Managing iPhones in the enterprise

* Kace, NetScout among vendors incorporating iPhone support into management suites.

Among the few technology areas that can actually thrive in tough economic times are management and automation technology. Vendors promising to reduce manual labor, cuts operational costs and improve services to the business could win IT budget dollars even in the midst of a recession.

Have enterprise companies come down with iPhone fever? A few management vendors are willing to bet they have and have developed software to help IT organizations more easily manage Apple's smart phone in corporate environments. Kace, NetScout and Trust Digital separately introduced products designed to bring iPhones under management by enterprise IT groups.

Managing mobile devices can challenge IT staff, depending on which devices the group supports, but these vendors hope to get in front of the issue with new applications that enable advanced monitoring and control of the moving targets.

For instance, Kace this week announced the availability of KBOX iPhone Management Module, an appliance-based systems management product for Apple's popular smart phone. The company says iPhone popularity among small to midsize businesses -- a sweet spot for Kace -- further drove executives to make iPhone management features available. According to Kace, 22% of IT managers reported purchasing an iPhone for business use. Forrester Research separately reported that 10% if SMBs would adopt iPhones in 2009.  (Check out our slideshow 8 ways to expense an iPhone.)

"As the iPhone continues to be the 'go to' smart phone for businesses, it's important for IT organizations to be able to efficiently deploy, track and manage the mobile devices, just as they would any other critical computing platform," said Marty Kacin, Kace CTO and co-founder in a statement.

The company says its KBOX appliances now can perform asset discovery and reporting capabilities, enabling IT staff to track iPhones and understand associated costs, such as installed software and carrier contract details. The product also makes deploying iPhones easier, the company says, with policy-based set up and configuration.

For its part, NetScout also this week introduced an iPhone management product -- yet this one lets IT staff with an iPhone manage their net as though they were connected to the primary console from anywhere. The company's nGenius K2 mNOC mobility offerings brings NetScout's integrated service management capabilities to Web-based mobile devices. With this application, IT managers can access the data collected by nGenius and take action on their iPhone -- something industry watchers argue will speed time to problem resolution and enable IT staff to work more flexibly.

"Leveraging mobile devices can increase IT operations efficiencies by enabling network management personnel to perform their other duties and still be notified of critical issues that require their immediate attention. This can shorten time to resolution and lower the risk of critical issues being missed," said Debra Curtis, research vice president at Gartner in a NetScout press release.

And Trust Digital announced earlier in the month that is had consolidated management and security capabilities for iPhone and other smart phones into its enterprise mobility management platform. According to the vendor, the platform offers a Web-based enterprise console with an integrated help desk capability; self-service portal for end-user assistance; integrated with Microsoft Active Directory; and device loss protection including policy-based password and remote wipe features, among other capabilities.

"[In 2009], we will see growth in the mobile 'wannabe' user segment as employees bring their personal devices, such as the iPhone, into work and expect organizations to develop ways to support these new devices -- even with the slowdown expected in consumer mobile device purchases," a recent Forrester Research report states.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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