As the bring-your-own device phenomenon grows, so do the options for separating personal and business communications on the same device.
Desktop virtualization delivers self-contained business operating systems and applications to smartphones and tablets. Technologies such as VMware’s Mobile Virtualization Platform and AT&T’s Toggle let users essentially keep two phones — one for business use, one for personal use — on the same device. And with a new release from ShoreTel, employees can securely tap into their companies’ unified communications (UC) systems from their mobile devices.
“We’re starting to see a lot of interest in companies that want to make the mobile device the primary method of communication,” said analyst Irwin Lazar, a vice president at Nemertes Research.
Announced this week, the latest version of ShoreTel Mobility aims to provide user-friendly mobile unified communications access. An employee downloads an app, which integrates with his or her phone’s existing dialer and contact list, and IT then provisions that device for access to the UC system.
When the employee calls a personal contact, the phone makes the call as usual. But when the employee calls a business contact, ShoreTel Mobility kicks in — automatically connecting to the VPN if outside the corporate firewall — and the user has access to the company’s full UC features.
“It makes it a lot easier to use,” Lazar said. “From a user perspective, it’s just like any other app.”
As with any bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiative, device support is a major factor in whether a new project will succeed or not. ShoreTel Mobility supports 12 Android devices running version 2.1 or higher, Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, plus the latest BlackBerry OS 6 devices.
“Most of our customers used to be focused on the BlackBerry … and as Android and iPhone got more popular, this whole bring-your-own-device phenomenon got its legs and took off,” said Pejman Roshan, ShoreTel’s vice president of mobility.
ShoreTel Mobility also connects to all leading PBX systems in addition to ShoreTel’s, including those from Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Microsoft.
“A lot of [other vendors] have a fairly limited number of mobile devices that they’ll support, and it brings it back into their own portfolio,” said Frank Stinson, partner and senior analyst with Intellicom Analytics. “It’s not supporting the bring-your-own-device thing as well as [ShoreTel].”
The ShoreTel Mobility app does not store any data locally on users’ devices, so IT admins can de-provision employees without wiping out the personal data on their phones — a common complaint among users.
“They can containerize the app, knock out the app, put a poison pill in the app, whatever you want to call it, and not take out the whole device,” Roshan said.
Mobile and desktop virtualization options
ShoreTel Mobility is focused on keeping personal and business phone calls separate, but other approaches pay more attention to data and apps.
VMware and Verizon Wireless will announce this week they are partnering to offer personal and business segregation on smartphones, according to IDG News Service. They will presumably use VMware’s Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP), a smartphone hypervisor that allows multiple operating systems to run on the same device — in effect creating isolated environments that users can switch between based on the tasks they need to perform.
Also this week, AT&T announced Toggle, a similar feature based on technology from Enterproid, whose Divide platform lets users create secure enterprise profiles to access on their personal smartphones.
A major problem with VMware MVP and AT&T Toggle is that, as of now, they only run on Android devices, said Mike Sapien, principal analyst with Ovum.
“Multiple platforms, multiple operating systems, multiple devices is a lot more friendly for the users,” he said.
Their go-to-market strategies may also cause issues for IT admins, who are looking to make their jobs easier, not harder, Stinson said.
“ShoreTel’s selling to the enterprise and providing an architecture to support users’ existing devices,” he said. “The carriers are coming at it from the other angle. If they’re contracting with the user, that’s kind of an administrative hassle for the enterprise.”
Desktop virtualization technologies aren’t an ideal solution, either. Reliance on connectivity and the performance of Windows OSes and apps on mobile devices are still obstacles for many organizations. As Bob Egan, managing director of MGI Research, put it at last week’s Interop conference, “Virtualization is a mess right now. … The company that figures out media support and application and OS neutrality is going to be a big company.”