Blue Coat Adds Mobile Application Management for Corporate Networks

A new set of mobile application management tools seeks to give IT the control that analysts say is critical as the BYOD trend takes off.

July 16, 2012

4 Min Read
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Blue Coat Systems today introduced mobile application controls that the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company says will provide IT managers with a more granular level of control of over applications running on mobile devices connected to a corporate network.

Sasi Murthy, Blue Coat's senior director of product marketing, says these new tools will make it easier for enterprises to manage the use of unsanctioned mobile applications over their network infrastructure. This addresses security concerns that these applications raise while allowing corporate networks to maintain quality of service.

"What people are starting to learn is that Facebook on the laptop is a very different application than the Facebook that's the mobile app," says Murthy. "Organizations are keying into the idea that there are other applications being brought in and run on their corporate network that they aren't able to see and control."

Blue Coat's new tools extend to mobile applications the same granular operational controls the company provides through its WebPulse infrastructure for desktop and Web-based applications. It also enables IT to consistently enforce policies across all devices on the network.

"You want to have a level of consistency and universality," says Murthy. The policy might apply to a personal device being brought into the workplace or a corporate device that's taken home by an employee to work remotely. "Now not only do you have the consistency of policy, but you have situational and granularity of control. You might have a corporate profile, you might have a remote profile--administrators can set that up."

Rather than simply block a website, Blue Coat's tools can permit certain users who need to access it--for example, allowing marketing personnel to post to Facebook. The Blue Coat mobile application controls take the same approach to address the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon by identifying specific mobile applications that are accessing the corporate network. An organization wary of unintentional leaks of confidential or secure location information could set a policy for Twitter that prevents employees from sending tweets but allows full reading or monitoring access and extend that Web-based application policy to the Twitter mobile application, allowing read-only access across all devices on the network.

The new mobile application controls are integrated into the Blue Coat ProxySG appliances and the Blue Coat Cloud Service. Blue Coat adds new applications and operations to its mobile application controls on a monthly basis, which are automatically updated through WebPulse.

"Our WebPulse infrastructure not only gives real-time protection, it's also our engine for identifying new Web applications and it pushes that data out," says Murthy. "Now it can detect a mobile version of a known Web application and decide if or when to allow access to that application to protect bandwidth and ensure security."

Murthy cites Box.com as a popular service with a mobile application that needs to be monitored because it makes it easy for corporate information to move outside IT's control.

While enterprise security is often what comes to mind when discussing the impact of BYOD, content management is also a concern, according to Michael Osterman, president and founder of Osterman Research. That's especially true for organizations that must adhere to strict regulatory guidelines that govern their industry.

"You have more and more corporate content that's being stored on mobile devices," he says. "It becomes much more difficult for organizations to manage their data." Applications on smartphones and tablets create new repositories of data if they are allowed to access the corporate network.

"You don't even know what you have to begin with," adds Osterman. "People can create a document and if they're storing it on Dropbox or a mobile device, there's no way that IT is even going to know they have that, let alone be able to access it."

Osterman says that, ultimately, organizations need to have a policy to govern what data is accessed and shared, regardless of whether it's through a corporate device or one brought in by the employee.

He adds that the implementation of technology to set policy for all of these mobile applications does fall on IT, but other corporate decision makers will play a role in setting up policy based on business needs. "The IT department is not going to know the nuances of what the marketing department needs in terms of blocking content. It's going to have to be marketing working with IT to say these are the policies we need."

Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, says the data traffic created by all of these mobile applications doesn't just create security concerns--it also threatens quality of service. He cites higher education as one example where students are using their own devices for not only schoolwork but also entertainment purposes, including game consoles in their residences. "It's about quality of service, and when you allocate bandwidth and to whom," he says.

Laliberte says it's critical that organizations gain granular control in response to BYOD, especially given the use of bandwidth-hungry video applications for corporate collaboration and entertainment. "When users bring these devices in, they have to be registered and onboarded and organizations need to decide what applications and what usages they are going to allow."

Osterman says that with the democratization of IT, "it's becoming more and more difficult to tell employees what they can and cannot do."

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