Browsing Posts tagged Apple

In my last post, I talked about Mobile File Management (MFM) and why I thought it was important (Essentially, it makes up for the lack of an iPad file system, amongst other things). One question that comes up occasionally with our customers is, “how are you different than mobile device management (MDM)? Do I need both?” They are, in fact, very different; addressing very different needs. I would also say that they are very complementary solutions and for an enterprise, they are both core to any enterprise mobility strategy.

Just by way of short definitions. MDM helps organizations to manage, secure and monitor the mobile HW and OS. MFM provide secure and managed access to corporate files and content. I am sure some would quibble over these oversimplified definitions but I am just trying to put a general framework around it. The point is that they are not competitive and address very different customer needs. In discussions with customers we will naturally hear about their use of various MDM vendors such as Mobile Iron, Good Technology, Sybase, AirWatch, Absolute, JAMF, and others.

The point I am making is that as enterprise mobility continues to grow there are a number of core functions that need to be there. Some of them are obvious (ex. Email). Others are not as obvious yet. But it is very clear from the conversations we have with enterprise customers that there needs to be a whole ecosystem of functionality around mobility In other words, a group of core applications that are applicable to just about every enterprise user and organization. This is obviously still evolving although some of the pieces already exist but it is fragmented. My expectation is that enterprises will be looking to address necessary management and security functions in a number of different areas. MDM and MFM are but two critical areas, and from my perspective, they are completely complementary.

With the increased usage of mobile devices has also come a host of new needs and new capabilities. Certainly the emergence of Apple’s App Store and all its applications has changed the way people, both consumers and enterprise users, utilize and interact with applications. However, as much as things change, things also stay the same. Most users, be they consumer or enterprise, have a need for email. It is a core function that you expect from a computing device. Web access through a web browser is another. And if you have email you probably need some kind of address book/contact manager, and you may as well throw in a calendar in there as well so you can keep track of your appointments and meetings. I would call these core functions of any computing platform. And lo and behold, the mobile computing devices so popular today offer this functionality.

But there is one core function that has been completely under-served, and perhaps said more strongly, completely missed. And that is file access. How do mobile devices access files that you created that sit on laptops, desktops, corporate file servers or even NAS (network attached storage) devices? That is where Mobile File Management (MFM) solutions step in. Essentially, MFM solutions allow users to get access to files. For us this is an enterprise focus and we address it with our mobilEcho solution. What makes mobilEcho an enterprise MFM solution is that it not only provides the simplicity for the end-user but more importantly, provides the security and management need by IT organizations.

So why is MFM important? Whether we like it or not we still live in a world of files. And for decades we have been producing files – and spent plenty of money doing it. Now we have a wave of new mobility devices – the iPad being the best example of all. So the question is, “how do you access all those files, all that content, which you work with on a daily basis on your laptop or desktop, from your iPad?” In other words, how do we get mobile file access to files sitting on corporate servers, just like I have access to the file servers from my laptop or desktop? Now, we are an enterprise company (for over 20 years now) so we are obviously not just concerned about the access but also about providing safe, secure, and managed access to files – whether they be documents, spreadsheets, presentations or other formats.

For us, this is what Mobile File Management is all about. The ability to access and manage files from a mobile device.

 The third in a series of posts on various use cases for mobilEcho we are seeing from our customers.  Next week we will post the fourth piece on collaboration – Anders

Secure Access to Corporate Documents Improves First-Call Resolution and SLA Compliance

Field workers – from asset maintenance to service professionals—have a demand for mobile applications that improve their productivity and provide them with the information required to resolve service issues on the first call, meet SLAs (service level agreements) and track billing, order entry and inventory information accurately. Whether they are responding to reactive maintenance issues or resolving pre-scheduled customer requests, access to customer and equipment information (including history) and time tracking software is critical to efficient and profitable operations.

Today, there are many software providers and platforms that provide robust and configurable productivity applications to field service organizations that help streamline the workflow and capture essential information like customer signatures, time spent and parts used with a host of technologies, from barcode scanning to geo-tagging.

However, field service personnel cannot rely solely on field service applications on iPad, iPhone or other mobile devices to meet every work requirement. Just like every other employee, field workers need access to documents that reside on corporate file servers such as timesheets, marketing materials, equipment manuals, human resources documents, incident reports, and compliance documents to fully meet their day-to-day responsibilities. But, the challenge has been how to provide this access to the mobile workforce in a simple, secure and managed way.

