By Wesley Gyure, Mobile Product Management & Strategy, IBM Cloud & Smarter Infrastructure
IBM® closes on the acquisition of Fiberlink Communications today. Read the press release.
The recent announcement that IBM will be acquiring Fiberlink has drawn much favorable commentary in the industry, and so it should—it's a sound move for many reasons. However, there's a larger story here. This acquisition is only one aspect of IBM's much larger MobileFirst initiative—an initiative that has really only begun, and will be continuing for years into the future through strategic, cross-portfolio integrations.
Perhaps it might illustrate my point to show how it applies to Fiberlink.
Mobile Device Management meets SaaS for high ROI
Analysts have noted that Fiberlink's MaaS360 service is a great way to bring sophisticated mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management capabilities, including containerization, to user devices—quickly, easily, and effectively.
Because it's cloud-hosted, it streamlines the setup and device enrollment process considerably. It also allows end users the freedom and efficiency of using their own devices, which is extremely important to users when organizations need to manage BYOD.
And once devices are enrolled, the organization benefits tremendously as well by getting a broad array of impressive management functions for a wide range of devices, from iPhones to Android phones to Windows* Phone devices and even Kindle Fire.
Both users and the organization also benefit from the fact that the devices can be managed in a way that enhances security, yet also respects user privacy. For instance, MaaS360 supports secure containers and secure content; it provides for different user contexts through fine-grained policies, such as granular data wipe functions. And it does so for both BYOD and corporate-owned devices.
By integrating best-of-breed capabilities, IBM continually strengthens its complete MDM value proposition
So it's clear that Fiberlink is a very relevant and promising acquisition. But that aspect of it alone is really just the trees of the story. The larger forest starts to become evident when you consider the potential implied by the combination of Fiberlink and the existing IBM MobileFirst portfolio.
Consider security, for instance—a very touchy topic to organizations facing a user-launched BYOD revolution. It's a common concern that if data and services are accessed in ways never originally intended by IT, the result will be new risks (some of them potentially disastrous).
Well, that concern starts to diminish when you consider that IBM isn't just acquiring Fiberlink, but will also be integrating Fiberlink technology with related technology that has been either developed organically in IBM or acquired through our other acquisitions.
Trusteer is a good example—another recent acquisition, and one that's also directly on point in the area of secure mobile devices. Trusteer's focus is on proactive security in areas like fraud prevention, risk prevention, advanced persistent threat detection and risk mitigation, and smart detection of both malware and account takeover.
So what happens when Fiberlink capabilities and Trusteer capabilities are brought under the IBM banner and integrated not just with each other, but also with current IBM solutions like the IBM Endpoint Manager family?
The phrase "greater than the sum of its parts" comes to mind. Now organizations will be able to not only secure mobile devices, but also achieve comparable security (or conceivably even greater security) than they've historically been able to achieve for traditional endpoints like laptops and desktops.
And that will benefit an increasingly broad ecosystem of users, too—everybody from consumers to business partners to vendors, contractors, and employees, by helping to lock down not just the device but its data and the transactions conducted while using it.
Furthermore, this particular instance—Fiberlink and Trusteer and Endpoint Manager for better security—only scratches the surface of the endless integration possibilities.
Here's another. Via the Fiberlink acquisition, IBM's unified device management capabilities—already strong—become stronger yet, because now IBM can offer best-of-market capabilities for both traditional endpoints and mobile devices, both on premises and via a hosted cloud offering.
Building better apps—and app development environments
What about app development? Already many organizations are building their own custom apps for business purposes because of the way mobile applications can streamline business processes and create added value both for the organization and its users/customers—if apps are offered for multiple operating systems, and work in a consistent manner.
For instance, automobile insurance claims can now often be handled via photographs taken by customers’ mobile devices and submitted directly to insurers. Such a process, not possible a decade ago, saves considerable time and energy for both the insurers and their customers.
For organizations interested in pursuing app development of this type, IBM Worklight** is already a very attractive development environment that allows them to create hybrid apps with a nice balance between rapid development for multiple platforms (like Android and iOS) and support for the specific strengths and interfaces associated with those platforms.
So could Worklight-built apps also benefit from the new capabilities associated with IBM's MDM acquisitions, like Fiberlink? You bet they could.
For instance, additional security and security management could be baked right into Worklight apps at build time by leveraging Fiberlink's Software Development Kit (SDK). The same argument applies to SDKs acquired from other sources—Trusteer's comes to mind right away. And (just as above) enhanced security itself is really only one of the many promising opportunities that will soon be available to Worklight developers.
The possibilities are really endless—and they need to be, because few IT domains are evolving as rapidly as mobile device management.
Where is IBM taking all this? Ultimately, through integrating the best of the best capabilities from its own portfolio and the portfolio of its acquisitions, IBM should be able to give organizations an enterprise mobility management solution like nothing on the market today. By that I mean one that spans the complete app lifecycle—meaning development/testing, deployment/enrollment, ongoing management including security, and finally even smart analytics that suggest app improvements in ways end users themselves may not even have imagined. (And I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear that IBM has very much this sort of thing in the works.)
The bottom line is not just the fact that Fiberlink brings quite a bit to the table for IBM.
It's also that acquisitions in the mobile space, like Fiberlink, collectively signify the growing scope of IBM's broader enterprise mobility management value proposition through smart integration—for the whole IBM MobileFirst initiative going forward.
*Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT, and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both.
**Worklight® is a trademark or registered trademark of Worklight, an IBM Company.