MDM tools provision, configure, secure, and wipe the data from mobile devices. But which one should you choose? We lay out your options.
By Megan Santosus
August 15, 2013
For many SMBs, mobile devices are an irresistible way to extend the workday beyond the office as well as normal operating hours. Smartphones and tablets are no longer conveniences; they are now necessary and powerful tools for conducting business. And, with company data and applications regularly transmitted and stored beyond corporate networks and data centers, the market for mobile device management (MDM) tools—and the subsequent opportunity such a market offers channel partners—is set to heat up considerably.
MDM tools typically consist of software that handles overall device management, from provisioning and configuring a device through securing and remote wipe of data on the device—and everything in between that organizations need to safely and securely manage mobility. Given the popularity of mobile devices, just how big will the opportunity be for MDM? According to business consulting and market research firm Frost & Sullivan, revenues in the MDM market are set to expand from the more than $178 million logged in 2011 to more than $712 million in 2018.
“The channel remains an important mechanism for the sale of MDM products,” says Vikrant Gandhi, a principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan. For some leading MDM solution providers, he adds, the channel represents 100 percent of their sales; for other providers a significant percentage of sales is channel-based.
Yet the promise of the MDM market is currently tempered by the considerable confusion that exists for channel partners, due in no small measure to fast market growth and rapidly evolving technology. “This is a market in flux,” says Chris Silva, an industry analyst at research firm Altimeter Group, which focuses on all things mobile. “There are a number of players in the traditional MDM space—those focused on managing devices and device security,” he says. In addition, “there are adjacent markets, such as for mobile application management, or MAM, that focus on issuing corporate applications and managing the performance and security of those apps.”
MAM solutions are most suitable in environments where security issues are not centered on the device itself. “With MAM, instead of worrying only about the device, you worry about the app and the content in that app,” says Kevin Benedict, head analyst for social, mobile, analytics, and cloud at Cognizant Technology Solutions, a provider of IT consulting and outsourcing services. “You can buy a mobile security platform to put on your server, and it can wrap around and lock off your applications,” he explains. In this way, organizations can control access to all their applications and wipe a device if necessary.
Then there are mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs). “Apps that are designed through MEAP providers can have security built into the templates,” Benedict says. “If you’re using a MEAP to build your app, you can use the security tools that are included and build that into the app itself.” In effect, says Benedict, securing mobile devices is more about strategy than it is about technology. As a result, channel partners need to look first at what their customers’ requirements are—a process that makes the selection of an MDM tool less than a clear-cut one.
MARKET EFFECTS OF BYOD
The BYOD trend is having a significant impact on the market. “As more personal devices come into corporations, the approach of managing the entire device versus just those apps that handle or contain corporate data is seen as a heavy-handed approach by many,” Silva says. While many of the various mobile solutions fall into one of two categories—either device-centric or data/application-centric—Silva says that capabilities are beginning to converge, thanks to a slew of acquisitions and partnerships. (As an example, Silva cites Citrix’s recent acquisition of MDM provider Zenprise.)
As this happens, the traditional lines between tools are blurring; for channel partners, this can result in a more involved MDM tool selection process. And consider as well that there are dozens of vendors offering variations of MDM-type tools, from traditional security players to systems management veterans.
Another aspect many channel partners must often think about is whether they should opt for a specialized MDM tool in the first place. Given the dynamics of the mobility space, some providers of remote management software now offer add-ons to their RMM tools that include capabilities for MDM. Those channel partners that use such MDM-enhanced RMM tools have to assess the relative pros and cons of all the options available.