Learn about the mobility market from three different directions, as channel pros demonstrate the options available for mobilizing your customers, including mobile device management and mobile security.…
March 29, 2012
Three channel pros address the mobility market from different directions, demonstrating the options available for mobilizing your customers.
By Ellen Muraskin
For SMB resellers, the mobility gravy train is just starting its ascent. But what we’re now calling “mobility” started with the specialized data collection devices used by warehouse workers and field forces. BlackBerry email is where it grew, and everywhere is where it’s gone, riding on the iPhones, Android devices, and tablets that working people have introduced into their lives as consumers.
The channel pros interviewed for this article all came to mobility from different directions: one with a background in supply chain mobile scanning and printing, one from traditional product resale, and the third from hosted PBX. But they all agree that today the money is not to be made in reselling mobile end devices; carriers and mass-market discounters do most of that. Neither is it in newly mobilized line-of-business apps. The SMB VAR’s role in the mobile ecosystem is more about everything that supports and surrounds mobility: wireless network infrastructure, mobile device management (MDM), and security. In addition, we’ve seen opportunity in upgrading on-premises wireless networks and optimizing 3G usage, as carriers cap their data plans.
Mobility is also increasingly about putting these ancillary services in the cloud. SMBs’ aversion to capital expense and IT hires, the lightweight storage capabilities of hand-helds, combined with their inherent wanderings, make a great case for SaaS. These “up the ante for educational guidance, business process transformation, and integration skills,” says Laurie McCabe, partner at SMB Group, a market research firm. They also shift the charging model from sales and service contracts to yearly or monthly subscriptions.
Mobile Device Management as a Service
Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based systems integrator, is a case in point. The company has a history supplying wireless LANs and specialized mobile devices from Motorola and Intermec to big supply chain companies such as Amazon and Con-way. While President Chris Gerhardt describes that business as still growing, he now sees his company moving into MDM—the protection of mobile devices and their data—as a hosted service.
For preexisting hospital clients, Denali now assembles fleets of the battery-powered mobile carts brought to patient bedsides. With its own help desk and data center, Denali develops a customized service-level agreement (SLA) around the management of these devices for a monthly fee.
“We get them from the manufacturer [Rubbermaid], put asset tags on them, and put in the computer that they’ve selected. We’ll provide the point services, the devices, make sure they have the right software, and fix and replace them when they break,” says Gerhardt. Through the RFID tags, Denali also knows where the carts are located on the floor, and if they need recharging, hospital personnel are automatically notified.
In another hospital application, doctors access medical records on smartphones. Since the hospital couldn’t control data security on a mixed collection of personally owned mobile phones, Denali came up with a zero-client solution in which the phones only tap the user interface of an electronic heath record application running on a server. A Citrix client on each phone provides the mobile equivalent of a virtual desktop.
No More “Shoot, Ready, Aim”
Typically, says Gerhardt, the sales team or CEO at a client company decides to deploy iPads, so IT can no longer say no. Gerhardt’s team helps clients replace the “shoot, ready, aim” accidental strategy of many mobile deployments with clear roadmaps and execution. “We start going down the list: ‘Have you thought about how you’re going to deploy them? How you’re going to manage them? What about security?’ They start thinking, ‘Omigod, I don’t have anyone on my team who knows anything about these devices.’ That’s where we come in.” Denali makes sure the infrastructure is robust enough to support mobility, and in specific industries, survive regulatory audit.
Denali has also been able to deploy mobility solutions into its traditional retail vertical. In one case, the company provided wireless access for applications designed to keep sales floor employees from leaving the customer’s side. Instead of “checking in the back,” employees check inventory, order from other branches, and even complete credit-card transactions from tablets.