Some personnel will find workarounds to this problem by using consumer synch services. This introduces a host of problems including setting the corporation up for significant security and compliance risk.

The Solution: mobilEcho
As the industry’s first and only Mobile File Management (MFM) software for enterprise iPad users, mobilEcho enables enterprise IT to provide secure access to enterprise file servers. With mobilEcho, enterprises can empower their mobile workforce with all the files – document, spreadsheets, presentations, and other file types – that they require in their day-to-day job functions.

mobilEcho offers a better alternative to custom built mobile applications. Rather than reinventing the wheel, organizations can leverage existing content by making it accessible in minutes to all of their iPad users. It also allows personnel to store documents locally so that they still have access to their files even when they’re offline. Equipment manuals, marketing material, product specs and other critical documents can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

Obviously, the end-user benefits from these features, but so does the enterprise. mobilEcho provides the key management and security needs for the enterprise, while also providing a very simple method for participants to access files without any training necessary.

Benefits to Field Service Users:
• Access to critical documents to improve employee productivity.
• Improved collaboration with other LOBs, like sales, inventory management, dispatch and others.
• Access to detailed information on the go that goes beyond the packaged templates of mobile workforce applications.
• Ensures proper security and compliance for sensitive business data.

One of the things that we are always being asked for internally is use cases. With mobilEcho that has not been a problem as we are constantly talking to our customers and potential customers about their enterprise mobility strategies and how they use (or would like to use) mobilEcho. Since a lot of this is the great new frontier with iPads and other devices, use cases have either run all over the place or are very industry, or company, specific. However, early on we did start seeing a few consistent themes that kept popping up. In the next few weeks, I will start outlining these on this blog to give you some insight into the kind of requests we are getting. Obviously this is a bit of a moving target as new ideas are always coming up.

What prompted this was that my wife came back from the hairdresser and told me that they gave her an iPad to look at while she was waiting. I suppose this is an obvious substitute for the magazines that always sit around in places where you have to wait (doctor, dentist, barber, etc.). But it made me start to think about some not-so-obvious uses of enterprise mobility and mobilEcho. I have some ideas on this that I will share after we have presented the main use cases we are seeing today.

One thing to remember is that we provide simple, secure and managed enterprise Mobile File Management (MFM). This is targeted at companies that have security, compliance, governance and management needs.  These use cases are from companies that care about these important factors.

The four primary use cases are as follows:

  1. Empowering Decision Making with Anytime, Anywhere Access – this was initially focused on execs who were bringing iPads into the office and demanded that IT support them. I think this has broadened well beyond execs at this point.
  2. Field Personnel Retrieve Secure Access to Critical Documents, Improving Productivity and SLA Compliance  – this is an obvious one where remote personnel need access to product documentation, for example, and needs online and offline access. This can be further broken down into Field Support and Field Sales which have some different needs.
  3. Driving Team Collaboration with Mobility – general team collaboration extended beyond the desktop/laptop to mobile devices.
  4. iPad Accelerates the Paperless Office Movement – the initial focus here was on board meetings with the ability to allow access to information and then wipe it afterwards. But this has far greater applicability beyond the board. I have even heard of companies where they will provide all documentation via iPad for their annual sales meetings. This includes giving all the sales reps iPads. Apparently cheaper than printing. So it also has a green angle on it as well. The related use case is in the education market with things like digital textbooks.

So in the next few weeks I will publish these on our blog and then also make them available on our website (www.grouplogic.com). And as I mentioned I have also started to keep track of other use cases that have come up or we have thought of that are not yet fully baked that we’ll present here for discussion.

Also, you can follow me on twitter @andersgl.

Today, I’ve asked Reid Lewis, our President and Founder, to share a few thoughts on our latest ExtremeZ-IP 7.2 release – Anders

Yesterday Apple released Lion, an important upgrade to Mac OS X, and GroupLogic is ready with an enhanced version of ExtremeZ-IP. The new ExtremeZ-IP has been improved and extensively tested confirming it supports Apple’s improvements to Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) including its improved security and all of the many functions of Lion that ExtremeZ-IP delivers to Mac users connecting to Windows servers. If your organization supports Mac clients with Windows servers and Active Directory, ExtremeZ-IP is the only solution that can deliver the complete Mac OS X experience integrating Mac and Windows users on Windows infrastructure.

