Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is the Program Co-Chair of the Enterprise Connect events, helping to set program content and direction for the...
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Eric Krapf | November 30, 2012 |


Siemens, AirWatch Team for Mobility Management

Siemens, AirWatch Team for Mobility Management The agreement is fairly limited for now, but is likely to expand, which is good news for enterprises struggling to embrace mobility as part of the core platform.

The agreement is fairly limited for now, but is likely to expand, which is good news for enterprises struggling to embrace mobility as part of the core platform.

I'll admit that I've been somewhat puzzled about the relationship between Mobile Device Management (MDM), also known as Mobility Management, and core enterprise communications platforms. The big vendors in the latter space talk a lot about mobility, and make announcements on both the client and server side, but for the latter, the efforts have seemed to revolve around call handling, i.e., ways of routing voice calls and other media flows so that the enterprise retains control of them.

That makes sense as far as it goes--the big concern here is making the mobile device, whether it's enterprise- or end user-owned, appear to be part of the internal network. That ensures that you can use enterprise phone numbers to reach mobile users, thus keeping the end user from needing to use a personal phone number, which protects that key reachability asset in the event that the person leaves the company. Centralized control also could help to cut down on cellular usage charges if the person spends a significant chunk of their mobile life connected to WiFi as opposed to public cellular networks.

But MDM, which basically gives the enterprise more granular control over the mobile device itself, has pretty much remained a standalone product category. The platform vendors have seemed reluctant to include MDM companies in their acquisition strategies, or to build the capability into their products natively.

Siemens Enterprise this week took a fairly small but noteworthy step toward changing this, as it announced an agreement with AirWatch, one of the MDM leaders, by which SEN channel partners will refer UC mobility customers to AirWatch for MDM.

By any measure, that's a pretty minor step, but Randy Roberts, VP of mobility solutions at SEN, told me this week that it's the first development in what's expected to be a deepening relationship between the two companies, including future product integrations. "We see this as step one of many steps to pull mobility management closer and closer into our portfolio," Randy said.

SEN surveyed the MDM landscape and picked AirWatch for its global reach and product breadth--covering security, application management, device management, and content management, Roberts said. In addition, AirWatch appealed to SEN because of its, "Great offering in the cloud," Roberts said. "Their SaaS offering is equal to the prem offering, and very few companies can say that."

I asked Roberts about that cloud offering, and about the broad picture of mobility management, making reference to Cisco's recent acquisition of Meraki, which has a cloud-based WLAN controller. Companies don't generally comment on each others' acquisitions and strategies, but I wondered if there wasn't something going on here, with enterprise communications vendors beginning to see a need to pull together some kind of comprehensive management--whether based on prem or in the cloud--to control the whole mobile environment.

Randy Roberts agreed about the need for more comprehensive mobility managemet for the enterprise, but his answer also suggested some of the complexity involved in making it happen. He noted that Enterasys, a SEN company, already has a WLAN controller and identity access management, so in working with Airwatch going forward, SEN will naturally want to fit that into the existing strategy. "Speaking for us, that's something we have today with Enterasys, and the integration with a product like Airwatch makes a ton of sense."

But there are a lot of moving parts there--the core enterprise platform, the underlying WLAN, the broad range of end user devices, and of course the cellular network. There have been a lot of false starts in many of those areas, from VoWiFi to fixed-mobile convergence (FMC). Integrating all of these parts would be a major step toward solving the challenge of embracing BYOD/mobility management, but it's much more easily said than done.

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