Mobile Device Management Spotlight: MobileIron

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

Welcome to the second installment of the MDM spotlight series.

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.  This spotlight focuses on MobileIron.  A top tier players in the MDM space.  MobileIron sits in the Gartner MDM Leader MQ.

I got a chance to talk with Bob Tinker, CEO at MobileIron, about his companies MDM solution, mobile security market trends and what the future holds.  Here are some of the highlights from the interview, I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing Bob's answers.


Q: Can you provide a brief overview of MobileIron for our readers?

Now its about smartphones and tablets for everyone. They are ushering in a huge wave of worker productivity.  The CIO and CSO are under pressure to embrace this trend.  MobileIron provides a solution to customers that provides security, device management and an application store front which allows the CIO/CSO to say YES to mobile devices. Users and lines of business are driving the mobility trend globally.  Mobile IT is an opportunity to be in a position where users say thank you. 

MobileIron has 1400 new enterprise customers and is installed in 100 of the fortune 500 companies.  Some of the largest deployments of smartphones in the world use MobileIron to manage them. 

At its core MobileIron is about making the customer successful with their mobile device deployment.  We focus not just the on technology, which is important of course, but also on best practice design, training, support, essentially the full lifecycle of a deployment.

Q: What are the top few reason why a business would need or want an MDM solution?

We are seeing the birth of new industry, Mobile IT.  It is the collapse of Security, applications teams and network into a single team.

It is critical that corporations ensure data is secured at rest and in motion. Businesses need a solution that can roll out 10's of thousands of tablets/iPhones without the cost of adding many new IT employees.  For example, MobileIron was able to deploy 5,000 iPhones/iPads in just a week with only a few help desk calls total.  We have made this process very repeatable with MobileIron. 

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

It has shifted from early roll-outs to mass production.  Also, the scale has increased significantly. As an aside it is important to note that 80-90% of companies are using certificates to authenticate mobile users. 

It's not just about enabling the devices; it's now about getting the mobile applications out to customer.

We have a customer with 100 internally developed mobile apps plus a dozen customers with over 20 internal apps.  We believe this trend will explode in the near term making mobile app distribution become a critical business requirement.

We are seeing the analysts are subsuming mobile app management into MDM management.

The third change is the market is becoming crowded and confusing to buyers. 

Lots of companies are backing into this space from other non-related markets.  The MDM space is hot right now and everyone is trying to get in on it from adjacent or even non-related markets.

This is making it increasingly more difficult  for customers to separate real software from slideware.  This is forcing customers to perform proof of concept trials. 

We see larger customers do a PoC and mid-market going to a cloud MDM offering.

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

For MDM in general the explosion of mobile apps will continue.  It used to be million dollar projects were required to build an app. Now mobile apps can be built for much less, resulting in an enterprise app storm.  We see there being three major operating systems, not a single dominate mobile OS. Users and consumer innovation cycles will drive it.  iOS, Android, who's third?  The battle is Windows phone and Blackberry. 

Companies will begin to design new IT projects for mobile first and desktops laptops second.  Mobile apps are more function specific, narrowly defined, which makes them cheaper and easier to build. 

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

Users want mobility!  Users want mobile at work.  Trend in 1996 when everyone wanted the internet at work, now everyone wants tablets at work.  

Q:  What are some differentiators of the MobileIron MDM offering

Purpose built for MDM and mobile IT versus backing into it from an adjacent space.

MDM best practices were pioneered by MobileIron. 

At its core we bring security, mgmt., and app delivery into one system that combined with best practices, training, and support allows customers to be successful.

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

Vendors have realized, Users have a consumer life and work life.  They are putting enterprise features in their OS.  Multi-OS support is the main requirement of enterprises with best in class features. 

Q: MDM is offered as both a cloud and on-premise solution.  Which do you see dominating in the future?

Seeing a significant shift towards MobileIron connected cloud, driven by customer choice.  In the long run more customers will want to buy in the cloud.  Large customers in a regulated industry will need on-premise MDM.

Q:  There is paranoia around mobile device security shortcomings being high risk to the business.  Is this paranoia justified?

If you look at mobile best practices they can now scale and deal with a lost device at scale.  Now it is about jailbroken devices and malware apps.  Need to understand posture of device, certificates for ID, secure enterprise app storefront for secure distribution of apps.  A Secure mobile proxy, like MobileIron Century, at perimeter is specifically designed for mobile apps.  It proxies active-sync traffic and then makes decisions of whether to let that device in or not.

Q: What features would you most like to see Apple and Google release in their OS?

Apple has done a good job of adding in new enterprise class features into iOS.

For Android, we need the ODM functions of android that Samsung and others are providing to be part of the OS. Android needs these to unleash in enterprise like iOS has.

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

Replicated Microsoft Windows on an iPad is not a sustainable or viable user experience. 

In general, this technology is not yet proven in terms of battery life and stitching together user experience.

It has been demonstrated that the native mobile OS experience wins with end users.  Creating a third party user experience is not a sustainable model.    Especially as enterprises evolve from just email to enterprise mobile applications.

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

MobileIron pioneered selective wipe in 2009.  Selective wipe works differently from platform to platform.  iOS with 4.5 has good capabilities. Android is not there yet.

We expect that Android using Original Device Manufacturer APIs and MobileIron will reach parity to iOS in the near future. 

In general, any data tied to your provisioning profile can be removed selectively.  Enterprise email, calendar, wifi, vpn, pin, etc.

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

Today, you cannot stop a user from installing any application they want. However, you can send a message to the user telling them the app they installed is not permitted, selectively wipe their device, de-provision them, prevent them from connecting into the VPN or active-sync, etc.

Historically IT has had a very parental relationship with users.  This is shifting to more of an adult relationship with give and take.

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

The offering is called MobileIron connected cloud.  We use only multi-site tier 1 co-lo datacenters and offer an SLA of 99.99%.  Our solution allows customers to move at cloud speed but still integrate with their internal systems, AD using a connector that lives behind their firewall.

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?

Thank you to Bob 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 Why you should always shred your boarding pass Video rental records are afforded more privacy protections than your online dataThe truth about new SSL attacksTop Urban Legends in IT SecurityGo to Jamey's Blog for more articles on security.






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