There is more than one way to distribute a mobile application, and mobile application management (MAM) vendor Apperian wants to support them all.
Apperian's flagship MAM platform utilizes a private enterprise app store. But the company recently decoupled its MAM capabilities from the app store so IT organizations can distribute mobile apps to users any way they choose, including through existing private app stores, mobile device management (MDM) or enterprise mobility management (EMM) systems, via corporate portals or even directly to end users via email or file sharing systems.
""We want to offer companies as many options as possible for distributing mobile apps in a secure and managed way without creating another place end users must go to. Now companies can apply our policies to their mobile apps for enhanced security and then distribute them any way they'd like, even through something as simple as a company portal," said Mark Lorion, the company's chief marketing officer. "If you want to drive adoption of mobile apps, you want to make them as easy as possible to find."
Applying policy directly to a mobile application rather than requiring devices to be under MDM control is a good idea, said Chris Hazelton, research director, Enterprise Mobility at 451 Research. "This approach aligns with today's mobile enterprise environments, where many devices are unmanaged, and provides IT with flexibility to distribute applications through unlimited channels, reaching end users in a way that makes sense for organizations' unique needs without sacrificing security."
This approach is notably different from that of most MDM vendors, which require the installation of a user profile on devices to give IT organizations a window into device activity and allow them to enforce adherence to security policies.
"MDM is generally built around the idea that the device itself is managed. The practical means for doing so is running a profile which gives the vendor access to what happens on the device. Without the profile, vendors can do very little; they cannot distribute secure, managed mobile apps," Lorion said.
Because Apperian's platform does not require a profile on the device, each mobile app can be treated as a standalone, self-sufficient unit, complete with security features and policies, he added. "The app comes with all of the management and security it needs whether or not the device itself is managed."
Removing device dependence has worked out well for Apperian, he said, noting that companies increasingly want to provide mobile apps to contract workers and other third parties such as consultants and business partners. "The IT group does not want to manage those devices nor do those users want them managed. MDM does not meet the requirements to have secure mobile apps and content on unmanaged devices."
The mobile app distribution methods supported by Apperian's new approach include:
Existing MDM or EMM environments. Organizations with existing investments in AirWatch by VMware, Good by BlackBerry, IBM MaaS360, MobileIron and other MDM and EMM products can use Apperian's policy library or create customized policies.
Corporate Portals. Existing corporate portals can host Apperian policy-enabled apps so that managed apps can be distributed via existing workflows.
Private App Stores. Organizations that have already created their own app store or are using a third- party private app store can now use Apperian's MAM and security back-end and policy engine, without the need for a separate app store environment.
Mobile App Distribution to Non-Managed Devices. With the need in some organizations for one or just a few apps to be secured and deployed, Apperian now supports direct download links in email, launched from barcodes or included in other user communications.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.