Mobile Device Management Spotlight: SAP Afaria

SAP President talks about MDM trends and their Afaria solution for managing iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

Welcome to the Seventh 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 and adoption of Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. One of the top-tier players in this space is Afaria. Afaria sits in the Gartner MDM Leader MQ and boasts the most widely deployed MDM solution in the world, according to IDC market share data.

I got a chance to talk with Sanjay Poonen, president and head of the Mobile Division at SAP, about his company's MDM solution and mobile security market trends in general. Here are some of the highlights from the interview; I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing Sanjay's answers in some cases.

Q: Tell us a little about Afaria MDM solution.

We (SAP) acquired Sybase to get into this mobile market. Now SAP Afaria is the market share leader in this space with 16.4% share. The next closest is Microsoft at 6.7%, then a bunch of startups. We have had very good growth of late. We are partnering with Amazon to take our solution to the cloud. We have the largest number of devices under management and the largest deployments in the market. For example, the U.S. census has 150K devices managed by Afaria MDM. We also have a recent big win with a country in Asia to roll out 10 million devices. Two things give us a unique advantage, especially at scale. We built our MDM solution on the best performing database in the world. And second, SAP as a company excels in analytics, an important part of any MDM solution.

Afaria has an enterprise app store which ties in nicely with our very robust Mobile applications development business. We get a better solution by integrating the two for our customers.

SAP has a Global reach. We will be partnering with the largest distributors in the world. Several partners are OEMing Afaria, with very big players.

With BYOD you need the best practices and security for these devices as a minimum.

We go beyond that by adding mobile analytics. We focus heavily on this at SAP. SAP is the largest corporate user of iPads for a sales force. We are seeing a lot of traction by sharing our iPad mobile sales methods and best practices with other companies. The world of mobile apps, for example completing expense reports by taking a photo of the receipt, is greatly enhancing workflow productivity. Many of these apps come out of the business processes that SAP has done very well for years, now with mobilized workflows for efficiency.

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

We think cloud is happening big time and we are embracing it big time. The pricing we are offering is very economical. We understand the cloud very well and we partnered with the cloud leader, Amazon, to ensure we offered the best cloud experience possible for our customers.

We think MDM is going to evolve into managing content, data, and applications with a secure container structure that allows a user to move seamlessly between personal and corporate device personas. This will become the norm on all devices: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, etc.

The analytics coming out of these devices is a new space that only we are really playing in. Of the world's population, let's say that 1 billion people are in the workforce and are employed by a company or entity. Now, assume 200 million of them will have a smart device of some kind that they use for work. That number might seem large but it is just a fraction of the total connected devices out there. There are something like 15 billion things, such as refrigerators, heating/cooling systems, dish washers, cars, electric meters, and the list goes on and on. This is called the Internet of things, and managing that is somewhere we are absolutely going to play.

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

The cloud is a major disruptor and we are embracing it big time. MDM needs to be a very elastic solution. Security is evolving down to the chip level and into the network hardware. This could cause the need for convergence of management. So we are partnering with all of them, since we don't compete with any of them.

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

We differentiate in three major ways: Ability to scale to very, very large deployments, clear market share leader and customer trust.

SAP Afaria is not just MDM, but also includes the full lifecycle of mobile app management, even including the ability to develop custom apps for your business.

We are able to scale due in large part of our very fast underlying database and our partnership with Amazon for cloud MDM at scale.

We have a very large ecosystem that extends our reach and integration further than just traditional MDM vendors. Customers are demanding this tight integration and ecosystem approach from the MDM market.

Q:  Will you support Win Mobile 8 or windows 8 RT at FCS?

Yes, we can be the Switzerland that works with all of them. iOS is doing very well in America, Android is doing very well in emerging markets, and Windows 8 is ramping up so we are keeping an eye on them. We were on stage during the Windows 8 announcement, so we are very close there. We also support BlackBerry 10 and have a great relationship there as well.

Q: Are there system linkages between your products that enable better usability?

Yes, Mobile apps that SAP develops for our customers have hooks into Afaria. As does HANA, for big data. 

But we aren't integrating over the top, Afaria still needs to be nimble.

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

 We need to keep these devices lean, not bloated. The traditional way of approaching this with fat virtualization like a server won't be applied well to mobile. Citrix is a good example; they tried but weren't successful so they went and bought Zenprise. We do think that containerization needs to happen, but it has to be lean and fast. 

Q:  Do you have a business is SaaS or cloud based. What can you tell us about the reliability of your cloud offering?

Yes, and we partner with the best in the cloud business, Amazon.


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 Sanjay for his insights and information.

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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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