Why the enterprise mobility management market needs a rethink
A high-stakes battle has emerged in the rapidly-changing market for enterprise mobility management, also known as EMM.
Three of the market's biggest names — Microsoft, MobileIron and VMware — have each made a string of moves over the past month that reveal polarising strategies. At one end are companies that primarily bundle EMM into a wider proprietary set of software; at the other, those more focused on specialism in mobility and teaming up with "best of breed" partners.
The implications of these contrasting approaches reach far beyond EMM as we think of it today and force us to rethink the market's definition. Here I'll examine some of these recent announcements and explain what they mean to the market.
MobileIron's Mobile First 2015
At its annual Mobile First conference in June, MobileIron made several announcements that reveal how its direction and identity are changing and broadening how we think of EMM.
As the only publicly-listed standalone EMM provider, MobileIron is often thought of solely as a device management firm that has evolved into managing mobile apps and content. But in my view, MobileIron's moving much more rapidly beyond these roots into the information security space. Central to this shift is Sentry, perhaps its most important source of intellectual property.
Sentry manages, encrypts, and secures traffic between a mobile device and back-end enterprise systems. Sentry's role has grown as customers have moved to the cloud and started deploying mobile apps beyond e-mail. Customer data is therefore starting to flow between, and live on, multiple Internet and proprietary enterprise systems, as well as travelling on public networks.
Sentry is attempting to step into this domain, becoming a mobile-aware information security gateway that uses technologies such as per-app virtual private networks to govern and secure mobile enterprise data. In effect, information security has been the focus of many of MobileIron's announcements in 2015, making the company quite different from how we've traditionally viewed it and the wider EMM market.
MobileIron has taken a different approach to several of its competitors when it comes to bringing its products to market. Its focus on mobility, specialism, neutrality and partnering with leading names in adjacent technology areas are big parts of its differentiation, enabling MobileIron to compete as requirements broaden beyond the areas it controls. The company is currently unprofitable and under scrutiny after a difficult first quarter; it will be hoping this route to market will help it manage expenditure.
The company's App Connect ecosystem, which has gathered over 200 partnerships, helps to position MobileIron as the central mobile security "brain" for several systems, including Ping and Okta for identity management, FireEye for threat protection, Splunk for analytics and Cisco Systems for network access controls.
At Mobile First 2015, CEO Bob Tinker described this partner approach as the "anti-stack". Specialism is arguably necessary to address current IT security requirements, which are inherently based on mobility. The challenge will be for MobileIron to articulate to new customers and to Wall Street why this precision matters, especially as much larger competitors are also changing the market by bundling EMM with their own core products at a lower cost.
VMware launches Identity Manager
VMware is one of these competitors. On 17 June, it launched Identity Manager, a unified identity management solution providing single sign-on for Web, cloud and native mobile applications across multiple VMware environments, including AirWatch, its EMM product.
Since its acquisition of AirWatch in February 2014, VMware has rapidly integrated the acquired technology into its set of virtualisation, data centre and networking products. Identity Manager builds on this strategy and extends the identity management assets VMware bought from TriCipher in 2010 to its cloud infrastructure as well as to AirWatch. The product is available for sale through several AirWatch commercial bundles.
The strategy of integrating AirWatch software, as well as launching new products like Identity Manager that unify its environments, appears to be accelerating VMware's end-user computing business and AirWatch itself. The success was reflected in its recent quarterly results.
It is a strategy that, like MobileIron's evolution into information security, is also reshaping how we think of the EMM market as customers weigh the benefits of having data centre, desktop virtualisation, mobility management and unified identity management solutions all under one roof.
Most importantly, VMware's integration strategy sets it apart from rivals and lets it commercially outmanoeuvre MobileIron while offsetting incursions from Microsoft, its main competitor. Microsoft, much like VMware, competes in EMM with an increasing number of bundled products within its portfolio.
Microsoft bundles Advanced Threat Analytics
Microsoft's EMM strategy is based on its Enterprise Mobility Suite, which is a subscription service bundle made up of several Microsoft products including Azure Active Directory Premium, its identity management service, Azure Rights Management, its document protection technology, and Intune, Microsoft's device and application management solution.
On 23 June Microsoft quietly announced that it was extending this bundle to include Advanced Threat Analytics, a threat-monitoring and machine-learning technology launched at Ignite in May 2015. It hasn't revealed timings and prices yet.
Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite has made waves in EMM since launching in 2014, largely because of its focus on identity management. Now that VWware has entered the market, the announcement of integrated threat analysis further advances Microsoft's bundle. In January, I said Microsoft was a top five enterprise mobility provider to watch in 2015. In March the company announced it had over 20,000 customers for Enterprise Mobility Suite, although it's unclear how many of them have actually deployed it, rather than only purchasing it under an enterprise licence agreement.
As a latecomer to the EMM space, Microsoft's momentum is down to two main factors. First is Redmond's focus on commercially bundling EMM across the Microsoft range of software. As SAP has shown with mobile device management purchases in the past, bundling EMM may prove attractive for customers with large-scale licence agreements that can purchase EMM with other stuff at a lower cost. The launch of Enterprise Cloud Suite, which includes Enterprise Mobility Suite alongside Office 365 and Windows Enterprise licences (and now Advanced Threat Analytics), is an example of this strategy.
Second, and most importantly, Microsoft's Office group has intentionally locked the management of Office on mobile devices more tightly to Enterprise Mobility Suite rather than entirely opening it up to third parties like MobileIron and VMware. Holding back some Office management APIs naturally boosts the competitive advantage of Microsoft's own product and supports the claim that it "protects Office better".
Whether this abuses its market power or not, Microsoft's bundling strategy is rapidly reshaping the EMM space. This is because the adjacent technologies that help Microsoft compete, such as identity and rights management, productivity software, traditional Windows management and now threat monitoring, all force EMM buyers to make even tougher decisions over the next 12 months.
What does it mean?
The past few weeks of announcements from three of the EMM market's leading players reveal increasingly polarising strategies between those that bundle EMM into a wider set of proprietary software and those that do not. Buyers will have even harder, more-complex decisions to make, weighing up the pros and cons of being locked into a single provider or opting to manage multiple, often smaller, specialist providers.
Bundled solutions have the advantages of cost efficiency and simplification, which have proven valuable to IT departments in the past for more standardised client-server computing. But only time will tell whether they fully translate to address the huge diversity of mobile computing and the demands of employees. Buyers will have to remember that it is often employees driving mobility in enterprises, as our survey shows.
Above all, EMM is changing and requires us to rethink its definition as an increasingly diverse array of adjacent technologies are starting to change where the market's heading. Thanks to the strategies of major players, future avenues include information security, identity management, management of PCs and Internet of things devices, productivity software, platform as a service and analytics.
The winners will shape the future of enterprise information security and computing management in the coming years, and form the foundation for new enterprise IT value. Those are the stakes; perhaps this is the new definition worth considering.