HP offers private app catalogs for enterprises

HP Access Catalog stores an organization's mobile apps so they can be easily downloaded by employees onto their own devices

Hewlett-Packard is launching a service that could help organizations better manage their Android and iOS mobile apps on employee-owned devices, supporting the BYOD (bring your own device) trend.

The service reflects "a shift in mindset for how IT is supporting mobile, from an employer-owned device model to an employee-owned device model," said Tim Rochte, director of product management for HP services.

The new approach requires "more application management than device management" from IT, Rochte said.

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The service, called HP Access Catalog, offers an online repository, or "private app-store," as the company calls the service, where organizations can post their mobile and desktop applications, as well as documents, so they can be downloaded by employees. It can host apps that run on Android and iOS devices and applications that run on Microsoft Windows, though the user must install these applications manually.

The service does not support Microsoft Windows Phone or BlackBerry devices. Additional platforms will be considered on an as-needed basis, Rochte said.

"The model is extremely similar to public app stores, except it is all under the control of the enterprise," Rochte said.

The private app store approach offers a number of advantages for IT operations, Rochte said.

The service provides an Internet-accessible portal for all employees to download organizational materials, saving the work of having the administrator install apps on each employee's device individually.

Updating an app can be easier as well, because the administrator would only need to update the app once, on the portal.

An administrator can arrange the accessibility of apps by specific groups. A sales group, for instance, might have a different set of apps to use than a engineering group, Rochte said.

It also provides some flexibility in allowing employees to choose their own device. That the service supports both Android and iOS ensures that a majority of consumer devices are supported, as those OSes accounted for 93.8 percent of devices sold last year, according to IDC.

Employee authorization can be done in one of two ways. Using the SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language), the HP Access Catalog can consult an organization's internal Active Directory deployment to check for individual credentials. Group credentials still need to be stored on the HP service.

The HP service can also store user credentials internally.

HP Access Catalog does not offer any remote management capabilities, such as device wiping. But it is integrated with the HP Anywhere, a platform for building internal mobile applications for enterprises. The code base for the content catalog was built on software HP acquired with the 2010 acquisition of Palm.

HP declined to reveal the price for the service, except to say that it is based on a per-user annual subscription, and users will not be charged overage fees for bandwidth or storage.

HP is not the only enterprise IT company offering a service for maintaining private app repository. In December, BMC launched the BMC Marketplace, which allows allow ISVs (independent software vendors) and other organizations to run their own online app stores.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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