Dell software aims to automate mobile device management

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To handle the explosion of mobile devices in the enterprise, Dell this week unveiled plans for a server designed to automate a wide range of mobile management jobs for mid-range business customers.

The Dell KACE K3000 Mobile Management Appliance combines the new software with a rack-mounted Dell server. The K3000 appliance handles jobs such as over-the-air provisioning of iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, enforcing through user profiles a range of security and management policies, tracking hardware software inventories and managing distribution of enterprise mobile apps.

The appliance comes from Dell’s KACE division, a 2003 systems management startup bought in early 2010. The original product, now the K1000, is an automated systems management appliance for servers and desktop and laptop PCs, followed by the K2000 for automating operating system deployments, updates and patches. All three are available as either hardware or a virtual appliance, the latter for VMware virtual servers.

The K3000 extends the same automated, life-cycle approach to mobile devices, whether corporate issued or personally owned. A Web-based console lets administrators access it from any Web browser.

“Our server is plug and play,” says Roger Bjork, director of marketing for Dell Enterprise Mobility Solutions. “You install the server, point it to a network address and it starts to identify the [mobile] endpoints, and install our agent on them.”

The agent runs in the background and collects data on the device’s software and hardware, including license information and a range of metrics such as how often apps are run. Mobile users with their own devices receive an email or SMS message with a Web link, which takes them to the company’s end-user agreement. Once they agree to that, the agent is downloaded and automatically installed.

The Web interface and integrated features are designed to allow administrators to easily secure and manage mobile devices, without lengthy training or costly customization of the appliance software. The appliance integrates with the existing K1000 Systems Management Appliance: all endpoints — mobile, PCs, and servers — can be viewed via the Web console.

The K3000 offers some initial application management features, and Dell plans to expand on these in the future. “Most [mobile] users are using email, PIM [personal information management] and contacts, with some links to corporate databases,” says Bjork. “But not many native enterprise apps are designed and built for a mobile devices. This is changing. There is more interest in apps that run locally and exploit the mobile UI.”

For now, the K3000 lets administrators distribute and manage mobile apps, via emailed links to end users, for example. And it can manage the Apple redemption codes that let enterprise download App Store apps for multiple users.

The Dell KACE K3000 Mobile Management Appliance will be available as an “early access” software-only download (for VMware virtual servers) starting in January. The full appliance-based version is scheduled for March release. In keeping with the other KACE offerings, the appliance costs $4,500, with 100 managed “nodes” (mobile devices); a per-node charge of $13, with volume discounts; and a 20% annual recurring charge for support and service.

This story, "Dell software aims to automate mobile device management" was originally published by Network World.

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