IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Do Your Clients Need Mobile Application Management?

Move over MDM, hello MAM? Experts weigh in on whether you should stop managing mobile devices and start managing mobile applications instead. By James E. Gaskin

Managing mobile devices was low profile until the iPhone hit in the summer of 2007. Subsequent smartphones from all vendors forced IT staffs to scramble and provide security policies and provisions, and mobile device management (MDM) was born. The BYOD movement and growth of custom corporate applications have forced the development of mobile application management, or MAM. MAM focuses on provisioning and controlling access to mobile apps on both company- and employee-owned devices. But what’s the best choice today? MDM, MAM, or some combination of the two?

Mobile application management is a worthwhile tool, but it’s more powerful when combined with device management and security policies,” says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Christian Kane. “Separate MDM and MAM tools for the same device doesn’t make as much sense as a combined product. Look for continued consolidation of mobile device management with workspace management.”

There are now hundreds of mobile management vendors, and the vast majority start with MDM and plan to add MAM later or partner with an MAM provider. One of the very few MAM-only providers, Boston-based Apperian Inc., started out building application development tools and evolved into management.

“We came out with our first MAM development products and an app catalog and enterprise app store over three years ago,” says Apperian CTO Carlos Montero-Luque. “MDM is just different than MAM. For some platforms, MDM is very important to do specific things like remotely wiping the contents of a device. But we agree with Gartner when they say MDM is going away.”

One reason Montero-Luque believes MAM is the best way to go is the rise of BYOD. “We developed our technology the way we did because of BYOD becoming such a tremendous movement with such widespread adoption. An employee doesn’t want you to control the entire device, but managing just one or two applications is acceptable.”

Another factor pushing consolidation, says Jay Gordon, vice president of sales at Enterprise Mobile, is that “companies don’t want seven relationships.” Plano, Texas-based Enterprise Mobile is a national reseller for MobileIron, one of the leading MDM vendors, and has more than 700,000 mobile devices under contract. “Right now, a lot of companies use two platforms for MDM and MAM—really, quite a few. The ones that bought MDM first are better positioned, because companies have to get a device enrolled in MDM for security. The next step is to add application management. There’s not so much success for MAM people adding MDM later.”

Gordon says his customers have pretty clear guidelines for corporate-owned versus BYOD. “We haven’t seen a reduction in corporate-owned devices. BYOD is just a supplement for those, but very few are going full BYOD. When employees need a mobile device to do their jobs, the company provides it. If they need just one app, like corporate email, BYOD works.” As always, a hybrid combination is possible, and is used by some of Gordon’s customers. “We see companies providing the smartphone, but if the employee wants an iPad, they have to buy that.”

Although Enterprise Mobile, a business unit of Honeywell International Inc., focuses on midsize to large companies with 500 or more devices with ongoing management, smaller companies buy from them as well. “We’ve sold MobileIron to companies with 40 or 50 devices,” says Gordon.

Advice to Resellers
Gordon’s advice to resellers looking into this market? “Perform your due diligence on vendors and understand your price points for software, revenue, and margin. There are so many companies out there now you can drive yourself crazy using 15 vendors. Pick two or three and stick with them.”

Consolidation is the future, Gordon believes. “Last year, only about 20 percent of our MDM customers also had MAM capabilities. This year, about half do, coming a long way in a year.”

This observation fits the pattern Forrester’s Kane sees in his client surveys. “More companies have invested in MDM so far, but many of those are considering adding MAM now.”

And more will be piled onto MDM platforms, says Kane, as mobile device managers start to understand the need for content management as well. “Interactions with third parties, like, Dropbox, and other vendors that do file sync and sharing, including Microsoft’s SharePoint, need management as well.” Add in vertical markets that need mobile devices—like retail sales, home healthcare, and other industries adopting tablets—and it’s clear that more, not less, management will be required.

“The market has evolved,” says Apperian’s Montero-Luque. “MDM was the tool for everything before. Now companies need to handle app lifecycle management, corporate credentials, single sign-on, and other company functions. These needs go way beyond what MDM can do.” Montero-Luque notes that some vendors have tried laying MAM on top of MDM, but the user experience was a mess, systems didn’t work well, and it didn’t scale. “We provide development tools to help customers prepare apps for their end users with security built in, and users can download them when ready from their company—just like any other app store,” he says

Kane believes this market is ripe for resellers. “Customers are really looking for specific advice [on mobility management tools]. Those customers are asking their trusted advisers how to proceed,” he says.

What will be the market’s answer? Experts agree that consolidation is the future of mobile management of all kinds. For Kane, MDM+MAM may equal EMM, or enterprise mobility management. For Montero-Luque, Apperian’s MAM products focus less on devices and more on corporate content, but MDM provides the underlying foundation for the company’s MAM tools, and that partnership trend will continue. Gordon believes MDM vendors will add more and more MAM features yet keep the same cost, except perhaps for security tools like app tunneling or app wrapping.

Whether the result is MDM-plus, MAM-plus, EMM, or another acronym with even more features, resellers need to get involved now to be positioned for the future.

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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