GroupLogic engineers have been working with Apple engineers for months testing Lion with ExtremeZ-IP to ensure that your users can upgrade to Lion with complete confidence that their Windows file server solution will continue to provide unmatched performance and trouble free compatibility. This is the seventh major Mac OS X upgrade that we’ve supported with ExtremeZ-IP and we’re excited that Mac OS X Lion is faster and easier than ever. We’re all enjoying Lion’s cool-iOS inspired features that we’ve been experiencing on our iPads and iPhones. If you’re running older Mac OS systems, I’m happy to report that ExtremeZ-IP is backwards compatible from Lion and Snow Leopard all the way back to Mac OS 9.2 so all of your Macs can safely co-exisit with Macs running Lion.

ExtremeZ-IP bring Lion compatibility to all modern Windows versions including Server versions 2003 through 64-bit 2008 R2. ExtremeZ-IP has proven integration with the enterprise features of Windows Server including Active Directory managed permissions (often a source of trouble for Mac users with SMB), Windows Search, Distributed File System (DFS), Clustering for failover, backup solutions and the wide range of hardware choices and virtualization options available for Windows.

As we have seen over the past couple years, Apple continues to improve AFP, maintaining it’s file copying and directory listing speed advantages over the SMB (Windows file sharing protocol). And since Apple doesn’t control the SMB protocol or the SMB server on Windows, it’s unable to bring its new ideas to SMB making AFP the only way to get the full Mac OS X experience. For example, Apple has had to remove Time Machine support for the SMB protocol because of it’s inability to evolve the SMB protocol to support the needs of this important function. The speedy searches delivered by Network Spotlight are still missing when searching non-Apple servers via SMB while Network Spotlight has been supported by ExtremeZ-IP for years.

At GroupLogic, we hear daily from our customers that they rely on the compatibility and performance of AFP as delivered by ExtremeZ-IP, and the support and rapid response to maintenance issues that they know they can get from GroupLogic.

I encourage you to plan your migration path to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion as soon as practical and be sure to upgrade to ExtremeZ-IP 7.2 first.

As always, please share your thoughts and suggestions with us by writing info@grouplogic.com.

When we started developing mobilEcho last Fall, one of the basic “givens” that underscored our efforts was that we know who we are: GroupLogic is an enterprise-driven company delivering enterprise-class products regardless of size. Whether it’s the the large financial services or pharma company with 1000s of iPads or the SMB looking to support 25 iPads, these organizations can be sure that critical corporate assets are protected and properly managed. That’s what we did, and will continue to do with all of our products.

Specific to mobilEcho, our core message is grounded in the value propositions of Simple, Secure and Managed. It’s designed to be simple for the end-user, secure to protect the organization’s critical assets, and managed so IT can easily and quickly deploy and maintain the system without incurring escalating costs. Further enhancing these core tenets, we are announcing today several new key enterprise-level components with mobilEcho 2.1. With this new release we are adding support for Microsoft DFS and Network Reshare capabilities to make Mobile File Management (MFM) even more simple and manageable by enhancing scalability and ease-of deployment.

In our discussions with some of our larger customers we have found that both of these functionalities are critical. Here is why:

  • DFS – Support for Distributed File System (DFS) means mobile users can now access files and resources located in consolidated DFS storage. Many larger enterprises use DFS and this is just a basic requirement for them.
  • Network Reshare – Network Reshare allows a single mobilEcho server to give access to files on additional file servers. This presents several opportunities. First, it gives you great scalability as it simplifies the deployment of mobile access to many servers. Second, it simplifies the overall management in enterprises where there are 10s to 100s of servers (or NAS devices) and/or they are geographically dispersed. Third, network reshare allows you to set up a proxy server within your firewall DMZ, giving you much greater security. Finally, with network reshare, organizations can now gain mobile access to SMB/CIFS capable non-Windows servers, such as Linux servers, and NAS devices, such as NetApp, EMC, IBM or others. This greatly expands flexibility for an enterprise.

As I mentioned, mobilEcho 2.1 is already available and we will be hosting another demo webinar in two weeks where we’ll walk you through all the client-side and management features of mobilEcho. We have found that these demos are invaluable for enterprises in truly understanding why Mobile File Management (MFM) is critical to their enterprise mobility strategy. If you are interested you can register here. If you just have some questions you can also contact us at mobilEcho@grouplogic.com.

