New Version of SAP's Afaria Mobile Device Management Platform Hits the Street

By Tony Rizzo December 19, 2012

SAP has now introduced another new version of Afaria. Afaria has been around for a very long time, and came into SAP's hands through its acquisition of Sybase in 2010, which in turn acquired Afaria through its own acquisition of XcelleNet back in 2004. Xcellent itself was founded back in 1986 and introduced Afaria in 2000, just as BlackBerry devices and mobile email was taking off.

Fast forward to today and we have many mobile device management (MDM) vendors "evolving themselves" into becoming mobile application management vendors (MAM). Recently Citrix acquired Zenprise exactly to participate in the evolution. Meanwhile, others in the space, such as independent and privately held MDM vendor MobileIron are looking to do the same thing. As the enterprise world focuses less on the device itself it focuses much more on the mobile app, hence the need for the evolution. Don't get us wrong - there is still plenty to be done by enterprises on the MDM side of things, but MAM is the future (a future that is happening today).

Now SAP comes along with Afaria and is also in need of making the evolutionary leap. SAP being SAP it won't simply evolve into MAM - rather, it is evolving Afaria into an "enterprise mobility management" (EMM) platform, which SAP sees as more of an all-encompassing umbrella term (and a differentiator of sorts that aims to be bigger than MAM, though in fact MAM and EMM essentially refer to the same thing). The short story is that Afaria needs to now be able to manage those mobile apps in addition to those mobile devices.

New platform enhancements focus on deepening enterprise integration and distribution capabilities to manage and secure large numbers of disparate BYOD devices (of course) and to address the growing use of enterprise mobile apps. For the latter, SAP will deliver new app and self-service portal designs to provide familiar, consumer-like app portal experience in the enterprise.

With this latest release of Afaria SAP aims to reduce complexity and support the growing mobile workforce by helping ensure that all data stored and transmitted through any legitimately provisioned mobile device is protected and secure. It will allow businesses to gain greater control and insight into a wide range of devices and apps, remotely back up and delete data should a device be lost or stolen, and will deliver fixes, upgrades and updates to mobile users in a seamless way that makes it easy for the mobile user to deal with.

Many SAP Customers, Lots of Afaria Opportunities

SAP has more than 197,000 customers globally. Most of these companies are now moving quickly to deliver mobile solutions, and SAP is able to accommodate them through Afaria. We won't elaborate on them here, but Afaria delivers a great deal of functionality - old Sybase sales folks used to refer to it as everything and the kitchen sink. Sybase used to try to sell Afaria as a complete and holistic package - which for many customers dating back to 2008 - 2010 tended to be overkill. Sybase consequently had a hard time selling it.

SAP opens many new doors for the complete Afaria end to end package, but it looks to make it easy for SAP customers to adopt Afaria - which is easily scalable to the typical Fortune 500 SAP customer, but also downscales nicely to SAP's smaller customers. SAP provides a large variety of incentives, which in turn seeds Afaria within SAP's world and gives it a very large playing field. It also tends to lock other MDM/MAM solutions out of SAP customer ecosystems.

Take the UK's Hillarys Blinds Ltd. for example. "As the leading UK window covering provider for the country’s 63 million residents, we strive to offer premier customer service, which is the key to our success,” says Julian Bond, head of information, communications and technology for Hillarys. “With 1,000 advisors spread across the UK, our ability to remotely manage their devices and connect them to our core processes at any time and from anywhere is key."

Bond continues, "Mobile applications built on SAP Mobile Platform and SAP Afaria help us maintain our market-leading position and more important, they allow us to keep our promise to the customer in terms of installing the right product on the day promised. We fully expect the latest release of SAP Afaria to greatly extend our reach and mobile capability.”

What's New

The latest version of SAP Afaria will provide the following features for enterprises:

·         Enterprise Integration

o   Deeper directory integration will provide connection to multiple disparate directories for authentication and assignments which aim to provide trusted policy set up and simplify user on-boarding for distributed systems. The distribution of data stored in directory values is planned for use with policy configuration to streamline the onboarding of BYOD devices.

o   Enhanced email access control and device remediation provide greater scalability and security for large organizations that have multiple enterprise access control components in a distributed landscape.

o   Expanded PKI certificate management is planned to provide granular and secure control over the management and delivery of certificates.

·         Application Management

o   App portal enhancements simplify the user experience by providing a familiar landscape that can be branded to a company while increasing mobile worker efficiency by guiding and instructing users how to leverage the most beneficial mobile applications that apply to their role.

o   New API for SAP Afaria and app policy features are planned for “zero-touch” setup so administrators can create and securely deploy apps without users needing to enter most app setup information, for example, server address, domain or, user name. This is planned to help significantly reduce help desk calls and create a more pleasant onboarding experience.

·         IT Services for BYOD and Enterprise Devices

o   Self-service portal updates are planned to simplify the interface used by mobile users to onboard and manage their devices as well as enable organizations to build their own custom interface.

o   Broad Samsung SAFE support for Android devices with planned additional email and security capabilities.

o   iOS enhancements are intended to provide increased jailbreak detection and support for regions of the world where jail-broken devices are prevalent; increased iOS configuration and application management capabilities are planned.

Notes Sanjay Poonen, president and head of Mobile Division for SAP, “As the industry moves beyond MDM to EMM, we believe that our customers resonate with our vision to connect over 1 billion devices, which puts us in the best position to future-proof their investment with the most expansive mobile platform in the industry. Afaria easily scales up to meet the needs of our largest customers, and to bring them fully into today's EMM world.”

We hope to report back in more detail once we are able to speak directly to more of SAP's large Afaria customers.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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