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Uncovering mobility project add-on technology, services

When IT shops make plans for a mobility project, they may need a lot more than just the devices and management software.

BYOD, it seems, is yesterday's news. Employees are now bringing more mobile devices to work and an increasing number of companies have introduced at least one employee-facing mobile app with intentions of deploying more, said Brent Iadarola, global director of mobile and wireless communications at Frost & Sullivan.

A recent Frost & Sullivan study found that 82% of respondent North American companies deployed one employee-facing app in 2014, up from 73% in 2013. Seventy-nine percent said they have plans to add additional mobile worker apps in 2015.

More sophisticated applications often means a need for more throughput, Iadarola added.

"We're seeing a need across the board for more [network] capacity, security and a need for, in many cases, a broader strategy around an enterprise mobility management platform,'' he said.

When implementing a mobility project, often other systems have to be upgraded or added, a concept sometimes referred to as mobility drag. For the channel, this means a great opportunity to help customers determine their mobility needs, industry experts said.

According to a TechTarget mobile device management (MDM) survey (with data gathered May through November), 58% of the 190 respondents said they would bring in a variety of additional technologies to support a mobility project, while 42% said they would not.

"There's a whole range of considerations -- like the drag effect; it starts with any organization giving employees access to the network and managing those devices'' and the associated components, observed Eric Klein, senior analyst of mobile software at VDC Research.

Echoing Iadarola, Klein said network connectivity and capacity is a huge concern once an organization has made the decision to support mobile devices, whether they are corporate-provisioned or they belong to the employee.

Companies should start by looking at Wi-Fi access to determine whether there is enough bandwidth to support the workforce inside the organization and ensuring "they'll never be in a position in the building where there's no coverage. So it requires multiple access points, no matter where you are in the facility,'' Klein said. "In organizations with dead spots and a large workforce, this can be a very expensive endeavor."

Eric Klein said network connectivity and capacity is a huge concern once an organization has made the decision to support mobile devices.

Iadarola agreed that a lot of advancements are being made, specifically to Wi-Fi, as a result of an increased focus on mobility projects. Qualcomm, in particular, has done a lot with 802.11ac technology to enhance capacity and reduce data congestion on Wi-Fi networks due to the rapidly growing number of devices and high volume of traffic on corporate networks, he said. There is also greater demand for technologies that address security needs -- not only for mobile devices, but the content and applications residing on them as well; more of a next-generation MDM, Iadarola said.

Another significant area that companies need to pay attention to -- which Klein said "some people would call an old and boring market" -- is telecom expense management, "because a lot of companies are finding they're spending inordinate amounts of money they shouldn't be spending on actual cellphone bills they've provided to their employees." This is becoming an increasingly important area to manage, he said.

"Now with data plans and liability issues, there [are] more complicated issues to contend with," he said, "so telecom expense vendors are definitely doing a good job of remaining viable based on the fact that they can save organizations money on their spend per month and identify what [has] been used from an asset perspective." Roaming is a big expense for employees who travel, so there are solutions for controlling roaming fees and blocking devices from doing that, Klein added.

Because a mobile infrastructure is very complex, companies need to think about adding components both inside and outside the firewall, such as dedicated servers or appliances, Web and email servers, and authentication and storage, according to Klein.

mobile infrastructure components diagram.
Mobile infrastructure involves many components both inside and outside the firewall, including back-end systems such as Microsoft Exchange, mobile-specific systems such as Good and BlackBerry servers, network infrastructure and firewalls.

If companies are going to allow a lot of remote access to on-premises-based databases and apps, they may need more robust systems for network access control (NAC), another element of the infrastructure that may require additional investment, especially in dedicated servers, Klein said. There is a class of products that offer NAC services, such as guest access and specific, more granular policies that companies can use for different types of access, he said.

All this means that companies need to prepare for an ongoing expenditure of their mobile deployments and the associated costs that will be required to the infrastructure, he noted. "It's not a one-time thing; devices will have to be supported with associated costs throughout [their] life from a management and network connectivity perspective."

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Are your customers asking for additional technologies and services -- such as server or storage hardware -- to support a mobility project?