I watch CNBC just about every morning. Either at the gym, at home or on the road in the hotel. I always find something interesting to take away from it (or at least pass the time on the treadmill). Yesterday they had a gentleman on from Comscore talking about web traffic and where it comes from. The discussion was about US connected device traffic. This is non-computer devices, so smartphones and tablets. 36% of the traffic goes to Android Phones, 24% goes to iPhone, and 22% and iPad. The remainder is a hodge-podge of smartphones and tablets. He also stated that about 97% of all tablet traffic comes from iPads. I am not surprised by these numbers but it astounding to see how much iPad has grown and the market power it as.

The real question is when will other tablets emerge as a viable competitor to iPad? I am no expert on this but it seems to me that the competition has emerged already (RIM Playbook, several Android tablets, and others) and so far seem to be having minimal impact on iPad sales. iPad keeps chugging along and I expect this to continue for some time. I am mostly speaking from an enterprise perspective here where all the conversations we have with customers is about iPad, at least on the tablet side. I keep waiting for a new generation of Android tablets that may perhaps change this dynamic. On the smartphone the dynamic is certainly different. Clearly there is a fair share of Blackberry users still out there. But our discussions are mostly around iPhone and Android. Now admittedly since we are initially targeting iOS devices it’s natural that those are the discussions we get involved in. But we talk to organizations, from the very large to small, and iPad is top of mind in enterprises.

These situations change and certainly competition for iPad will emerge. It just may take a bit longer than many expect. From our point of view, choice is good for customers and our objective is to support customer with whatever device they choose. mobilEcho, and more broadly, Mobile File Management (MFM), is not just about supporting one device but about cross-platform support of heterogeneous device environments.

Anders Lofgren, VP Product Management

Guest blog post this week by our CTO Derick Naef and his thoughts on last week’s Apple WWDC – Anders. Thanks, Derick!

Apple’s Vision and What it Means for iPads in the Enterprise

I attended my first Apple Worldwide Developer Conference 20 years ago, and even though Steve Jobs would not return for another 7 years, the keynote presentation was always a highly anticipated, electric event.  This year was no different – where else do you see people campout overnight on a San Francisco street to get a good view?  Where do you have people lining up four deep so that the line doesn’t wrap around a city block before the big event? 

For enterprise customers, I think this year’s keynote was more significant than the last few years’ speeches – up there with the unveiling of iOS or the AppStore in 2008.  In his presentation of Lion, iOS 5, and the new iCloud service, Steve Jobs presented Apple’s clear vision for how users will work with documents in the future – and it has important implications for the enterprise.

Jobs said their studies show new users do great amounts of learning to operate Macs until a key point – they start interacting with the file system.  Then all bets are off and the learning curve goes straight up.  Apple’s vision is to completely hide the file system from the user and the iPad is the ultimate example of this – there is no file system from the user’s point of view. Apps are like tiny walled gardens that deal with documents and content only, and the functionality of iCloud mimics this – it focuses on sharing content between apps on different devices, not a cloud file system. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is moving in this direction as well, and it is a bold vision.

Our corporate, education and government customers have thousands of file servers, with tens of millions of files.  They have complicated, creative workflows that involve interaction with many users and applications.  They deal with document management systems.  They have strict security, regulatory and governance requirements regarding how information is accessed and protected.  They will not be able to embrace this vision of a file system-less future unless it integrated into this infrastructure.

Does this mean Apple doesn’t care about iPads and Macs in the Enterprise?  No – far from it.  In discussions with Apple field reps, our partners and resellers, it is clear that the enterprise adoption of Macs, and iPads in particular, is a key focus of Apple.  Companies in every industry imaginable are piloting iPads – and it is clear that when those pilots conclude, the demand generation for iPads in the enterprise will skyrocket.  I have repeatedly heard talk about pilots of 10-50 iPads increasing to 4,000+ in deployment within 12 months.

Apple has created a game changing new platform that is on the cusp of revolutionizing corporate and education IT.  Apple’s vision for a file system-less future is compelling, but it needs to have tools to fill in the gap between the vision and the reality.  There is a vibrant green field opportunity to help fill this gap, and this is the opportunity that GroupLogic’s products, such as mobilEcho and ExtremeZ-IP, fulfill.

Derick Naef, CTO