With twin announcements today coming out of its Armonk, NY headquarters, IBM today showed it's as concerned as most enterprises are about the so-called bring-in-your-own-devices trend. And it's joining, via its checkbook, a fledgling industry cropping around IT houses who need a way to manage and secure data that's on employee-owned mobile devices and services.
IBM, with its announcement today, focused on the mobile part of that equation. It announced it is purchasing Worklight , a privately held Israeli mobile software maker. And it unveiled the beta version of its new Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, software it says enables enterprises to manage, secure and remotely control and wipe mobile devices running Apple iOS, Google Android, Nokia Symbian, Microsoft Windows Phone and its older Windows Phone.
"With the Bring Your Own Device to work, or BYOD, movement rapidly picking up steam, more and more employees are taking their smartphones and tablets to the office," VP of IBM's Mobile Platform, Bob Sutor, wrote on his blog, in a post entitled Employee mobile device + work =potential security problem. "This can be a boon to the CIO's office if it no longer needs to foot the bill for those fancy new devices, but it opens all sorts of security problems."
IBM wants to take the lead in helping enterprises dealing with an issue that isn't going away any time soon. In an email to CBS Interactive, he added that the scope of today's two announcements "shows the breadth of our vision" for modern enterprises bubbling over with often insecure mobile devices.
The twin announcements are intended to enhance mobile management, Sutor said. "For mobile management, (IBM tools) offer capabilities to manage enterprise or BYOD employee-owned phones and tablets. This helps ensure that confidential business data stays that way ... and ... if devices are lost or stolen, data can be wiped if there is no other recourse."
Until just a year or two ago, IT seemingly relied on RIM's BlackBerry mobile device as the gold standard for enterprise security. For other devices, it relied on single applications designed to, say, remotely wipe iPhones. Comprehensive solutions have been few and far between, and that's what IBM is apparently addressing here. Employees are going rogue in greater and greater numbers, with even the CEO forcing in new, relatively insecure devices that make management a hassle from a security standpoint.
According to an IBM infographic the company posted on Flickr, the mobile universe is expanding like crazy. This is just the sort of puzzle IBM is good at solving, and a great way to put it back in the driver's seat in the enterprise, a seat it lost to Microsoft two decades ago. This is assuming there is a seat to be taken, of course. That's an assumption IBM is willing to make.
It bears noting that IBM is buying its way into the mobile management in the face of what it calls the BYOD problem. Its Endpoint product, unveiled today, came out of its purchase of Big Fix, maker of an IT-centric management tool for portable devices. Now it's purchased Worklight, too, for an undisclosed amount.
It isn't hard to imagine other major vendors snapping up toolmakers who've made the first move toward helping IT manage data sprawl and the proliferation of personal tech devices. In fact, it's hard to imagine consolidation not happening.
Sutor made a point of saying it used modern tools - blogs and Twitter, actually - to make its announcements today. They came from the accounts of Sutor — @bob_sutor and another exec, VP of Marketing Scott Hebner @SLHebner. The hashtag, all important, was #ibmmobile:
Microsoft has long been expected to provide a major suite of tools for IT struggling with data and device sprawl as its product, Active Directory, is the hub of most enterprises. IBM is moving first, though. With the announcements today, IBM's mobile suite of services targeting IT and the BYOD trend now includes tools for building remote control apps, compliance management apps for various devices, software to aid in building and connecting mobile apps that run on personal devices but link to IT and an array of security services.
The Worklight acquisition, IBM said, has a target close date before the end of 1Q2012. Details of the deal are as yet undisclosed.
Now here's what I want to know. Where's the tool that lets a former employee remotely wipe his or her pics, Gmail settings and Skype automatic sign in from the work-issued PC or Mac they had to return?
Gina Smith is a NYT best-selling author of iWOZ, the biography of Steve Wozniak. She is a vet tech journalist and chief of the geek tech site, aNewDomain.net.