Mobile Device Management Spotlight: SOTI MobiControl

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

Welcome to the fifth 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. One of the top-tier players in this space is SOTI.  They have over 10,000 customers using their MobiControl MDM software, including a healthy dose of fortune 500 companies.

I got a chance to talk with Carl Rodrigues, President & CEO at SOTI, as well as Ron Hassanwalia, VP of Sales & Marketing, and Shash Anand, their Director of Business Development. Carl stands out as one of the very few CEO's who are software developers. In fact Carl wrote the code for the original SOTI apps. Carl's industry knowledge, vision, and acumen made it clear he is one of the few CEOs who "gets it" when it comes to Mobile Device Management.

SOTI MobiControl is offering some useful features and functions that I haven't seen before in any other top-tier MDM vendor. Here are some of the highlights from the interview; I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing SOTI's answers.

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

The market is seeing a lot of BYOD. IT administrators understand it shouldn't mean just any device but rather any company-certified device.  People want to bring in any device but in reality it is mostly Apple and Samsung devices.

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

Apple is one of the main drivers. They've shown people that these devices can be very easy to use, and since developers brought cool apps, people could do the fun things they like to do. The enterprise sees the productivity of these devices, so they need to grant secure access to them.

Q: What's next in MDM. How will MDM change in the next 24 months?

There are a lot of new platforms coming to market, with Windows 8 and BlackBerry 10 to name a few. We have dedicated resources working on emerging OSes. We see Windows 8 as a large potential player. 

When we talked to enterprises, their top issues were cost savings and security. Additionally, they wanted efficient ways to configure email, WiFi and VPN on the mobile devices. They also wanted integration with backend systems like Active Directory, Certificate services and SharePoint. We have addressed all of these concerns with MobiControl v10.

We (SOTI) play in the MDM and BYOD space; we manage and secure both employee-owned and corporate-liable devices for enterprises.

We have done a lot of work on both iOS and Android. There are fragmentation and security concerns on Android, but we have addressed these problems with our Android+ technology, which brings consistent management and security to Android devices. Some interesting new features include, anti-malware protection and web content filtering. Web content filtering is a requirement for the education vertical to ensure safe browsing for students. An added benefit is that it allows SOTI MobiControl to be eRate funded.

Q: What are you keeping your eye on for major disruptors? 

We are waiting to see the effect that Windows 8 will have. Bill Gates might be back on the board of Microsoft, so it will be interesting to see if he can bring some of his magic back into Microsoft.

Furthermore, there is very cool next-generation work that Samsung is doing that could be very interesting. (Note: Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any more details on this). Being a close partner with Samsung we see that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with, they are moving at a fast pace.

We are also watching for changes at Apple, given that Jobs is not around. Apple has been the innovator in the market. We are watching to see if they can still bring game changing innovation without Jobs at the helm. The world is watching to see how Apple fares in the post-Jobs era.

Can RIM reinvent themselves with Blackberry 10? It’s going to be tough.

Q: The MDM market is getting very crowded these days. How do you differentiate yourself?

We have developed a new technology called BlitFire. With BlitFire, our remote control technology can be up to ten times faster than anything on the market. BlitFire uses several techniques including Artificial Intelligence to achieve performance gains. We get good performance even on high density, high color tablet screens.

Our Remote Control is supported on all iOS and Android devices. Because of iOS sandboxing, the iOS app developer must include our SDK in their application. Once included, it allows you to see the application screen through remote control. You cannot remote control the whole iOS device due to iOS security controls. With Android, we have full featured remote control available with no restrictions and app developers do not need to do any extra work.

During a remote control session, the operator can chat with the user, manipulate files on the user devices, even upgrade the application in flight in some situations.

Another MobiControl innovation is specialized Anti-virus and Web security integrated in one agent for Android devices.

We also offer full role-based access control integrated with Active Directory authentication. 

We offer MobiControl as a cloud service or an on-premise solution. We offer a SaaS-based pricing model of per-month per-device.

In addition to what we talked about, SOTI MobiControl offers:

·      A self-service portal for users to manage their devices

·      An enterprise application store

·      Expense management

·      Lockdown/kiosk mode support

·      Geofencing

·      Application Speed Control: When a mobile device travels above a certain speed you can change or lock down the application to decrease driver distraction.

Q: What are your thoughts on using an Android OS that is hosted in the cloud and delivered to the mobile device using VDI tech? So you open a VDI app on your phone and it connects you to an Android virtual machine in the cloud, thus achieving security and centralized control.

The good is your sensitive/corporate data is not on the phone any longer. But you still need to manage those Android VMs that are in the cloud using something like MobiControl. Also, when you don't have Internet access then you don't have access to your data. 

Q:  What are your thoughts on using a hypervisor on a mobile device to solve the data segmentation issues? One Android Virtual machine would be for corporate, the other would be for personal. 

Totally separate sounds good, but, the batteries on these devices are still restrictive, nothing comes for free.

Q:  Which device vendor has the best set of Enterprise features today?

Samsung, they have added and a lot of features to make their flavor of Android more secure and Enterprise ready.

Q:   What are Enterprises telling you are the top 3 features they need from an MDM solution?

·      Mobile Device Management system that is easy to use, that can morph around how they do business

·      If they develop a business app, they want help desk supportability

·      Security is still there, but has been mostly solved to the level they want for BYOD

Q:  In a perfect world what a mobile OS look like?

I think it would be a new open OS that could bring the user experience of iOS and the openness of Android. Alas, a perfect world is not possible. Everyone has his or her own best interests involved.

Q:  Do you have a business is SaaS or cloud based.

Yes we have cloud and on premise offerings.

Q: Which will win out in the end, cloud or on-premise?

Many today have their own datacenter, so for them to put in a new server is no big deal. For really big companies, they want control of the data and the systems, so cloud is less appealing. They don't want to put their business data in someone else's hands. We see small to medium size businesses leveraging our cloud based offering, the bigger guys often want on-premise.


What are your views on the MDM market and its future?  Have you deployed MDM yet or have plans to? What problems are MDMs still struggling to solve for you?

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

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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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