Choosing EMM software as an add-on may soon be unnecessary

Enterprise mobility management is quickly becoming just another set of tools in a larger software bundle offered by big-name vendors -- leaving IT managers to decide whether to even consider independent software providers.

As the enterprise mobility management (EMM) software market quickly consolidates, tools for provisioning, configuring and securing mobile devices are being subsumed into larger product suites and offered for free.

The bundling of EMM suites by established vendors such as VMWare, IBM, SAP, Citrix and others means vendors of stand-alone software may not survive. And if that's true, should companies be moving away from them and depending more on tools offered by their primary vendors?

Pure play EMM software sellers have been snapped up at a furious pace over the past four to five years.

Among the notable buyouts: IBM purchased Fiberlink and its MaaS360 platform, Citrix acquired Zenprise, Blackberry bought out Good Technology, VMware acquired AirWatch, and Arxan Technologies grabbed Apparian and its mobile application management technology.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, compared the recent market consolidation to the laptop industry a decade earlier, where there was a slew of notebook management software vendors who are all but gone today.

What's left from the recent EMM market churn are a handful of independent companies, such as MobileIron and Soti, who offer focused products with multi-vendor integration. While useful, those products may not be necessary for many organizations.

In fact, most enterprises over buy. They purchase device management suites in which most tools are never used or they purchase mobile device management seats for all of their mobile users, but only deploy it a small number of smartphones, tablets and other devices, Gold said.

"For the most part, people don't use anywhere near all the capabilities in a suite they buy," he said. "So, for what most people want to do, the suites are pretty good. Eighty percent of what they're doing is base MDM.

"If you look at what Citrix, VMware and all the others have done, they're basically enhancing their EMM capabilities with new features and functions," Gold added.

For example, VMware added AirWatch's EMM capabilities to its Workspace VDI portal.

The additional EMM functions may not always be free, but they're usually inexpensive when part of a larger suite, and many IT managers will find the basic functionality available in most MDM suites "good enough," Gold said.

Then there's Microsoft's Windows 10, which has forced companies to rethink how EMM is handled in corporate environments. Via its InTune cloud service, Windows 10 offers a unified endpoint management approach, allowing companies to deploy and configure PCs and other Windows devices using so-called "modern management" approaches that include MDM API hooks and controls.

Just as Microsoft folded standard EMM into its bundled suite, desktop security provider Sophos also now includes standard or advanced MDM with many of its enterprise licenses, such as Cloud Enduser protection, Endpoint with Web, Mail and Encryption and Endpoint with Web & Mail Enduser Protection.

"MDM is one of our most inexpensive licenses," a Sophos spokesperson said.

Kevin Burden, vice president of mobility research and data strategy at 451 Research, agreed with Gold and said stand-alone EMM products are going away.

"This is the problem that came about. The competition, which is still pretty high, drove the cost of these products down," Burden said. "So, MDM is what -- a nickel [per seat] or free. Companies now are just giving it away.

"It will be different for everybody, but if you're a large company and you already have a relationship with larger software player already, most likely you'll end up using them," Burden added.

MDM, however, can also be unpopular with employees as it enables a corporation to wipe a device of all data. As a result, many companies have turned to more advanced EMM features, such as mobile application management (MAM), which controls only an application and the corporate data associated with it.

Burden also pointed out that with some bundled EMM products, capabilities are lacking, and they don't always measure up those offered by stand-along players. "It's less than what get from Blackberry or MobileIron," Burden said. "So if your company really understands this...you're not going to look at Microsoft [for EMM]."

And for small to mid-sized companies that may not need a full enterprise suite, more limited EMM software may still make sense, Burden said.

Chris Silva, a research director at Gartner, said that while the inclusion of EMM tools in enterprise software suites has driven some users to consider only big-name vendors, it's not "a referendum on the products from pure-play vendors."

And while Silva said he has seen more conversations among IT managers focused on VMWare, Microsoft and other vendors already in place, "...I'm not seeing displacement of independents like MobileIron in much greater numbers than the normal EMM churn.

"A lot of this comes down to cost," he said. "If we look at the shrewd steps Microsoft has taken in including its Enterprise Mobility and Security suite as part of large enterprise agreements, it places itself squarely in the middle of discussions around what needs to change in terms of policy and control as tools like Office365 apps on mobile devices take off in an organization."

It pays, Silva said, for enterprise IT decision-makers to choose their tools based on  specific policy and integration needs, "with price and familiarity of a vendor being secondary concerns.

"Independents can be in the position of offering more integration points with more vendors and lack the potential competitive concerns of a broader and more diverse vendor in growing that roster of partners," Silva said. "That said, some can lack the sheer manpower of a larger, more diverse vendor, so investigating support SLAs relative to regional presence and schedule and the ability to handle outages, feature requests and new releases should be given extra scrutiny working with a smaller vendor."

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