Apple’s announcement last week to work with Cisco on optimizing networks for iOS devices is another key enterprise partnership that pretty much cements Apple as a once unlikely key player in the enterprise IT domain.
Most IT organizations have already had to deal with the onslaught of personal mobile devices entering the workspace. However, the Cisco partnership, and Apple’s earlier announcement with IBM, highlight just how deep Apple (and Android) have penetrated the once Windows-dominated enterprise and will influence more decisions and spend in the multibillion dollar IT market in the coming years.
Here are some of the main areas in end-user computing and app development that IT organizations will have to tackle as they continue to increase adoption of Apple products in the enterprise.
Device Management. The first inroad for Apple and Google into the enterprise was driven by employees bringing their iOS and Android devices into work. From executives in the boardroom to sales and field workers, pretty much everyone started adopting these devices and wanted to be able to access corporate email and calendars, to start. This drove the need for mobile device management (MDM) software from vendors like Citrix (XenMobile), VMWare (AirWatch), and Mobile Iron, so that IT could securely manage corporate data on the devices. Now we are starting to see increasing, albeit still relatively small, market adoption of Mac laptops within the enterprise. Expect this trend to grow.
Application Management. Once employees are permitted to use their smartphones and tablets in the enterprise, the next logical step is being able to run applications beyond just email. Being able to run IT-approved apps that have access to sensitive corporate data is becoming critical. The mobile application management (MAM) area also covers enterprise app stores for distributing corporate apps directly to employees, without having to go to public app stores.
Desktop and Application Virtualization. There are many legacy applications, in some cases even running on old mainframes, that continue to be used across the enterprise. Until these older applications can be gradually transitioned into modern native mobile or web technology, desktop virtualization will continue to have a place in the enterprise. These solutions have evolved to provide virtual environments running legacy apps on modern devices like iPads and other tablets. While user experience can be lousy when trying to use older applications on touch-screen based interfaces, IT will have to resort to these solutions.
Network Optimization. This is one of the main areas that the Cisco partnership claims to be focusing on. While the announcement is somewhat lacking in specifics, we expect that this will include optimizing corporate networks for proprietary or Apple-adopted wireless protocols, so that iOS devices on the network will experience improved connection quality, indoor location-based services, and perhaps turnkey virtual private networking (VPN) capabilities.
Unified Communications. This is a second area that the Cisco partnership covers, and it relates to the adoption of IP-based communications devices within corporate networks. Desktop phones can now be plugged into any network, so people can reach you on an office number anywhere you have Internet access. Why not eliminate the desktop hardware completely and just use your mobile phone? Adapting other iOS functions such as FaceTime and Messaging for enterprise communications and collaboration is a no-brainer.
Application Development. One of the most critical areas that is already impacted by IT consumerization has been that of app development. Developers across all enterprise organizations are experiencing the need to build apps that run on modern smartphones and tablets to mobilize business processes that cut across multiple enterprise systems. This will continue to impact the IT organization and put pressure to move off legacy applications and band-aid virtualization options. The reality is, most IT organizations will not have the staff to organically support the massive demand for app development, so adopting solutions like enterprise mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) that can enable IT-governed app development will be key.
In summary, the Apple-Cisco partnership announcement is yet another confirmation that IT consumerzation is here to stay, and IT organizations will have to be agile across many practice areas to support this trend. We expect to see continued convergence within the end-user computing segment, as traditional IT technology vendors like Citrix, VMWare, IBM, and Microsoft build or acquire solutions across the aforementioned areas to build suites that help IT with this challenge.
Rich Mendis is cofounder and chief product officer at AnyPresence and has more than 20 years in the software and information services industry. He was previously vice president of solution management at SAP, working in the CTO and sustainability offices.