.
Other features include a ‘dynamic per-App VPN’ that is authenticated by AirWatch smart authentication, which automates – simplifies – a lot of the VPN access process, as well as directory (LDAP or Active Directory) integration and federation with MDM to ensure the device inherits access privileges and security policies associated with an individual user, meaning that a separate directory is no longer necessary. For the organization and users, the Identity Manager offers an on-ramp to an easy-to-use, brandable self-service app store portal.
Along with Box, Cisco, Salesforce, workday and Xamarin, VMware and AirWatch are founding members of the ACE (App Configuration for Enterprise) program aimed at making it easier for businesses to deploy mobile applications. Specifically, the consortium is working to ensure that when an application is downloaded from an app store, it is automatically configured and provisioned for a particular device, the operating system as well as any other MDM parameters. This simplifies the development process for ACE standard developers who only have to release one package per application (as opposed to multiple variants for different devices, OS, etc.), while offering a “self-sensing, guided install” on the device to ease installation for the user. For EMM providers, the standardized ACE approach offers greater ROI than SDKs for app wrapping as it leverages existing MDM capabilities to support a wider variety of apps. Summing up, Rosemarin explained, “this really simplifies: I build it once, I deploy it many, and I have the knowledge and intelligence within the ACE layer to ensure that the right application installs at the right time.” The ultimate goal, of course, is to keep pace with the mobile app explosion, supporting enterprise needs by easing mobile application development and accelerating mobile app adoption through a standardized, device/OS agnostic layer that can address BYOD requirements.