F5 Networks, a large scale application delivery networking platform vendor, is now shipping what the company refers to as the F5Mobile App Manager, a new hybrid cloud solution for mobile application management. F5 refers to it in a heady way - as a "BYOD 2.0" solution, meaning in essence that the new BYOD services will enable businesses to securely and cost-effectively support enterprise BYOD initiatives. More specifically, with F5 Mobile App Manager, enterprises can extend corporate applications and data to employees’ personal mobile devices while leaving all personal content under the control of the device owner.
F5 Mobile App Manager is a BYOD solution that combines the policy management and secure application delivery features of F5's BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) with the scalability and affordability of a SaaS offering. APM is a high-performance network access and security solution that provides unified global access to both applications and networks. It does so by converging and consolidating remote access, LAN access and wireless connections within a single management interface, as well as providing easy-to-manage access policies.
It differs from what F5 refers to as “BYOD 1.0” mobile device management (MDM) solutions in that it securely connects only corporate applications to the enterprise network, and it manages only the enterprise content and applications on a device rather than the entire device itself. If it sounds similar to BlackBerry's new Enterprise Service 10 and BlackBerry Balance there is good reason to think so - they both use similar terminology and offer similar services and capabilities.
BlackBerry makes use of the new but more prevalent "Enterprise Mobile Management - EMM" terminology rather than trying to create the BYOD 2.0 that F5 wants to apply (that of course plays off of Web 2.0). Major MDM vendors such as MobileIron and Airwatch are shifting to the term mobile application management - MAM.
The approach isolates workforce personal data from corporate oversight and provides the convenience of using personal mobile devices for both work and personal use - the essence of BYOD. For enterprise IT, F5 Mobile App Manager enables IT to control device access to enterprise networks, to track inventory, to monitor threats and vulnerabilities, and to protect corporate information. But it also relieves IT from the burden and responsibility of fully managing employee-owned devices.
The F5 Mobile App Manager is positioned as a hybrid cloud offering, which will allow businesses to deliver a BYOD management capability without the need to incur the expense of deploying and managing yet another solution within a company's own data centers. For organizations dissatisfied with their MDM solutions, F5 Mobile App Manager provides a secure, flexible, and cost-effective alternative that is less invasive and restrictive for employees.
F5 Mobile App Manager complements F5’s existing suite of Fortune 500-grade unified access solutions, which provide secure, accelerated remote access and identity federation for SaaS applications. F5 Mobile App Manager supports both Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices. It aims to deliver a simple and straightforward means for employees to use it - that is, F5 has worked to ensure the experience of using the platform is as frictionless as possible for the user. It provides PIN-protected and encrypted enterprise applications, including corporate e-mail, a secure Web browser, and an F5 App Store from which corporate applications and content can be securely downloaded.
For enterprise IT admins, F5 Mobile App Manager simplifies device management and policy enforcement. Using the management console, IT can manage individual devices or device groups, push and/or remove applications and data on a device, and lock or wipe only the secure workspace rather than the entire device.
F5 Mobile App Manager offers the following benefits:
- Improved Security: Using the App Wrapper functionality in F5 Mobile App Manager, IT can secure internally developed and third-party applications quickly and easily before making them available to employees on mobile devices. When F5 Mobile App Manager is used with BIG-IP APM, IT can create a secure application VPN for corporate applications. And because BIG-IP APM utilizes a customer’s on-premises identity stores, employee information stays on premises, which minimizes the risk of identity theft.
- Improved User Experiences: It is certainly the case that employees prefer that their personal content is completely inaccessible to IT and won’t be automatically wiped should a device be lost or stolen, or that device functionality (such as the camera) cannot be restricted (although in many cases it needs to be up to the employer to make this sort of decision). F5 Mobile App Manager requires minimal storage space on the device, and because enterprise applications don’t run constantly in the background, they help preserve battery life.
- Cost Savings and Reduced IT Overhead: The SaaS model allows IT to avoid costly hardware and infrastructure investments. In addition, organizations that have been using MDM solutions reduce their VPN costs by handling only enterprise-related traffic rather than all mobile traffic (business and personal).
- Scalability: F5 Mobile App Manager can easily be scaled to meet an organization’s growing demand to support employee-owned devices. The proven scale and performance of BIG-IP APM, which supports up to 200,000 concurrent users, ensures that the mobile infrastructure scales cost-effectively.
F5 has a substantial base of enterprise customers, and for those that are F5 customers it will likely make good sense to employ F5's own mobile security technology. For F5, it keeps its customers in the family without the need for them to look beyond F5.
Most of the MDM vendors already offer similar capabilities - including both on-premises and cloud models of deployment. We suspect that more often than not the pure plays may offer cost benefits to F5, but as noted, if an enterprise is already an F5 customer and hasn't already deployed a third party MDM and/or MAM solution, then choosing F5 makes sense.
Edited by Jamie Epstein