Mobile device management shifts to the cloud

MobileIron's Anyware focuses on Web simplicity, self-service

New cloud-based software lets employees register, secure, and manage their personal devices without IT department involvement. And a simplified Web interface automates a lot of management tasks.

The software, dubbed Anyware, is completely new code from MobileIron, which originally created a conventional enterprise server application for managing mobile devices. With Anyware, MobileIron intends to become a cloud service that can adapt to handle the mobile management needs of companies large and small.

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In a related announcement, MobileIron will offer Anyware specifically integrated with the mobile apps proliferating on the web-based CRM platform Salesforce.com. Currently, Salesforce administrators in the enterprise “have no access to enterprise mobility management,” says Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy for MobileIron. That lack is increasingly urgent as more and more mobile apps for Salesforce appear on the vendor’s App Exchange. MobileIron will offer “Anyware for Salesforce,” which provides from within the Salesforce web interface a range of administrative views, tools, actions, and reports that support a company’s mobile Salesforce users.

The initial release of the Anyware cloud service supports iOS and Android devices. End users surf to anywhere.com to register their devices with a username and password, and a device profile is automatically downloaded to their phone or tablet. That’s the only step users need to take, according to Rege.

Once registered, users see two icons on their device, one for Anyware and one for the Anyware app catalog, an enterprise-specific site for mobile apps. The catalog is set up by an Anyware administrator, who lists the approved custom and third-party apps that corporate users can, or should, download. The catalog links seamlessly with both Google Play and Apple App Store. As with those online stores, you click on an app in the Anyware catalog and it downloads and installs on your device. And also as with those online stores, users can rate and review the Anyware-listed apps. “This was a huge request from lots and lots of our enterprise customers,” says Rege.

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An easy-to-use web interface, here showing an inventory of apps, guides administrators using MobileIron's new Anyware MDM cloud service.

Anyware includes a feature to store and then download to a secure on-board container a selection of enterprise documents, which can be stored in different “content catalogs” in the Anyware cloud. One can be for marketing and sales, another for engineering staff. These work-related documents are secured, manageable and kept separate from the personal content on a personally-owned device. It is not intended to be a full-blown document management system or replace them.

Anyware administrators log in via a browser and see a tabbed interface for the Anyware Console. MobileIron has created an extensive set of wizards to guide administrators through tasks such installing certificates, accessing email, configuring Wi-Fi or VPNs, and creating password policies.

Under the “Add Policy” tab, for example, administrators can select from an extensive selection of  ready-to-use templates, such as “compromised devices” for detecting and dealing with jailbroken mobile phones.  

Whether using the Anyware or Anyware for Salesforce interface, administrators don’t have to be IT experts to handle these kinds of management policies and tasks, according to MobileIron.

You can view the mobile deployment by device, by operating system, by users individually or in groups. An inventory of apps shows which ones users have downloaded and also installed. You can block backup operations to iCloud or other online services.

Anyware is available now in the U.S. via Anyware.com or Salesforce AppExchange. 

During the fourth quarter, it will be available through a range of MobileIron partners, and expanding globally. Anyware for Salesforce is “in process of launching,” according to MobileIron. Anyware has tiered pricing: the “foundation features” start at $2 per device per month. It’s an additional $2 monthly for three sets of other features: the apps catalog, the content catalogs and sharing, and advanced security.

MobileIron is offering a trial run: 10 free seats of Anyware, fully supported, for one year.

For the cloud offering, MobileIron contracts with data center vendors and manages the deployed servers and software. Customer support is part of the monthly service, provided by MobileIron or in the future by partnering value-added resellers and managed service providers.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwjohn_cox@nww.com

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