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Going mobile with XenMobile

Going mobile with XenMobile 

Through its XenMobile platform, Citrix provides businesses with mobile device management solutions. Regardless of the amount of mobile devices a given workplace uses, XenMobile can track mobile devices and help to increase employee productivity.

In an exclusive interview with IT in Canada Online, Brian Dye, group VP and GM for Citrix’s Mobile Platforms Group discusses the benefits of XenMobile and the importance of having such a platform in place.

IT in Canada: What is the history of XenMobile?
Dye: Citrix had a set of organic products that they developed, and then they acquired a company called Zenprise about a year and a half ago, which covers the technology side. If you think about it on the customer side, it’s probably more interesting. Customers were originally starting to tackle mobile as this noisy thing on the edge, and they were willing to get basic support for it any bypass some of the normal security procedures. But as they’ve seen, people use their mobile devices, whether it’s tablets or phones, they recognize the need to control and place the same security protection for the data that’s on their device as the data that’s on a PC or the rest of their network. 

I think that evolution is probably the much more interesting piece because that mirrors the evolution from just needing to manage the device to managing the device, apps and data, which is much more of what we see now.

ITIC: What is the case for increasing mobile capabilities in the workplace?
BD: There are two cases, and I’m really seeing this match in evolution of what customers are doing as they mature. The first case is employee satisfaction. People just expect to get access to their mail, calendar, websites and so on through their mobile device. The way I see that most commonly expressed is either through employee SAT-driven IT projects or often time recruiting driven IT projects, where companies recognize that they can’t provide this capability. It becomes a competitive differentiator and a weakness from a recruiting standpoint.

The area where people are really rapidly evolving to is recognizing that once you have a secure mobile device, it’s basically a tiny computer. If I’ve got a secure point of presence at some remote area outside the office, there are (several) new things that I can go automate now. There are new business processes you can automate there that will actually drive value that people could never do before.

ITIC: How can businesses benefit from implementing XenMobile?
BD: I think the big business benefit is recognizing productivity in a soft sense, and better business process automation in a hard sense.

As an example, a customer we’ve been working with over the past several months is in the oil and gas industry. They got through the first phase, which is securing the mobile devices, securing the data, and giving people email (access). And they quickly realized that they don’t get paid to give people email. They get paid to get oil and gas out of the ground, so they decided to go and help with that. They sent their application development teams to do ride-alongs with some of the folks who are doing gas exploration. They picked two personas, one of which was a site foreman, and they looked at what that site foreman was doing on an oil excavation site on a regular basis.

After a couple of days of observation, they came up with about 15 ideas for individual workflows they could automate for that person to help them do their job better. Then their app dev team came back, wrote those apps, packaged them using XenMobile, and deployed them out to the mobile device for those production foremen to make them more effective. That’s what IT software is supposed to do; it’s supposed to help people do their jobs better and easier with fewer mistakes. It’s the business process automation that is now possible with this tiny, remotely-secured computer that I think adds the value.

ITIC: What does XenMobile offer in terms of mobile security?
BD: Essentially, you have four main layers of security. The first is the device itself. You need to be able to have remote lock, remote wipe, forced PIN codes; these are the core device controls. The second piece is secure network connectivity back to the corporate data centre, and we do this through our NetScaler products. For example, we’ve got MicroVPN so you can have a dedicated per-app instance VPN that goes back into the site.

The third level is the security of the data itself, which we deliver through ShareFile, which involves the ability to have sync-and-share (data) that is containerized and can’t move. The fourth level is application security. Think of it as putting a protective cage around each of the applications so that the only data that moves in or out of that cage is the data you allow. The key part on that cage concept is you need to enable the workflows across the apps that matter without letting the data move beyond those workflows that you want. Otherwise, your device becomes an opportunity for data loss.

ITIC: Why is mobile device management an important part of business operations today?
BD: I think it’s an important building block towards a full solution. If you look 18 months ago, mobile device management was a big trend, and there were a lot of people who were buying it. Now, I see people have recognized that the entry level of a real enterprise mobile purchase is more than just MDM. I don’t see many people at all doing MDM-only purchases. I see the entry level device management, secure network gateway and secure sync-and-share. That’s kind of the baseline, and people are adding apps and containerization on top of that.

ITIC: Will more businesses enhance their mobile structure in the future?
BD: I think they’ll do a lot. We’re definitely seeing customers are maturing as they’re getting their arms around this (concept). What’s interesting is it’s not technology-gated at this point; in many cases, it’s people- and process-gated because once you’ve deployed out an enterprise mobile solution, you’ve got secure apps and app containerization capabilities. You can do all the technical bits and whiz-bang parts that you want; the trick is, you’ve now got to think about your application development and what apps you write for who in a different way, and that’s a very different development cycle.

It’s a much smaller and shorter development cycle than a big, traditional ERP-grade app, and it’s a different skill set. You’re looking for iOS, Android and Windows Phone developers who are often in short supply, so it’s a lot tougher to get those phones, especially if you’re an enterprise or organization. I think the big trick is people have done the basics; they want to do more, but it’s forcing changes in staffing and development process of what apps they go for and how they get those individual apps.

ITIC: What does the future hold for XenMobile?
BD: I think there is more that we will continue to do on the core productivity suite, and I see us building that up more. We had three principal apps at this time last year; we have six now. It’s not going to turn into 20, but I do think it will turn into 10, plus or minus getting that core mobile productivity suite. I think we’re going to do a lot more around total cost of ownership, time-to-value, simplification and all the usual (elements) that everyone wants.

I see a lot of opportunity to take some sand out of the gears of enterprise app proliferation. If you think about consumer app stores, the iTunes and the Google Play app stores have a million apps available in each. A typical enterprise app store probably has between 10 and 30. We believe there is a huge, pent-up demand for enterprise apps, and we think there are a lot of things we can do on the technology side that can unstick that particular problem.

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