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Mobile application management (MAM) has put MDM in its place

By Alan Murray, senior vice president, products, Apperian Inc., special to Network World
June 05, 2012 03:40 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

The debate about the best tool set for enterprise mobility continues to rage between the mobile application management (MAM) and mobile device management (MDM) camps.

MDM zealots ridicule MAM as a glorified app catalog and a security sieve, while MAM proponents say MDM's rigid and centralized control of all policies, user access, hardware/software and content sabotages the revolutionary benefits of enterprise mobility.

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We firmly believe that MAM is a superior approach for the management of a vast majority of mobile enterprise applications, that it has leapfrogged MDM as a systems management best practice for mobility, and -- importantly -- incorporated its most useful security capabilities.

Still, there are shades of gray in the MAM/MDM debate. MDM may still be preferred for environments where security and device control trumps all other criteria, and where company-issued devices are exclusively used. MDM and MAM can even work together as adjacent, complementary approaches in organizations where the highest levels of security and the strategic enablement of mobile workers through high-value apps are equal considerations.

The bottom line is, the interests of the user, the application developer and the IT manager have been changed, fundamentally and permanently, by mobility and the ubiquity and unconscious portability of mobile devices. Core business processes -- and business itself -- have been transformed by smartphones, tablets and their applications, and by movements like the consumerization of IT and BYOD (bring your own device).

Consumer technology has leapfrogged business IT, and that's not going to change anytime soon. BYOD underscores the uniquely personal nature of these tools: the fact that the users' spouse or kids gave them that mobile device on their birthday -- that they customize it themselves and it's uniquely theirs -- only makes those devices more integrated into, and more useful for, their work lives.

Security, visibility, compliance are still important in MAM world

I won't argue with the assertions that corporate data and IT assets must be protected from security breaches -- whether from hackers, former employees, or the physical loss of the device -- nor that issues like identity management, authorization control, compliance reporting, etc., aren't fundamental to a successful enterprise mobile infrastructure.

And it's obvious that certain environments -- military, financial services and healthcare/HIPAA-compliant applications come to mind -- almost always demand an uncompromising commitment to a purely secure approach, whether MDM or MAM+MDM. In addition, places where the risk of device theft or loss is high -- like the point-of-sale tablets used at store kiosks -- demand features like device wipe to keep corporate data and apps from being jeopardized.

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