Good Technology, MobileIron come with 'really serious constraints' says Westminster Council CIO

By Peter Gothard
13 Nov 2012 View Comments
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Existing enterprise mobile device management [MDM] solutions come with "really serious constraints," Westminster Council CIO Ben Goward has told Computing.

Speaking at Aditi Technologies' GoCloud 8 conference in London today, Goward said he had been unimpressed by the MDM solutions he had looked into while attempting to modernise Westminster Council's mobile and BYOD solutions.

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"We are very preoccupied with the future of our end user model," said Goward. "We're working with two other local authorities. In local government, the need to ensure data protection and information security is driven to highly-managed end user computing environments, the big step of which is the virtual desktop PC.

"So we're being encouraged by a number of our incumbent providers and some of our partners to go down that VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] route, whereas I have some personal, very strong, reservations about it because I want my users to have the device of their own choice, and the user interface of their own choice," said Goward.

"And so I much prefer a more agile approach around active sync for intregration into Exchange and Outlook, and application virtualisation rather than desktop, ideally using open standard so I can have iOS, Windows 8 and hedge my bets around what user device platform users adopt."

Goward believes that Westminster is just "doing the same as others who are trying to push the envelope in BYOD", with current policies including asking users who plug into its Citrix access gateway to sign an undertaking to report back to the council if the device is lost. "We enforce certain standards down to the platform ourselves," said Goward.

Gower also plans to give power users the ability to bring their own desktop machines into the office.

"I don't want to restrict them to clunky virtual interfaces I'm delivering from a datacentre somewhere. Why would I waste the investment they've made in their end user platforms and OS selections?" asked Goward.

But Goward identified two challenges he faces in attaining these goals. First, he described how applying such a BYOD-focused policy was proving "quite disruptive and different to the very established ways we approach our computing environment".

Secondly, Goward is dissatisfied with the solutions he has assessed so far.

"We're looking at a number of solutions [including] Good Technologies and MobileIron, but they all come with really serious constraints," Goward told Computing.

"What my users love to do on their iPhone is have their life in the platform of their choice. Their work merged in with dental appointments and when they have to pick their kids up.

"Mobile device management tools typically reinforce the silos on a platform, [but] I aspire to more than that. If users want it, [I want] that blend."

Goward said that he hasn't found it yet.

"I'm still looking for it. That, from an MDM perspective, will really unlock the integration my users want."

While cloud solutions firm and Microsoft partner Aditi today revealed that the company would continue supporting VDI into its forays into Windows 8, Goward remains unconvinced by the need.

"They [Aditi] are endorsing my opinion that VDI is not the only model. But for the ‘lying on a breach model' [telecommuting from far away], a Citrix gateway into that is probably a better solution than VDI."

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