Novell Jumps Into the Mobile Device Management Pool--Again

Novell's new ZenWorks Mobile Management aims to help enterprises manage their own devices and BYOD policies. Here's a look at what it offers, and where it may fall short for some.

July 26, 2012

2 Min Read
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The explosive growth of mobile devices has spawned the mobile device management products industry, and Novell is the latest in a growing number of MDM platforms. So what does the network software giant bring to the MDM table?

I caught up with Justin Strong, a senior global product marketing manager at Novell, to talk about what Novell's entry into the MDM world does for Novell customers. Strong conceded that Novell certainly isn't the first to the party, given that players like MobileIron, Zenprise, Good Technology and at least a dozen others are already in the market.

Strong walked me through a brief history of Novell's somewhat meandering path during the last several years, and how the new ZenWorks Mobile Management (ZMM) fits with Novell's "return to focus" on client endpoint management. With the capability to manage ActiveSync-enabled mobile operating systems like Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian and iOS, ZMM takes aim at both corporate-owned mobiles and the BYOD realm, with promised flexibility for the nuances that exist between both worlds.

ZMM's feature sheet isn't particularly impressive, nor is it lacking versus the competition. MDM is all about the likes of asset management, app provisioning (or denial), customizable security settings, and good alerting and reporting on the overall happenings and usage of a given mobile device pool. Novell's new mobile management offering certainly hits all of the MDM basics and will likely come across as unremarkable to the general market. But Strong also stressed that while the initial ZMM offering is a standalone product that non-Novell clients might consider, Novell customers will be the biggest beneficiaries because ZMM evolves into an ever-tighter integration with the rest of the company's services and other network applications.

Like any MDM product, Novell stresses that ZMM can wrangle the craziness of the BYOD proposition into submission. I'm good with that, but corporate customers that are contemplating MDM need to realize that BYOD isn't a policy unto itself. Whether a given enterprise forbids, tolerates or encourages the BYOD trend will depend on many factors, and MDM products can't fulfill their promise without clearly defined policies. This is the non-technical part of BYOD, and it can be far thornier to achieve than any systems' implementation.

As a network admin in an Active Directory environment, I can't speak firsthand about how ZenWorks Mobile Management might enhance a Novell-centric network. At the same time, members of my organization are also trying to wrap our heads around how to take on BYOD in a complex environment--having one more player in the space (and a big-name one, at that) helps those shopping by bringing more competition and corporate maturity to a niche that will continue to grow in importance.

Welcome aboard, Novell, and good luck.

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