There’s a lot of discussion and hype on the market right now about the Internet of Things . . . and for good reason. If projections are correct, by 2020 over 30 billion objects will wirelessly be connected to the internet. Moreover, current trends indicate that this technological transformation will not just pertain to random “things” but will literally be ubiquitous, or what some are calling the Internet of Everything. John Chambers, Cisco CEO, claims this space will have five to 10 times the impact on society as the Internet itself, and is projecting a $19 trillion dollar market for this industry over the next decade.
One of the “elephants in the room” on discussions of this nature have to do with how these objects will be managed within the burgeoning IT infrastructure of the not-too-distant future. Once upon a time mobile enterprise infrastructures were fairly straightforward – Blackberry devices were the thing. Then thanks to the launch of the smartphone and the “consumerization of IT” a few upstart employees started to call the shots by bringing their own smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices to work. Pretty soon everyone joined in. BYOD has become pervasive, notwithstanding a lot of new headaches for enterprises to finally get onboard. But by and large corporations have transitioned to the new reality of supporting iOS, Windows, and Android devices, in addition to the traditional Blackberries.
As more employees demanded the use of their personal devices, MDM (or mobile device management platforms) came online to provide a framework for establishing the policies, best practices, and technologies to address the realities of BYOD. Thus, a number of top MDM solutions such as AirWatch and MobileIron have provided businesses with optimal solutions for rolling out an efficient, secure, and scalable BYOD strategy across the enterprise.
However, now as Internet of Things starts to ramp up we’re entering a different world. We’re not just talking a few devices anymore. The playing field has shifted and if the Dorothy-from Wizard-of-Oz refrain helps us get the point, then let’s say it together: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
Mobile devices are commonly understood to be the primary framework for controlling the Internet of Things. But there are major changes in the air and specialists are coming to realize that MDM simply won’t be enough to withstand the tsunami of devices that are projected to sweep the enterprise in the next 5 years.
Gartner gets it and, in fact, they’ve aptly addressed this new paradigm shift head-on. Their contention is that mobile device management is a misnomer when it comes to the future of so-called device management. Even the name changes; in the universe of IoT everything is now going to be an ‘endpoint’. Gartner analysts Ken Dulaney and Terrence Cosgrove write in their May 2014 report entitled Managing PCs, Smartphones and Tablets and the Future Ahead argue that the whole world of PC and MDM is shifting, including necessary skills and IT processes.
Enterprises are supporting two radically different management architectures — one for PCs and another for smartphones. PCs are managed though system images, while smartphones and their cousins, tablets, are managed via a more complex mechanism that adapts to their sandboxed architectures. Yet, in many cases, IT attempts to make smartphones act like PCs through strategies such as containerisation, which is a pseudo system image. IT should understand the differences between the management styles of the two types of devices and recognize that sandboxed architectures represent the future. Thus, the management framework approach going forward will result in a product category called Unified Endpoint Management (quote taken from this article)
Other enterprises also understand this shift. In fact, IBM offers a Unified Endpoint Management solution, and aptly points out the main value add of this approach: “The next generation of Unified Endpoint Management will focus on a holistic view of the relationship between the users, the applications they use, the devices the applications are running on, the network that the applications communicate on, and the data that is being shared.”
If you think about the “consumerization of IT” trends over the past 5 years and the impact of BYOD on the enterprise and scale that up ten-fold, then you can begin to understand the implications of Internet of Things and wearables on the realm of mobile device management. The paradigm is shifting and the new keyword in this arena is ‘endpoint’ and the new framework is UEM. Businesses need to start envisioning this shift and considering how the wide range of emerging wearables, IoT connected devices, smartphones and tablets will fit into one holistic management framework involving data, cloud, and mobile interactivity.
2015 is going to be a pivotal year for shifting organizational thinking away from MDM to embrace what is now called “endpoint” management. We’re seeing major signs of this shift already. Wearables were a big hit in 2014 and the imminent release of Apple Watch is going to make the market even bigger. Everything we can see at this point suggests that wearables and Internet of Things are going to have profound impacts on businesses and how data, services, and platforms are managed. There is no better time than the present to start evaluating your IT infrastructure and management approach to ensure support for the integration of wearables, mobile devices, and Internet of Things into a Unified Endpoint Management framework. Don’t try to boil the ocean but at least start today by adopting a mindset that makes “endpoints” a key part of your 2015 mobile device management strategy.