User end-point management and security – the big challenge for 2011

21 Jan 2011

This year many businesses will have to face up to the growing challenge of managing and securing user end-points, namely PCs/laptops, netbooks, tablets/blades, smartphones and virtual desktops. That list says it all; a few years ago the challenge of user end-point management was largely about PCs running Microsoft Windows, most fixed, some mobile. Things are very different today and the above list will be extended; with the consumerisation of IT, home workers could soon be accessing SAP from their TVs (with the appropriate security checks, of course!)
 
Smartphones have been around for some time now, but initially for IT departments, this was confined to a few RIM BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices issued to execs. Apple’s iPhone changed all that, and today many more employees have devices capable of accessing IT applications and want to do so. This is only going to increase as Google’s free and more open Android operating system makes handheld power even more accessible. Google is already ahead of Apple (by unit volume shipment) and Gartner predicts that it will catch up with the current market leader, Nokia’s Symbian, by 2014. Microsoft has not given up, but with HP/Palm and RIM contending too, there will be no one dominant vendor.
 
This problem extends beyond the smartphone. Two new form factors have emerged in the last few years that sit between the smartphone and the PC – the netbook and tablet (perhaps re-emerged would be a better term in the case of the latter). Initially things looked good for Microsoft; having headed off an early Linux challenge, it could extend the hegemony of Windows down into the netbook market. Again, Apple changed the game.
 
When Apple took its iOS operating system up to the tablet with the release of the iPad, it moved into the same space as the netbook. Others are following, including Google, HP/Palm, RIM and Microsoft. They will give Apple a run for its money as it seems prepared to sacrifice its early market lead in the tablet market, and its success in the smartphone market, to preserve the chic elegance it achieves with closely coupled hardware and software. Users like it, but maybe not enough to pay the premium, which is why Microsoft managed to push Apple to the margins of the PC market in the 1980s.
 
This growing diversity of end-user device operating systems is a headache for IT departments when it comes to management tools. The range of vendors offering end-point management tools is as diverse as the end points themselves. This includes:

. The traditional IT management vendors including Symantec/Altiris, IBM Tivoli (which acquired BigFix in 2010), Microsoft with its System Centre (OK if you only use Microsoft including just Windows mobile phones), CA, HP, BMC, Quest and Dell/KACE.

. Specialist user end point management suppliers including Kaseya and NTR Global.
Mobile device manufacturers that offer management tools for their own products, for example RIM.

. Mobile device management specialists including Sybase, Mformation (which has a partnership with HP), iPass, Antenna and tens of other smaller vendors.

. Security specialists such as McAfee, which acquired Trusted Digital, a mobile device management vendor, in May 2010 and has since integrated it with its existing end management tools and e-policy orchestrator (ePO) to create its Secure Connected management suite. Symantec could also be listed here.

 
The whole end-point management market seems ripe for partnership, co-operation and eventually consolidation. It may be service providers rather than vendors that drive this as end-user organisations turn to them to outsource the end-point management headache.
 
This could be IT managed service providers that already provide datacentre management services but could benefit their customers by adding user end-point management to their portfolio, as Quocirca outlines in its recent report, The Total MSP. Equally, it could be telco service providers that extend their services from mobile phones to other end points that are often attached to their networks anyway.
 
It is not clear how the end-user device management will shape over the next few years, but the problem presented by the diversity of devices is something end-user organisations are already living with. Those that come up with solutions the quickest should find a ready market.
 
Bob Tarzey is 
an analyst and director
 at Quocirca.

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