VMware’s business mobility vision becomes clearer – with Microsoft in its sights


Analysis Earlier this week, VMware set out its vision for enterprise mobility at its virtual Business Mobility event.

“For years, businesses have struggled to address the proliferation of mobile devices, playing defence against employee with their own devices and customers with mobile-driven expectations,” a statement reads. “Fundamentally, every business process needs to be rethought with a mobility-first mindset. CIOs and lines of business must collaborate and co-innovate to drive this change. Above all, business mobility must be driven from the top.”

Key to this, amidst the various announcements, is an identity as a service offering which integrates identity with enterprise-class mobility management and security. As Noah Wasmer, end user computing (EUC) CTO and VP product management at VMware told Enterprise AppsTech: “What we’re driving towards is this notion of consumer simple, enterprise secure.”

Almost 18 months after the acquisition of enterprise mobility management (EMM) provider AirWatch, critical opinion of the firm’s handling of the acquisition, as well as the bedding in of the AirWatch product without it dying on the vine, has been good. Strategically, however, VMware will be looking more broadly at the ecosystem – and focusing on Microsoft.

VMware totally have Microsoft in their sights. It will be a battle of the titans that most people weren't expecting

That’s the view of Maribel Lopez, founder of Lopez Research, and Nick McQuire, VP enterprise at CCS Insight. McQuire named Microsoft as one of the enterprise mobility vendors to watch at the start of the year, citing the importance of its enterprise mobile app development suites through .NET and Visual Studio, and mobile security and management through Intune, its cloud-based MDM offering, and its Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS).

In May, Microsoft trumpeted a “great first year” for EMS at its Ignite event, bundling in advanced threat analytics, mobile app management (MAM) for Outlook and Intune conditional access to boot. Yet it’s the identity play which VMware needed to catch up on, according to McQuire. “As we shift to Windows 10 these are EMM architectures, broadly, for unified endpoint management, so that’s the nature of the competition now for EUC, and it’s also the nature of the competition now with Microsoft for Intune,” he tells Enterprise AppsTech.

“What VMware has lacked in the past, and where Microsoft has really been pushing hard, [is] on their identity services as part of the Intune set. This helps [VMware] go head to head with Microsoft,” he adds.

Lopez argues Microsoft is VMware's main competitor. "They totally have Microsoft in their sights," she tells Enterprise AppsTech. "It will be a battle of the titans that most people weren't expecting."

Microsoft has two key streams of value; Azure and Office. Given Microsoft controls Office a lot more tightly around Intune, this represents a “good entry point” for VMware to counter the aces Redmond currently holds in its pack, according to McQuire. “From my point of view, that’s why the identity as a service piece is fixed very highly for them,” he notes. “It’s something they can naturally extend from what they’re currently got, but [it] obviously makes sense for them as well because they can tie it into their hybrid cloud infrastructure, some of their networking solutions as well to add an extra layer of security.”

He adds: “You’re starting to see with this piece an even further advancement of AirWatch becoming folded into the broader VMware architecture, and identity’s the lynchpin for that.”

You're starting to see with this piece an even further advancement of AirWatch becoming folded into the broader VMware architecture

Lopez, who interviewed VMware EUC GM Sanjay Poonen at the M6 Mobility xChange earlier this month, argues: "If you asked me a year ago if VMware would be a logical fit for driving mobile, I would have said no. Today, I see the vision of taking it from mobile through cloud. It allows VMware to sell at a higher more strategic level.

"But it isn't without its challenges," she warns. "Companies still think about technology in silos and they still aren't fully bought into the cloud. The biggest issue is understanding what is different about mobile."

Among the other announcements was App Configuration for Enterprise (ACE), an open standard initiative which Wasmer describes as “EMM neutral” and now boasts 15 more partners, including bigtincan, DocuSign and Dropbox. Again, McQuire asserts, Microsoft is the competition.

“Microsoft are taking a different route than ACE,” he says, “and I think you kind of wonder whether ACE is about countering the game that Microsoft’s playing with Office at the moment. They’re not opening up the Office APIs, whereas all the ISVs that are part of the ACE program are saying no, we’re going to make the manageability of our apps a standard.”

From conversations McQuire has had with ISVs, the feedback has been positive; it’s decreased their time to market and lowered their cost of development. Lopez agrees, adding if ACE is successful the challenge will be for VMware to deliver above the MDM and MAM layer and into identity. Yet even though VMware asserts ACE is EMM neutral and a standard for all, McQuire hopes there will be more EMM involvement in future.

Microsoft responded with a statement of its own following the VMware event, claiming identity management is ‘in Microsoft’s DNA’ and further emphasising the importance of the tech giant’s positioning in both the EMM and identity as a service Gartner Magic Quadrants. “It is great to see VMware further validate what customers [have] been telling us – that identity needs to be at the core of any enterprise mobility solution,” it reads.


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