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F5 Networks Offers Remote Access For Apple Wireless Devices

F5 Networks, an application delivery networking provider, has introduced versions of its Big-IP Edge Client and Big-IP Edge Portal applications that can run on wireless devices from Apple, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The applications, which operate on a virtual private network, enable workers to access files and other content on the corporate network remotely, but conform to the security and compliance requirements set for devices that operate behind the firewall.

The support for Apple's iOS operating system is another indicator of what analysts call the "consumerization of IT," in which IT administrators have to accommodate workers' individual choices of what technology to use, rather than having IT dictate which devices they must use.

The Edge and Portal applications can be downloaded for free onto Apple devices through Apple's App Store. An F5 spokesperson said support for the applications on RIM BlackBerry, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 mobile operating systems is on F5's roadmap but was unable to provide more specifics.

F5 probably had to do some significant engineering work with Apple to get these apps to run on those devices, says Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner. With most apps, Apple is very restrictive, allowing apps to access only the parts of the operating system they need to in order to work. However, in some situations, Apple has allowed greater integration with the OS, such as with Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems for VPN firmware.

F5 is offering these applications on Apple devices because that's what corporate and enterprise customers want, says Dulaney. "They're a popular product in that regard," he said. "Customers demand unrestricted VPN access."

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