Mobile Device Management Spotlight: AirWatch

AirWatch CEO talks about MDM trends and AirWatch's solution to managing iPhones, iPads and Android devices

There is little doubt that smart mobile devices are a boon for individual productivity, but corporate IT groups are scrambling to accommodate them on their networks.  Accordingly, there has been an explosion of interest in Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.  One of the top tier players in this space is AirWatch.  AirWatch sits in the Gartner Leaders MQ  and was named a winner in the tenth annual Mobile Star Awards program.   

I got a chance to talk with John Marshall, Founder, President and CEO at AirWatch about his companies MDM solution, mobile security market trends and recent advances in iOS 5 and Android corporate focused features.  Here are some of the highlights from the interview, I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing John's answers.

Q: How has the MDM market changed in the last 12 months?

It has been an evolution of the market.  From focus on executives and support staff to inclusion of sales teams and regular employees. MDM deployments have grown from 50 to 100's or 1000's of users/devices.  We are seeing much wider adoption and more sophisticated use cases such as internal apps, BYOD, volume purchases, etc.  In the beginning, MDM was very standalone. Now moving to network integration and enterprise integration with ERP.  Maturity of MDM space is starting to happen.

Q: What are the driver for mass adoption of Smart mobile devices?

The big two are ROI and user preference.  In many cases it might be cheaper to give a tablet rather than a laptop without sacrificing productivity.  The ease of use of these iOS and Android devices drives user preference in a way we haven't seen before.  Corporate IT is being told they need to accommodate these user friendly devices on their network.   Some other drivers are cheaper support and deployment, brand loyalty, process savings and better user experience.

Q: How will it change in the next 24 months?

We will likely see broader adoption of mobile devices coupled with corporate embracing of bring your own device to work.  Corporate IT will become more comfortable with security and segmentation of mobile devices.  The broader and faster adoption will be driven by multiple use cases, mobile apps, multiple business purposes and ubiquity of the mobile platforms. The lines are blurring between mobile and laptop device management.  As apps and use cases become more cross-platform the MDM will need to manage not only mobile device policy but also traditional laptop PC policy.

Q: How are the mobile OS vendors, like Apple and Google, tackling this need for MDM?

For the low end of MDM market, apple has it in Lion Server, Google has it in Google apps, and Microsoft has it in SCCM.  Low end will get lower cost and approach free as basic MDM is commoditized.  Multi-vendor support is still a key differentiator for focused MDM vendors like AirWatch.

Q:  What new abilities does iOS 5 offer Corporate IT?

  AirWatch Supports many new Apple iOS 5 Features such as the following:


    Activate devices wirelessly without iTunes

Configuration of:


    Enable S/MIME encryption

    Prevent sending mail in 3rd party apps

    Prevent moving messages across email accounts


    Configure Wi-Fi proxy settings

    Auto-join Wi-Fi networks


    Enable or disable Voice and Data roaming


    Enable or disable iCloud backup, document sync and Photo Stream


    Battery life status


Install public and in-house managed apps.  A managed app is any app that is      provisioned by AirWatch

    Remove managed apps and data


        When MDM profile is removed

    Prevent data back up to iTunes and iCloud for managed apps

Q:  What new abilities does Android Ice Cream Sandwidch offer Corporate IT?

Not a lot of new security features.  Samsung is pushing their own private APIs to make it more manageable, secure and enterprise friendly.   Different manufacturers will drive their own APIs.  On my wish list for Android is consistency across devices, versions, vendors. 

Q:  What is your take on the viability of VDI and virtualization on mobile devices?

Virtualization path has challenges.  Once you introduct a virtual machine for private use and a virtual machine for corporate use you now have apps on both sides that don't talk to each other.   So your calendar is not sync'd, mail is not sync'd, contacts, etc.  It breaks the ease of use tenant that is driving mobile device adoption in the first place. 

The issue with the Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) use case is the user needs to be always connected for it to work.  Performance of VDI on mobile has also been known to be an issue.  Again, like with virtualization, VDI tends to break the ease of use tenant and in many cases forces users into a completely different UI than the native mobile OS.

Q:  How realistic/robust is selective wipe of a mobile device today?

Pretty realist today on apple if you either provision the app using AirWatch or you put our sdk in the app.  Android is a bit more complex.  More difficult.  Need to rely on phone vendors APIs for now.

Q:  Is it possible for Corp IT to control what apps can be loaded on a device?

The only way to do this with public apps is to install on device, make it a managed app, then in an MDM policy say it can't be loaded. Of course this is not a true black-list of apps.  Using an MDM policy you can check for black listed apps and if found you can restrict their access to your network or remote wipe their phone. 

Q:  A big part of AirWatch's business is SaaS or cloud based.  What can you tell us about the reliability of your cloud offering?

We provide customers with a 99.99 SLA.  In addition, here are some highlights of our cloud offering:

            -8 years of cloud experience

            -$5-10million in investment

            -true High-Availability design

            -used best of the best equipment for building internal infrastructure

            -tier 1 co-locations

What are your views on the MDM market and its future?  Have you deployed MDM yet or have plans to?  What use cases do you require an MDM to solve?

Thanks to John and his team for your insights and information.

Helpful Links

My MDM feature wish list:

 The opinions and information presented here are my PERSONAL views and not those of my employer. I am in no way an official spokesperson for my employer.

More from Jamey Heary: Credit Card Skimming: How thieves can steal your card info without you knowing it Google Nexus One vs. Top 10 Phone Security RequirementsWhy you should always shred your boarding pass Video rental records are afforded more privacy protections than your online dataThe truth about new SSL attacks 2009 Top Urban Legends in IT Security/a>Go to Jamey's Blog for more articles on security.







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