Android devices and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement have been at odds since the first enterprise contemplated letting employees use their own devices for work tasks. I recently wrote about what VMware is doing to support BYOD on Android smartphones; and now Nubo Software, an Israeli startup, has rolled out a virtual workspace called Nubo that could become another BYOD option for enterprises with an Android user community.
Nubo Software says their platform also supports iOS devices -- or any web browser for that matter. For the purposes of this post, I'm only going to focus on running Nubo on an Android device (specifically, a Nexus 10 tablet).
Nubo and security
Security is a fairly high concern when it comes to Android and BYOD. As for device and connection security, the Nubo platform packs the following security measures:
- Two-factor authentication, where a user must provide a valid password on a device that has already been activated on the Nubo platform. That activated device stores a unique token to ensure Nubo only connects to the authenticated user's data and apps.
- SSL encryption for security between the Nubo platform and devices that connect to it (even over public Wi-Fi networks).
Nubo as a remote workspace
When a user logs into the Nubo platform from their mobile device, they log into an Android-based virtual environment. It's not a Windows-based environment like so many other apps on the market right now. I see one pro and one con to this for the enterprise:
- Pro: An Android-based virtual workspace means no longer having to support enterprise apps on different mobile platforms.
- Con: iOS still maintains an edge over Android in certain enterprise app categories. While the gap is closing, it's something you need to look at when considering Nubo as a BYOD solution.
This pro and con extend to Google Play/App Store apps that users might already be using. However, when piloting Nubo, I would definitely audit your enterprise mobile apps like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and other backend systems.
Inside the Nubo remote workspace
I got early access to a Nubo workspace using an early version of the client app, before it was released to the Google Play Store. The demo account they set me up with ran the default Nubo implementation (included in the $5.00/month subscription fee) and some other Android apps from the Google Play Store for demonstration purposes. Figure A shows the Nubo default apps in a default workspace.
Virtual workspace in Nubo.
Here are the standard Nubo apps.
- Email client with an easy setup routine
- Calendar that immediately lets you add your Google account to pull in calendar data
- MobiSuite Office 7, which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application
- Settings to control accounts and notifications within the virtual workspace
- People application, which lets you pull contacts in from your Google or Google Apps for Business account
- Standard mobile browser for accessing sites
- Calculator (I'm not sure why Nubo included this in the workspace)
- Files manager that lets you access files on the device. Yahoo Mail, for some reason, showed in the test virtual space that Nubo Software set up for me
The default apps are fairly standard, as Android mobile apps go. You can also install other Android apps from the Google Play Store (Figure B). I didn't find any references for side-loading Android apps into the Nubo virtual workspace.
Android apps running in the Nubo virtual workspace.
Nubo does enable role-based work environments for executives and sales people who have their own particular application requirements, with each user working from their own secure workspace within the Nubo virtual machine. Nubo stores all corporate files within the secure workspace and not on the mobile device.
My concerns around Nubo as a solution are more about network performance. While I didn't notice anything on my home Wi-Fi network, I did experience some performance lag when I connected the tablet to the Wi-Fi network at a local café.
Nubo administration and provisioning
Nubo Software made the prudent decision to design the Nubo platform for minimal administration and management. Nubo requires an administrator to install applications on a central server for their entire organization to use.
One thing I'd like to see Nubo Software do is to get user self-provisioning down pat when they finally release their mobile apps. The workaround I had to follow for installing their app was easy enough, but it needs to be a seamless experience for users.
What Nubo Software doesn't really cover is any licensing issues that may arise with this approach to deploying apps. You definitely should review your enterprise applications for any potential licensing issues.
The Nubo virtual workspace could be the BYOD platform of the future for companies with a large Android user community. However, I recommend a wait-and-see approach while you spend the time performing some due diligence on any potential licensing issues. This will also allow the company some time to gain a larger customer footprint.
What are your thoughts about Nubo? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.