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How To Sort Through Enterprise Mobility Challenges

Mobility is demanding the attention of IT. Whether it's building a scalable wireless infrastructure, or supporting the newest smartphone or tablet, the choices are daunting. Interop's wireless and mobility conference track can help sort out these challenges.

Mobility is inescapable, raining down on our infrastructure, security policies, management systems, applications, and computing devices. The novelty has worn off, and now it's time to contend with the complexities that touch internal development teams and IT managers alike. Products have emerged, and they seem awfully familiar, as if we're reliving two decades of taming and protecting and stabilizing our systems. Time to take control, turn complexity into opportunity.

Start with the Wireless and Mobility Conference Track at this May's Interop in Las Vegas, where Farpoint Group's Craig Mathias has cobbled together more than his usually stellar lineup of sessions and speakers.

From those sessions, it would be easy to create a short list of requirements for everything from wireless networking to tablet and smartphone devices to mobile device management. This last one is particularly thorny today, because employees are either demanding to use their personal devices on company networks, or they're just doing it, raising old concerns about policy and regulatory compliance and new questions about the separation of personal data and sensitive professional data.

Mobile device management (MDM) was easy enough in BlackBerry-dominated environments, but those days are mostly gone, except in locked down parts of the financial services and government sectors. Beyond encrypting data on phones and tablets, or being able to remotely wipe or lock lost devices, companies need to sandbox corporate data, restrict access, even down to the destination IP address or Wi-Fi network, and turn off functionality like cameras, all in the name of good policy enforcement, assuming that such policy even exists. "So many companies don't have security policies written down," Mathias says.

New MDM players emerge monthly, and Mathias says his tracking list includes as many as 60 companies. Smith Micro, Good Technology, Mobile Iron, Sybase, and a few others come to mind. A conference session called "Operating at the Edge: Mobile Device Security, Management and Policy," run by Philippe Winthrop, managing director of The Enterprise Mobility Foundation, will pit several entrench and emerging MDM players against one another, and help you create that checklist of product requirements.

For those IT decision makers with the power to enforce standard device platforms, the choices grows more plentiful by the day. We've been testing not only the iPad2, but new Android devices, RIM's BlackBerry Playbook, and even specialized devices like the Avaya Flare, which is a multi-point conferencing system. Despite speculation about whether tablets will replace laptops, netbooks, and other clients, they're mostly purchased as additional systems. Track chair Eric Krapf, who is also the editor of our NoJitter site, asks: "Will Tablets Rule the World?" There couldn't be a more steamy topic.

Tablet and smartphone decisions aren't just about the device, but also the ecosystem of device, carrier, operating system, and available applications. The operating system decision is most important. Enterprise tablet buying decisions revolve around the differences between Apple's iOS, Google's Android 3.0, RIM's QNX, and the soon-to-arrive HP WebOS for tablets. No details yet on anything tablet-centric from Microsoft, but that's sure to come. This is just this century's version of the Mac OS vs. Windows vs. OS/2 vs. Unix wars of yesteryear, with just as much at stake. Check out the Interop session "Apps and Beyond: Mobile Operating Systems."

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