For many years, RIM’s Blackberry mobile devices were only permitted on most corporate networks, and a Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) was typically used to look after the security and management of these devices. This scenario is quickly changing and many companies are investing in more flexible, less platform-specific Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools. The need for MDM is fueled by the fact that most enterprises have to support a disparate group of devices (smartphones & tablets) and mobile operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows Phone etc.)

According to Gartner, nearly two-thirds of all enterprises will adopt a MDM solution by 2017. The MDM trend is observed by Venture Capital (VC) inflows. Also, enterprises that have spent millions of dollars on storage, database and security are trying to find ways to bring more enterprise applications and services to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The surge in popularity of mobile devices and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is driving enterprises to revisit their strategies on enterprise mobile management.

Over the past few years, VC investors and companies like VMWare, IBM and Citrix have spent increasing amounts on mobile security hardware, software and services. The chart provides an overview of Mobile Security company funding from 2009-2013

Source: TechCrunch

VMware has been rolling out its own MDM tools called Horizon. It appears VMware has now opted to go with one of the leaders in the Gartner’s magic quadrant for MDM. VMware announced on January 22, 2014, that it would acquire AirWatch for a deal valued at $1.54 billion. AirWatch offers enterprise solutions for mobile device management, mobile application management and mobile content management. AirWatch has a leading position in the standalone MDM market, which VMware hopes to leverage to enhance its own mobile ambitions. Exactly what role Horizon will play in VMware’s future remains to be seen. However, VMware said the AirWatch operation will be the focal point of its mobile systems management operations and become part of VMware’s End User Computing Group.

By acquiring AirWatch, VMware also joins a number of established IT vendors that have added device management software to their overall systems administration portfolios. Citrix acquired Zenprise in January 2013, Oracle in November bought Bitzer, and in December, IBM announced its intention to acquire FiberLink.

As most of the enterprise applications are pushed to the cloud, and cloud service providers themselves offer secured mobility push solutions, it is still unclear as to how much a third party MDM solution like AirWatch will actually help VMware.  VCs also view all of this activity as the first wave in moving businesses into the cloud.

Having said that, VMware’s intension to buy AirWatch a pure play MDM vendor, along with the acquisition of Nicira a networking virtualization vendor last year, allows them to address the entire market from a data center to endpoint with a strong mobile and networking strategy. Mobile device management can no longer be a point solution and will be part of a larger Enterprise Mobile Management framework. This acquisition is expected to set the stage for further consolidation and will put intense focus on vendors like MobileIron and Good Technology.

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