A lot has been said and discussed about mobile computing. It has swept this generation of businesses in the most unexpected way possible. And the most interesting aspect is how quickly this transformation has happened – just within the last decade or less. While the advantages of these smart devices are pretty clear to most organisations, what could be an issue is coming to terms with the trends that emerge around it, namely BYOD, mobile cloud, Big Data and security.
Today, employees prefer using their personal devices for their office work, this could be because of various reasons such as comfort, convenience and speed. Experts say it is not something organisations can fight but accept it by learning to manage it.
According to Nicolai Solling, Director of Technology Services, Help AG many organisations are still in the process of large scale BYOD rollouts. “So in 2014, while we are sure to see many more organisations get on board, the general themes of security, MDM and enterprise mobile apps will remain the focal areas.”
Security is definitely one of the major concerns for organisations, how do businesses demarcate a clear line between work and personal affairs, when a single device is being used for both? And with computing-on-the-go becoming the norm, it also means a large amount of data is created. How can this be managed or regulated? Mobile cloud is an attractive solution but it too is in its early stages. Employers are expected to provide its workforce mobile technology that can perform without glitches, while on the go.
But what do these factors mean for the channel? To put it in a nutshell, Mahmoud Samy, Area Head, Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan at Arbor Networks says, “Products that address network visibility, threat mitigation and application security for mobile operators are likely to be in high demand for the channel.”
Also, this requires the channel stakeholders to come together to devise solutions that might have to be customised, taking into account different market verticals. “The channel also plays an important role in packaging mobility solutions that are tailored to organisations of different sizes. A large enterprise will most likely require a different mobility platform compared to a SME that has a strength of 20 employees, and the truth is that there are great options for all of these customers,” points out Asfar Zaidi, Principal Consultant, Huawei Enterprise Middle East.
Fundamentally, what the channel should remember is to offer technology and services that will simplify everyday activities for the enterprise, and for consumers to be able to roam on different networks. Nader Baghdadi, Middle East and North Africa Regional Director, Ruckus Wireless explains that the company is able to provide solutions that are easy for IT administrators to configure, deploy, and maintain. “And we also offer solutions that allow end users to do things like self-register their own devices on the network. These are the type of services and solutions that bring considerable opportunities to the channel,” he adds.
Mobile Device Management
Mobile Device Management (MDM) can be looked at as the umbrella that houses most solutions for managing mobile computing. According to the research firm, Gartner, it includes software that provides functions such as software distribution, policy management, inventory management, security management and service management for smartphones and media tablets. And the research firm has projected it to be $1.6-billion market by this year. However, the channel should try to provide an end-to-end solution for this space and not limit itself to just a few areas.
“No one-size-fits-all solution exists for mobile device management; channel should choose a vendor who provides good security features, better supports and covers most of the devices and operating systems. The channel can offer services and bundle solution over mobile device management,” says Christopher Green, Divisional Manager, Westcon Security.
According to Adam Nash, EMEA Channel Manager – Southern Europe, Middle East & Africa, Webroot, this gives the channel partners the scope to accommodate both choose your own device (CYOD) and BYOD and also how security, application and data management are handled on devices connecting to corporate resources. “This is a valuable service that can be provided to a business where this kind of expertise is not available in-house,” explains Nash.
There are definite profits to be made in this area according to industry experts. And Gartner further cements the fact in its report where it expects, 65 percent of enterprises to adopt a mobile device management (MDM) solution for their corporate liable users by 2017. Network traffic and corporate data—what was once the primary domain of enterprise PCs is now being shifted to mobile devices.
“Profit margins will be higher depending on the quality of service offered. However, the biggest drawback will be the technical expertise of the channel in supporting this new trend of mobile device management,” says Santosh Varghese, General Manager, Digital Products and Services, Toshiba Gulf.
But according to Sami from Arbor Networks it is difficult to comment on margins as mobile network security is a relatively new area of spending. “However, the need for improved visibility and security is enormous, and mobile network spending in recent years has predominantly focused on network capacity, not security, so we may see a real growth opportunity to provide these new capabilities,” he adds.
Adding that one other potential drawback could be that MDM vendors have to continually update their products with new mobile operating system releases, Green from Westcon Security points out, “MDM cannot always prevent data leakage, which is one of the main concerns for companies.”
The road ahead
The future of mobile computing could mean even more of a device explosion than what exists today – smaller, smarter and wearable devices that can perform as well as a PC. This means the channel enterprise needs to be vigilant and be in line with what is expected out of them. To provide comprehensive solutions, the end user’s challenges must be understood thoroughly. And to be a step ahead, the problems should be even anticipated in order to create suitable solutions.
Zaidi from Huawei Enterprise explains that while the wider movement towards BYOD policies and greater workplace mobility present clear benefits to the business world, it is also important to realise the new challenges present in terms of service provisioning, security and ongoing management of devices. “Enterprises are finding themselves at the cross-roads of merging business and technology needs while bringing network security, efficiency and a great user-experience to mobile computing.”
He also urges the channel to recognise future BYOD policies for the enterprise and embrace the innovations taking place in the consumer device space. These advancements, he says, both on the hardware and software front, are empowering users with a host of fresh applications and communication services. “Future mobile computing solutions will thus need to be transparent, flexible, and able to be quickly implemented so that they can meet the evolving demands of organisations across these platforms and devices.”
Agreeing with Zaidi, Green adds, “Mobile device access will continue to allow vendors to develop technology providing anytime, anywhere access with security. We believe we will see more adoption of cloud MDM solutions compared to on premise solutions. There will also be the integration of cloud with enterprise for access control and continuous monitoring.”
While Samy believes if a major mobile network suffers significant DDoS or any other type of attack in this year, “that may just be the event that spurs the sector to finally address the weaknesses around mobile network visibility and security.”