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Space to Watch: Mobile Device Management

At TechEd 2011, Microsoft announced that System Center would begin supporting mobile device management, including management of Apple iOS and Google Android devices. I couldn't be happier with that news, and it's an area where IT decision makers should be paying close attention.

Mobile devices represent one of the biggest changes to hit the corporate IT landscape since the personal computer. Even laptops weren't as big of a deal, because they were really transportable more than truly mobile, and because laptops could be managed using pretty much exactly the same techniques as desktops. Mobile devices, on the other hand, are always-on, always in users' hands, and are being used for a wider and wider variety of business tasks.

Mobile devices are harder to manage because, in many cases, they aren't well-built for management yet. iOS and Android, in particular, have pretty minimal enterprise management capabilities; Windows Phone 7 benefits from a decade-long effort in mobile operating systems and Microsoft's experience in the endpoint management space.

s you might, you will not keep mobile devices out, nor will you keep them disconnected from your network and its services. Not for long. The business will demand they be made a part of the landscape. Unfortunately, few major vendors -- until Microsoft's System Center announcement -- have really tackled this space. I'm proud of Microsoft for recognizing that they're not going to own the mobile device space the way they do the desktop space, and for making a strong effort to cement control of the back-end and provide us with the management we need for mobile devices.

But keep an eye on this space. Other smaller vendors (Sophos, Tangoe, Zenprise, Averna, and tons more) are making an effort to lead this space. You don't need to rush out and buy anything right away, unless your business is really experiencing the pain of managing these devices already, but you do need to keep an eye on this space. Future IT decisions -- even those which seem initially unrelated to mobile devices -- need to be made with mobile devices in mind. For example, perhaps you're considering a single sign-on identity management solution -- make sure it supports mobile devices as a logon endpoint.

After years and years of false starts, smartphones and other mobile devices are here to stay. Don't think for a moment that your device inventory will be as homogeneous as your desktop OS; we'll be dealing with a variety of devices to take advantage of their various strengths. Start thinking about what kind of device management your business needs, and let that drive your technology decisions.

Posted by Don Jones on 06/28/2011 at 1:14 PM


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