Gartner: Mobile device management tech set to take off

Proliferation of smart devices and the data they will have access to could force IT's hand

With the tsunami of mobile devices infiltrating the enterprise, companies will adopt Mobile Device Management technologies in record numbers over the next five year.

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That was one of the major mobile trends Gartner analysts presented this week at the firm's Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. Specifically in the next five years 65% of corporations will adopt MDM to address security concerns from smartphones and tablets.

The driving reasons behind that trend are obvious: Gartner predicts that through 2017, 90% of enterprises will have two or more mobile operating systems to support. In the past year, many companies have moved to Apple as their main mobile device platform, with others to follow over the next 12 to 18 months. As other operating systems like Windows 8 mobile platforms grow, MDM will need to be adopted, Gartner said.

During its presentations at the symposium, Gartner analysts said the only way that IT staff can maintain control over mobile device proliferation is by separating mobile computing devices into three distinct device classes: trusted standard devices provided by the company, tolerated devices and non-supported devices. In this scenario, users are given a predefined list of supported technologies in each class, along with a budget for the projected amount that each selection consumes. Users can optimize the technologies according to their requirements without exceeding the budget. Expense limits and spending caps by individuals bypass the need to rely on subjective interpretations of "reasonable use."

"However, by implementing a structured support system with varied support levels, IT organizations can shield business information and enforce policies about data movement between the device and the corporate network, while enabling users to adopt the device they deem most appropriate," said Phil Redman, research vice president at Gartner. "Organizations will find it hard to achieve an efficient mobile-support system if all platforms are not managed the same way under enterprise requirements. Like PCs, mobile devices are forms of client access devices, and the policies for them should be similar in strength but optimized for mobile usage to those governing PCs."

Redman went on to say MDM vendors are moving beyond security, to support enterprise and third-party applications, data and content. In the next two years, we will continue to see MDM platforms broaden out and become more enterprise mobile system management platforms.

Some other key mobile device facts from Gartner:

• In 2016, more than 1.6 billion smart mobile devices will be purchased globally. Two-thirds of the mobile workforce will own a smartphone, and 40% of the workforce will be mobile. The challenge for IT leaders is determining what to do with this new channel to their customers and employees.

• Gartner forecasts that in 2016, half of all non-PC devices will be purchased by employees. By the end of the decade, half of all devices in business will be purchased by employees.

• By 2016, 60% of large enterprises will implement limited access network zones to limit the connectivity of personally owned mobile devices.

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