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The Maturation or Commoditization of Enterprise Mobility Management

As I get ready for what I hope will be my last trip to the West Coast for the year, I have spent this morning thinking about an ongoing debate I have had with my good friend Brian Katz.  Brian is often tweeting (so often in fact that I can’t find it) that mobile device management is no longer a product but a feature set and that we therefore shouldn’t be talking about MDM anymore.

While I tend to agree with Brian’s statement that mobile device management is nothing but a feature set, I’m not sure I agree that we shouldn’t be talking about MDM. Firstly, let’s be clear, most MDM products do the exact same thing.  They’re all making the same calls to the same APIs that are provided by the operating system manufacturers.  While there are at times unique features being implemented (this is great by the way for the RFPs that demand one BILLION features) I will question the marginal value that they bring (or else why wouldn’t they be done by other vendors).

But let me take this one step further.  While the general consensus is that mobile device management is nearing or has arrived at commoditization, I will argue the same is about to happen to other parts of enterprise mobility management.  Mobile application management is already quickly going down that path, as are other things such as wireless expense management, help desk, etc.  Enterprise mobility management, as a whole, is quickly going down the feature set / commoditization route.

Some will balk at that – and others will crow that they have better speeds and feeds than the next person.  That’s all fine and good.  Just don’t tell me the industry isn’t commoditizing.  Let me use a word that you might find more palatable.  Maturing.

Enterprise mobility is maturing technologically at a pace I have never seen in any other industry.  The interesting part is that there is still so much growth opportunity from a business adoption perspective.  We are clearly (at least in my opinion) in a scenario where the technology innovation has clearly outpaced the business adoption….but business adoption will absolutely catch up!

So back to my friend Brian.  He loves to say that you don’t need MDM and will give you an explanation that is obviously well articulated and thought out.  He’ll also never admit that he’s wrong on that front.

Every organization needs MDM because you’re still interacting with the device.  Yes, the data and apps matter too, but how else are you going to interact with the apps and data? Here’s one basic example. One of the things that has become popular of late is app-level VPNs.  That makes a lot of sense….but I could easily make the argument that it’s six of one, a half-dozen of the other…and that I could just use the main (device based) VPN.  Oh, and by the way, if email is still important to you and you’re not using a 3rd party email app, MDM might still be of interest to you.


  1. Posted December 4, 2012 at 00:29 | Permalink

    I have a slightly different take on MDM that incorporates both opinions, yours and Brian’s. In my view MDM actually commoditized before it ever had a chance to mature. I am not saying that it is not needed at all. But I would say that it is not needed in all use cases. Certainly for devices that the business provides, just like device management for business PCs, MDM makes a lot of sense. But as you move over into the BYOD realm, MDM, if deployed for more than just basic enterprise email access, can be too much control. This is where an app-centric approach starts to make a lot of sense because you can control the policies for business apps that have access to business data, without trying to control personal apps and games. VPN is a great example, as you mentioned. With app VPN you can provide corporate access to specific business apps only, as necessary. But App-level VPN is definitely NOT the same as device-level VPN. With device VPN, ALL traffic goes through the business network, even tweets and personal financial transactions. This in not typically what the end user or the business wants – just bring HR and Legal into these conversations if you want some lively dialog. There is much evolution happening today around MAM and app wrapping (not commoditized) that will define the next phase of enterprise mobility. MDM still has its place in this conversation, but it’s the part of the conversation where half the room falls asleep.

    Brian Duckering, Symantec

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    • Posted December 7, 2012 at 15:59 | Permalink

      Brian – great commentary and feedback! You raise an excellent point regarding app-level VPN and device-level VPN – definitely something more companies need to consider, not just from a technological perspective, but to your point, from a HR or legal perspective.

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  2. Posted December 5, 2012 at 19:43 | Permalink

    Always thought-provoking, Philippe! An interesting spin on Brian Katz’s anthem.
    Good comment above by Brian Duckering (how are ya, Brian??) and I’ll throw in my 2 cents as well.

    To echo Duckering, MDM began to mature, but never really completed because BYOD swooped onto the scene and attracted all the attention. In the BYOD case, simple features like remote wiping are now provided via manufacturer – thanks iCloud! – while I have zero interest in putting that big red EASY button from Staples in the hands of enterprise IT. I’ll wipe my own device if I lose it, thankyouverymuch.

    So at the end of the day, while I’m using my own personal phone, I’ll take care of my own data security… and you take care of yours. If you’d like to secure the proprietary info (that I’m accessing anyway), go for it! As long as you don’t slow me down, I actually appreciate your efforts. When a company demonstrates a commitment to security and a high value on internal data, I will reflect that as well.

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    • Posted December 7, 2012 at 16:02 | Permalink

      Walter – so here’s an interesting use case for you. I will argue that remote wipe and iCloud can happily co-exist. A remote wipe for a lost or stolen device prevents someone who should never have access to the device from gaining access to the data…and the cloud backup makes it easy for the employee to regain all their apps and data in a relatively easy fashion….and if the employee has left the organization, the apps will get blocked anyways, so why would it matter?

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  3. Posted December 10, 2012 at 06:04 | Permalink

    The most cutting-edge enterprise mobility projects I’ve encountered involve custom-built mobile apps… not off-the-shelf packaged apps! In this case, try deploying/maintaining this type of project without mDM :(

    As enterprise mobility projects pick up momentum in this direction, mDM solutions will surely evolve & gain in maturity. To share an example, how can you effeciently perform app-maintenance when you can’t see the user’s screen? To the best of my knowledge, the only available mDM solution that allows this SOTI… Why!?

    Considering a “no mDM” scenario would mean limiting users to “off the shelf” apps… Which would definitely be a shame!

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  4. Posted December 10, 2012 at 19:12 | Permalink

    Philippe –

    Great post and a pretty good job articulating most of my view point. I agree we are maturing at a very rapid pace and yet I don’t think we are going fast enough. IN many cases we are taking baby steps because people and companies don’t want to take that giant leap. It’s way to scary.

    While I think MDM is dead as a product, I would argue that if done right as a feature, every company will get it anyway as part of their EMM tool set. It’s just a matter of I don’t think you need to or should be buying just a plain MDM tool as you will be shoehorned into an untenable solution where people may balk at the tool as it will need to own the whole device.

    Your example as to the VPN is actually a great one…in an MDM product it will place the whole device into the VPN and the dirty little secret of most of these products is they don’t let VPNs go very well. So when you switch to another app you may actually be blocked or be sending personal data through your corporate network for a period of time…

    What’s really important is the data, and as we focus on the data and how to protect it while enabling the user we will find solutions that encompass all of the EMM spectrum while still not getting in the User’s way.

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