Channel Partners: Mobile Device Management Is Only The First Step

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In both environments -- SMBs and large enterprises -- Main anticipates Microsoft customers turning to partners to help them map out and manage larger mobile strategies, as their conversations inevitably evolve beyond MDM.

"We are also seeing partners really step in, especially in even slightly smaller organizations," Main said. "IT, in some organizations, has been, 'We install a PC and flip on automatic security updates and that's our management process.' But as you start to have more mobile devices floating around within that organization, and as you start to have just more recognition of the advantages that come from a well-managed environment, customers are recognizing that it would be great to be able to do more in this area, and they are turning to partners to offer a more full-fledged solution."

Fellow software giant SAP has noticed a similar spike in demand for MDM offerings, including in its Afaria platform, which it added to its product portfolio with its 2010 acquisition of Sybase. Its mobility unit, as a whole, has seen a 350 percent growth rate over the past few years, Mark Jordan, senior product manager of Afaria at Sybase, told CRN.

The company just released a new iteration of Afaria, version 7.0, that delivers a "refreshed" user interface and new API layer for enhanced integration with existing enterprise applications. Like Microsoft's Eric Main, Jordan noted that partners often leverage Afaria in a managed services model for SMBs, and they tend to re-sell the solution to larger organizations.

But, again, in both cases, partners are turned to for more than a managed service. They are called upon by clients looking to build a mobility roadmap or understand the broader security, application, and expense management implications of deploying a mobile environment. This trend is so widespread that it has prompted SAP, and many of its partners, to start replacing the phrase "mobile device management" with the broader "mobility management."

"Everybody in the industry is really looking more toward, I guess, a new definition [for MDM]," Jordan said. "We're all looking for the right one, and I think 'mobility management' seems to be what people are coming up with in lieu of a better one, because it seems to encompass more than just device management."

Joel Osman, senior executive of Technology Labs at Accenture, a global consultancy, solution provider and SAP partner, has noticed an uptake in demand for these larger "mobility management" services over the past few years.

"In the enterprise, BYOD is just sort of flushing over them, whether they like it or not. And in many respects, that's what's driving them to start thinking about it," he said. "So we have a lot of conversations and do a lot of work around figuring out all the different pieces and parts that need to be in place, not just to support BYOD but to really derive value out of mobility."

Next: Defining These Larger 'Pieces And Parts' Of MDM

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