Sybase is extending its Afaria mobile-device management platform and database software to the Apple iPhone, taking advantage of new enterprise features in Version 3.1 of the iPhone's software to give IT departments more control and capabilities on the popular handset.
Though many enterprise employees bring iPhones into the office and rely on them for personal communications, the device originally caught on as a consumer gadget for music, Web browsing and entertainment applications, and has only gradually made inroads as a workplace tool. Going on sale in the middle of this month, Sybase's Afaria 6.5 will finally give administrators the kinds of controls they have had previously for mobile platforms such as Symbian, Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1, Research In Motion BlackBerry and PalmOS.
Apple's recent iPhone 3.1 release added the capability to lock down certain settings on a device so the user can't change them using the phone's configuration utility, said Mark Jordan, senior product manager for Afaria. That allowed Sybase to give enterprise IT departments the power to do things such as block applications, define the required password strength and lock down Wi-Fi and VPN (virtual private network) settings. Administrators can now establish a trusted relationship between Afaria and the employee's phone using a certificate, he said.
With the new Afaria, enterprises can make and change settings on employees' iPhones over the air based on overall policies for certain departments, job descriptions and other criteria. Among other capabilities, they can also require device authentication for access to a corporate directory and set up compliance reporting on the employee's use of the phone.
Sybase announced Afaria's iPhone capabilities on Tuesday at the iPhone Developer Summit in Santa Clara, California. Also on Tuesday, it announced tools for the Sybase SQL Anywhere database to be used for synchronization of data between an iPhone application and a back-end database. Using SQL Anywhere, internal developers and software vendors can build in bi-directional synchronization between an on-device app and relational databases including Sybase, Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 and MySQL. This frees employees from having to depend on the cellular data connection to get work done while on the road, Jordan said. There is a beta test program now open for SQL Anywhere for iPhone.
Also on Tuesday, the company's Sybase 365 subsidiary introduced a turnkey system for mobile banking on the iPhone. With it, banks can allow their customers to check balances, transfer funds among accounts, securely communicate with bank representatives, find branches and automatically dial the bank, Jordan said. The Sybase mBanking 365 iPhone platform is available now and is already deployed by BBVA Compass as the BBVA Compass Mobile application.