Mobile Device Management Spotlight: Zenprise

Zenprise CEO talks about MDM trends and their solution to managing iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

Welcome to the fourth 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 Zenprise, a well-established MDM player with high-profile customers such as Sony, Delta and ConocoPhillips.  Zenprise holds a spot in the Gartner MDM Leaders Magic quadrant and is viewed as an MDM innovator by Forrester.

I interviewed Jayaram Bhat, then Zenprise CEO, (update: Amit Pandey is the current President and Chief Executive Officer) about his company's 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 Jayaram's answers.

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

There is tremendous excitement in the market right now! Zenprise is the leader in MDM. We provide security and management for data in motion and at rest, including end-to-end protection and management. We have over 1,000 customers with many very large installations. We view VPN as not a generic tunnel but rather a per-application tunnel. Each application has its own encrypted VPN tunnel. This protects from malware apps using the tunnel to get in. Zenprise can provide a secure container that sits on the device for at-rest encryption. You can push down documents to the device's container remotely. Documents within the container can have a time bomb on them so after a certain period they are no longer accessible. While viewing docs in the container you can disable things like cut and paste and forward via email. Today this works with Microsoft sharepoint and Office360.

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

 I think the real question is why wouldn't a company want an MDM. If they have policies against BYoD, then their users will still use their devices but instead they will take notes on the iPad and send to Gmail, for example. Then they pull down through their corporate email. Same goes for Dropbox and other cloud storage-like app usage. Adopting a BYoD policy and deploying an MDM is critical to the security of a business. Every single company should be looking at it today. 

Business is leveraging mobility as a competitive advantage. They are buying iPads and developing iOS apps to do all sorts of things like take orders, check status in the field, etc.   

BYoD makes your employees happier and more productive. If you don't let them, they will bring it in anyway but without the policy enforcement enabled. They will circumvent the system and the written security policy, putting the business as risk. Much more so than any other product lifecycle, this is the most rapid deployment I've ever seen in 35 years of IT. 

Positioning of MDM varies based on where the customer is in the mobile cycle. What is driving purchase decisions, however, is security right now. So we tend to focus on security but some of our differentiators are DLP security and Application delivery.

BYoD is yesterday's problem. Today, many customers are realizing that mobile devices are a new compute platform and are starting to embrace mobile. Companies are delivering a mobile service to their employees. Today's problem is managing the BYoD lifecycle. How do you deliver BYoD securely, reliably, and robustly.

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

It has been changing incredibly rapidly. 12-15 months ago most organizations were pushing back on BYoD. Now in last 6-12 months executives have pushed/forced IT to support these devices. 

In one case I know of, a Fortune 100 company's board of directors is asking the company leadership how they are dealing with and securing BYoD devices. The phone scandals in Europe raised the issue to their visibility and now they are asking about it. Dramatic change from a year ago.

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

We will see a dramatic adoption of mobile devices globally. My tongue and cheek prediction is laptops will be dead. I'm not taking my laptop on my business trips anymore, just my iPad 3. 

Applications will be predominately deployed on these types of devices. Everyone will be able to access corporate resources remotely.

The other real nail in the coffin for laptops is that applications on mobile devices will be easier to use than their laptop counterparts. They will be specially designed for these mobile devices, making it easier to do the same task.

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

Two main things: User experience and always connected. For example, many airlines already have Wi-Fi Internet, as well as small towns in emerging markets. Mobile gaming is also driving mass adoption of smart mobile devices.

Q:  What are some differentiators of the zenprise MDM offering

Two major ones, security capabilities that go from the device to the applications to the network. This includes things like our secure vault feature, secure application tunneling and dynamic defense that can set security policies based on the device location (geo fencing). The second major differentiator is scalability and enterprise readiness/experience. Zenprise is highly scalable with clustering, HA and security built-in to the architecture. Our cloud offering has a 100% uptime service level agreement.

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

Overall they have done a very good job by providing API's to us. They are listening to us. For example, look at all the features delivered in iOS 5. My speculation is that they will provide basic functionality for MDM themselves but let MDM vendors do the advanced capabilities. 

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

Cloud is growing very rapidly as a proportion of our business. We think long-term cloud and on-premise will be 50-50%. Initially we were surprised that large companies are looking at cloud, initially we thought it would be small-medium companies by and large. Our largest recent win was a cloud-based deal.

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

Agree that there haven't been spectacular exploits against mobile yet. However, last year 50-odd malware apps were found in Google stores. Software like Zenprise is security insurance against disaster. There will be, I predict, some major exploits in the near future against mobile devices.

In the mid 90's we saw a similar security trend with PCs. Initially nobody was hacking these, but now everyone has AV, AS, etc. because of the threat.

Hopefully this time we are a bit in front of the wave of these threats on mobile devices.

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

We need them to continue to expand their capabilities for MDM. Blocking applications, remote control of devices. Overall, they have done a good job, but of course there are a few features we would like.

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

VDI is a good solution for laptops but not necessarily for mobile devices. Need to step back and ask what problem are we trying to solve with VDI and can we do this using the native UI on the mobile device. MDM will help solve this using secure containers that are remotely managed. We will be able to provide the same and perhaps better segmentation of enterprise vs personal data than a heavy-handed VDI.

We need to solve the problems that VDI solves using the native UI.

Thank you to Jayaram and his team for the insights and information.

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?

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Check out the rest of the MDM Spotlight Series

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.

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