Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager Tackles BYOD

Nov 08, 2012 (04:11 AM EST)

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When Dell purchased Wyse in April, the most tangible gains involved tools for virtualization and cloud-based management. The Texas-based company also alluded to BYOD ambitions, however, and has carried that theme through subsequent Wyse announcements. With Wednesday's unveiling of Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager (CCM), which had been previewed under the name Project Stratus, those aspirations have taken shape.

The new SaaS tool offers IT a single point of administration for managing mobile devices ranging from Android and iOS smartphones and tablets to Dell Wyse thin and zero clients. By virtue of being cloud based, CCM is not only free of any additional on-premise hardware or software requirements, but also capable of extending beyond the corporate firewall.

The tool supports a variety of over-the-air mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) functions. These include an end-user self-service portal intended to mitigate the day-to-day burden placed on IT administrators. When a hotly desired new smartphone or tablet hits the market, a BYOD environment could be forced into a temporary standstill as IT staffers attempt to provision the new devices. The fact that many users rely on multiple devices -- that is, not only a smartphone or tablet but often both -- has only compounded this stress. By streamlining the device onboarding process, CCM hopes to circumvent the issue.

[ Read Does BYOD Make Sense For SMBs? ]

IT can use CCM to assign user rights and permissions to both individuals and groups, and to whitelist or blacklist applications. After these definitions have been established, users can use the portal to register their devices, which will automatically inherit the appropriate policies, configurations, and apps. Employees also can use the portal to reset system passwords, and, in the event that a smartphone or tablet goes missing, lock or wipe corporate data.

CCM includes additional nods toward productivity and system security. Regarding the former, IT can activate virtual desktop features that harness PocketCloud to allow mobile devices to securely access and manage content stored on home or office computers. As for the latter, CCM can not only generate real-time reports on device registration and usage, but also trigger alerts in the event of non-compliance. Dell says this feature, which includes audit trails for identifying and addressing problems, will enable IT to focus on critical security and efficiency issues.

In an interview, Rami Karam, product marketing manager for CCM, said Dell wants to address the fact that consumerization diminishes IT's control while expanding the expectations administrators face. "IT has the same demands," he said. "Corporate data must be secure, they have to manage costs and the end-user experience -- but they have to do it in an environment where they don't own a lot of pieces in the puzzle." The goal, he said, is to create a service that can manage the whole spectrum of challenges: Corporate-liable smartphones, employee-owned tablets, thin clients, and so on. "Being agnostic to the device," he remarked, "is where we think the biggest opportunity is."

Karam said that CCM's cloud-based model enables thin-client devices to be used outside the office more easily. "The thin client opportunity is huge, and growing quickly," he said. "We think this is the future, and that it's going to overtake local computing on devices." He conceded, however, that "enterprises and consumers want choice." Both thin clients and traditional mobile devices with onboard storage "will always exist, but the proportions might change," he said.

CCM infringes on territory already claimed by a slew of MDM and MAM vendors. "Our ambition is to make the product all-encompassing," Karam said. "Out of the gate, we're covering a large majority of what the MDM folks have." He also pointed out that some businesses experience frustration working with a variety of companies to manage their BYOD environments, adding that CCM reduces the situation to a single point of contact.

Even so, the MDM and MAM markets are already saturated and confusing. The fact that VMware's upcoming Horizon Suite shares CCM's one-stop management, security, and productivity goals will only complicated the already-competitive landscape.

CCM has the advantage of beating Horizon to market. It's also more comprehensive than some competing products, such as HP's Device Manager 4.5, which was announced one day earlier. But the top MDM and MAM vendors have had a few years to mature, and though CCM has most of the core capabilities, it doesn't include everything.

The rest is coming, according to Karam. He said that Active Directory-based authentication, for example, which Centrify recently brought to the cloud-based BYOD space, would appear in a later update. He also said that CCM already creates basic partitions between corporate and personal apps. Enclosing apps in secure wrappers similar to those MobileIron recently unveiled "is something we're looking at for 2013," he said.

In an email, Hector Angulo, product manager for Dell's cloud client computing, wrote that flexibility is one of CCM's differentiating qualities. "We remain agnostic to whatever computing infrastructure [a company uses]," he said, noting that CCM enables data access regardless of whether it has been virtualized by technology from Citrix, Microsoft, VMware, or some other vendor.

The tool also offers IT managers as much or a little visibility and management as they desire, he said. "CCM offers a great bridge for customers that may be very device management oriented today but [who] know that once they embrace consumerized IT they would be more user management oriented," said Angulo.

Angulo and Karam emphasized CCM's licensing model as another selling point. Two variants are offered: a free version that includes basic functions, and a pro version that offers the full range of features. The pro version will cost $5.50 per month per user. "The average user has three or four devices," Karam said, explaining the decision to offer a user-based, rather than device-based, model. CCM is available immediately in the U.S. and Canada. Karam said it will be expanding to other parts of the world in coming weeks.

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)