Mobile Device management (MDM) is a process and technology that provides the mobile workforce with productivity tools and applications as well as security.
MDM provisions mobile devices while protecting assets and data. It manages device inventory and provisioning, taking a device-centric approach in contrast to mobile security and unified endpoint management (UEM), which prefer a user-centric stance.
Here are some of the top trends in MDM:
1. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Traditionally, employees were given a dedicated work laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and then were given role-based access to enterprise data and email, a secure VPN, and other functions such as GPS tracking, password-protected applications, and other security software.
But the enforced move to work from home (WFH) two years ago has changed things. Now bring your own device (BYOD) predominates in many enterprises. Due to lack of time, budget, or device availability because of chip shortages and supply chain bottlenecks, IT policies have often had to be relaxed with regard to BYOD. Personal devices are remotely enrolled in the MDM system, which enables IT to monitor behavior, enforce security policies, and facilitate productivity.
2. The sunset of MDM?
The cybersecurity threat picture and the growth of WFM environments have led to such device complexity that MDM functionality is being supplemented on many fronts.
Enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms and unified endpoint management (UEM), in particular, are often harnessed in tandem with MDM. This, in turn, has given rise to a convergence in the space and the coming together of these functions under one umbrella.
“I expect traditional MDM products will eventually be phased out and be replaced by some kind of unified endpoint management tool,” said Denis O’Shea, founder of Mobile Mentor.
He believes some MDM vendors will be able to retain a defensible niche for the next few years. SOTI, for example, is dominant in a couple of industries. VMware AirWatch, too, has a vertically integrated stack, and IBM MaaS360 has strong distribution through carriers. This should ensure they all do well in their respective spheres. But O’Shea expects in the long-term that MDM will be absorbed into UEM, which will, in turn, become part of a bigger management suite.
This is already happening. IBM is now touting MaaS360 as UEM, as is VMware with AirWatch. And VMware Workspace ONE is being promoted as an intelligence-driven digital workspace platform that enables IT to simply and securely deliver and manage any app on any device, anywhere.
3. Advanced MDM
So how exactly will MDM evolve as it transitions into UEM?
According to IBM, a big trend is the appearance of more sophisticated MDM solutions where the data and systems can be subjected to analysis by machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). These tools greatly enhance security by keeping devices safe from malware and other cyberthreats. They can spot anomalous behavior, detect strange activity at ports, and potential efforts at exfiltration.
Advanced MDM systems can assign or enroll devices with pre-programmed data profiles, VPN access, software, and access privileges. This enables them to track, monitor, troubleshoot, and decommission devices as needed. For example, some MDM tools can wipe device data in the event of theft, loss, or breach.
4. Security vendor invasion
Another trend in the UEM transition is security. MDM has always had security features. But the rise of mobility and WFM has prompted some in the security space to invade the space.
Syxsense, for example, has expanded from patch management and vulnerability scanning, by adding an MDM module and moving into the UEM space.
“We’re going all-in on UEM, but we incorporate security scanning and remediation features, which other UEM vendors don’t,” said Dave Taylor, CMO at Syxsense.
He noted that Gartner and Forrester are beginning to use acronyms like UEMS (unified endpoint management and security) to describe this converged market.
5. Augmented and virtual reality
One area where MDM might survive by carving out a specialized niche is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). AR/VR is finding its way into far more than consumer gaming and metaverse-type applications. It is being incorporated into maintenance, for example. Field reps and technicians can use headsets to simultaneously see physical equipment while specifications, job requests, and other information is displayed on the headset. Some systems can even show them exactly where a repair or weld needs to be made or simultaneously feed through to a senior engineer who can walk them through how to accomplish a task or answer questions.
This part of the market is evolving and needs IT support. Specialized MDM tools could fill the gap.
“AR/VR devices will become part of the endpoint ecosystem and will need to be provisioned, secured, managed, and patched — just like any other device,” said O’Shea.
“There will be company-owned and BYOD AR/VR devices used for work and personal applications, so that will open up a whole new can of worms.”