In July 2018, Gartner published their first-ever Magic Quadrant for Unified Endpoint Management Tools get your free copy here. This was a notable development mostly as it marked yet another name and acronym for a set of tools that most IT departments have been using for a decade under different names. The term Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) was established to bring clarity to a significant technological evolution in a set of tools that has gone from being called Mobile Device Management (MDM) to Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) to the freshly minted Unified Endpoint Management (UEM). And while the earlier versions of these tools were largely focused on managing and securing smartphones and tablets, this new rendition brings traditional computing devices (laptops and desktops) into the same management environment.
This is really cool but you probably aren’t ready for it. As Rob Seemann, VP of Sales and Marketing for Vox Mobile explains, “We are managing hundreds of UEM environments for clients and some of them have the exact same rules, security requirements and governance model that they started with. You have to think about UEM differently than we thought about MDM tools. When organizations let us take an active role as a trusted advisor, we can free them up to advance in the harder parts of this new world.”
Beyond this thing you probably aren’t ready for, there is an extensive world of other devices – sensors, device aggregators, smart bots, connected appliances – that you have heard about, but you aren’t ready to manage. You might hear these being referred to as Edge Computing Assets.
What are Edge Computing Assets?
Edge Computing Assets are, simply stated, anything that connects and has some capacity for computation. Gartner made the prediction years ago that, by 2020, anything with a power cord that costs more than $100 will have the ability to connect and communicate. While the specifics of that prediction may not come to fruition, the reality is that your organization is starting to fill up with things that connect to things. So far, most of us have focused our attention on the most obvious computing devices, like servers, desktops, smartphones, etc. These more obvious computing devices still represent most of the computing power used by an organization – probably – but that is likely to change and as it does, it will be harder to manage. Some of the most notorious problems to plague the internet in recent history have been Botnets, malicious applications that aggregate a network of automated programs or “bots.” [https://www.wired.com/story/mirai-botnet-minecraft-scam-brought-down-the-internet/]. The broad ignorance to the presence of computing resources that are baked into things like TVs, security cameras and wireless routers, as well as the sheer numbers of these things that are practically everywhere, makes us all vulnerable to new threats. MDM tools weren’t built for these kinds of concerns.
Do I still need MDM?
I have spoken with some of the analysts behind the changes in terms and they admit they are facing an uphill battle educating the market. The new moniker is an attempt to be accurate in how they describe the systems and their capabilities. In reality, the market still usually calls this category of software MDM. Organizations still specify MDM in RFPs. Purchasing agents still do Google searches for deals on MDM licenses.
That’s a problem for a number of reasons:
- There are plenty of productivity benefits from finding a unified way of setting and enforcing policies and being able to monitor and manage all of your edge computing assets in one place. Getting your employees the hardware and software they need to do their jobs and making sure it all works well together shouldn’t be a hard sell.
- If you don’t consider all of the capabilities of the systems you already have in place, you are almost certainly buying the same functionality from multiple places. Every large organization we’ve surveyed has at least three systems that could be used to manage a smartphone.
- The security issues, vectors and liabilities are multiplying at a rate that can no longer be managed the way we used to do it. By connecting all your computing power to a single management system, you can start to use your own bots and artificial intelligence to monitor and respond to threats, provide insights into changing usage, and predict changing needs. The more disconnected management systems you have in place, the more gaps you have for intrusion or productivity leakage.
Famed analyst, Jack Gold recently put a dire point on it this way, “Traditional mobile management is dead. There is a new era of device management coming, and you better get ready for it.” [ https://www.computerworld.com/article/3336230/enterprise-mobile-management-where-do-we-go-from-here.html ]
What’s the Catch?
Enterprise mobility and MDM Tools are the model for how all the systems and approaches are used in UEM. This ecosystem, the approach to operating systems and policy setting all provide a much more modern and fluid way of thinking about management, provisioning, and security but not everybody has evolved with the tools. As Mr. Seemann noted, the problem isn’t the technology. Most organization still have solid walls between the teams that manage traditional computing devices, mobile devices, and the variety of other connected things in the environment. Reorganization of departments, rethinking workflows, and envisioning a new approach to security aren’t as fun as finding new ways to get things done with technology, but those are the things that get in the way.
A managed services approach to the systems can open up time and attention for working through the new models for governance and customizing to internal use cases. Employing experts to manage the technology while you focus on applying it is the model that has accelerated many of Vox Mobile’s clients. According to Mr. Seemann, “There are so many things that only someone inside the organization can know, understand or influence. Once they know we have their back on the raw technology and systems, they can accomplish great things in getting it applied to solve real problems.”
By Jim Haviland