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While a very large number of companies still have legacy on-premises mobile device management systems in place, many of them are now moving to a more complete capability, motivated primarily by the move of unified endpoint management functions to the cloud.
In addition to a unified approach, UEM's single console for all device types addresses the need to streamline IT resources. Companies no longer need "mobile specialists" who manage the unique properties of smartphones and tablets running Google Android, Apple iOS or other operating systems.
Further, traditional PC management vendors such as Microsoft have become aggressive in pricing UEM within their management suites, as have companies like Citrix and VMware that now include base-level UEM in their more complete workspace offerings.
Companies that have not yet migrated to a UEM approach should do so in the next six to 12 months. Security has become a much greater issue on mobile smart devices due to their increased complexity, greater connectivity to corporate apps and large store of onboard data. Legacy mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM) systems put companies at greater security risk, which can be mitigated far better with a cloud-based, more complete UEM capability.
Evolution of mobile management systems
In the early 2000s, most organizations thought of mobile devices as simply a nuisance -- something they had to support because many of their executives were demanding it. In fact, the earliest BlackBerry devices were set up without IT knowledge and simply used redirection from an end user's PC to forward email. By today's standards, that's an appalling breach of security, but it often went under the radar.
Fast forward a couple years, and the huge uptick in BlackBerry devices created the need for enterprises to deploy one of the earliest MDM systems -- BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). Well ahead of its time, BES provided management for hundreds of policy settings to secure BlackBerry devices.
A real problem arose when BlackBerry lost its dominance. With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and its ensuing burst of popularity, companies faced a new dilemma -- how to manage devices of more than one flavor. That was even more of an issue when Android-powered devices began to gain popularity, creating an even more complex management need.
As a result, many new companies emerged that offered a cross-platform MDM capability. Most of the early vendors no longer exist or were acquired by other companies. They include Good Technology, acquired by BlackBerry; Sybase, which acquired XcelleNet and then itself was bought by SAP; Zenprise, acquired by Citrix; Trust Digital, acquired by McAfee; Nukona, acquired by Symantec; and AirWatch, acquired by VMware. MobileIron Inc. remains independent.
MDM, back then, was primarily about managing the mobile devices in use, particularly for connections to corporate email. The capabilities were comparatively primitive, as were the devices, and enabled some asset management by providing a few policy settings and the ability to "kill" the device if lost or stolen.
As the devices matured into more intelligent portable computers, vendors added many features to the management suites, such as mobile application management, secured email clients and browsers, VPNs, encryption services and Microsoft Office-compatible client apps. These more complex EMM features allowed companies to create a more manageable and secure environment, but they still required a unique installation and IT expertise. And they could only manage smartphones, not the other devices --such as PCs and tablets -- necessary to make an organization compute-intensive.
Companies no longer want to stand up a unique environment simply to manage the smartphones that are now commonplace and perhaps even outnumber a company's more traditional PCs. Instead of one management platform for mobile and one for everything else, companies expect -- and demand -- that device management be universal.
It's a UEM world
Over the past year or two, about 50% to 65% of older on-premises MDM systems have migrated to a cloud-based service model. And in new installations, as many as 85% to 90% will be deployed in the cloud versus on premises. Companies benefit because they no longer have to manage a unique server infrastructure nor keep up with ever-changing software capabilities -- driven by fast-paced changes in smartphone OS and devices -- to remain current and secure.
Cloud services provide much more flexibility for companies that wish to add users, increase mobility management system capabilities or simply have more choice when determining which users get which services -- a pay-as-you-go approach that can be quite attractive. In addition, by moving to a service model in the cloud, companies can switch mobile devices to an Opex- rather than Capex-intensive model.
Many of the back-office application players – for example, SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft and IBM -- offer a management capability as part of their overall packages. And many of the key infrastructure players that offered PC and server management now include UEM capabilities -- Microsoft Intune, for instance -- although not always as complete a package as some of the more specialized vendors. The remaining management suite vendors -- for example, MobileIron, BlackBerry, Citrix and VMware -- have morphed their capabilities to manage traditional PCs as well as mobile devices.