Taking Back IT

Sep 28 2011   11:31AM GMT

Welcome to the mixed-infrastructure nightmare

Colin Steele Colin Steele Profile: Colin Steele

Managing heterogeneous environments is a huge pain.

That’s one of the major lessons I learned over three years of covering the virtualization market. Lots of vendors say they can manage mixed infrastructures, but they all have shortcomings. The platform vendors have limited features for managing competing platforms. The small ISVs do a few specific things well, but they don’t do everything. And the big systems management tools can be costly and complicated.

Desktop admins haven’t really had to worry about this problem. Most shops run Windows exclusively, using well-established, Windows-specific tools for management. But that’s all changing.

You may have noticed that Windows PCs aren’t the only enterprise endpoints anymore. These cool little gadgets called smartphones and tablets are infiltrating the workplace. Lots of them. Made by different vendors. Running different OSes. With different levels of security. And if you think you can pick just one to support, you better think again.

That’s according to a recent Forrester Research report, “Ten Lessons Learned From Early Adopters of Mobile Device Management Solutions.” In the report, Forrester analysts warn, “The years of limiting device choice to a single platform are over.”

Does that mean you have to support every device under the sun? No. Just because Kevin the new sales rep thought he was getting a good deal on a BlackBerry PlayBook at Best Buy, you shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to accommodate him.

Forrester recommends focusing on iPhones, iPads and Android devices, which are the most popular among users and mobile device management (MDM) vendors alike. But you’ll still face plenty of challenges, even with this narrow scope, because today’s MDM tools “have limited management functionality,” and “many IT managers still have concerns about the lack of full-disk encryption and more advanced application control,” Forrester says.

With all of these issues, the temptation is strong to just avoid supporting these devices altogether. But that won’t stop employees from using them. And without at least some controls in place, your organization’s security could be at risk. Any way you slice it, the consumerization of IT is bringing the pain of mixed-infrastructure management to endpoint admins.

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