Research in Motion Wednesday released an important part of its attempted comeback plan: BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, which is designed to manage the fast-growing, and increasingly diverse mobile device population in the enterprise.
BES 10 combines RIM's security technology and its tools for managing legacy BlackBerry devices with management for non-BlackBerry devices such as those running Android or Apple iOS, and the soon-to-be released BlackBerry 10 smartphones, plus management of mobile applications.
The release is a big step in integrating separate applications as RIM adapts to enterprise mobility trends. Previously, IT groups used BlackBerry Mobile Fusion separately to manage iOS and Android devices, along with the BlackBerry PlayBook tablets; existing BlackBerry devices were still managed by the separate well-known BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
"This cross-platform capability is a necessary move for RIM," says Jack Gold, principal analyst with J. Gold Associates, an IT consultancy. "It provides RIM customers with a way to keep BES relevant even if they have a reduced number of BB devices. It provides RIM with an installed base to build and grow upon. And I do think they can succeed with this, although not so much as a standalone business in MDM against companies like MobileIron and AirWatch, but as a core infrastructure component of mobility that easily allows BlackBerry to be added and managed to the fullest extent. They want to prevent rip and replace in the infrastructure of companies, and this allows the BES to stay relevant and used."
BES 10 incorporates Mobile Fusion, along with the BlackBerry Balance feature that lets IT groups keep separate and manage personal and corporate information on PlayBooks and on the upcoming BlackBerry 10 devices, and management of legacy BlackBerry devices, all through one common administrative interface. One drawback is that for now, Mobile Fusion and BlackBerry Enterprise Server must run on separate servers. RIM plans an updated release in the spring, which will combine them on the same server.
"BES 10 is a console upgrade that combines all the previous capabilities of BES and Fusion and the latest ability to work with BB10 devices all under one console," Gold says. "There still are various components under the covers but BES 10 offers one way to manage BlackBerry and other devices. The next version of BES will likely have a fully integrated code base for everything, but most users even with this release will have a transparent way to manage all devices."
Other features cited by RIM as key parts of the BES 10 release:
- secure access to work-related email and content, and secure connectivity to "behind the firewall" applications and data
- BlackBerry World for Work, a connection to the new corporate app storefront for BlackBerry 10 smartphones; IT groups can push and install corporate apps to either company- or personal-owned devices
- creating and managing individual and group "work profiles" with Active Directory integration, customizing different administrator roles with different privileges and powers, letting employees register and set up their own devices via a self-service portal, and centrally controlling user profiles for email, Wi-Fi, VPN and proxy servers.
The BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 software, which is FIPS 140-2 certified, is available for a limited 60-day free trial with included client access licenses is available online. Existing customers can take advantage of the free license trade-up program at www.blackberry.com/licensetradeup, which is available until Dec. 31, 2013.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.