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F5 jumps into BYOD with new app manager

Bringing mobile device management back to where the IT team has control

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F5 Networks has launched a mobile app manager product aimed at simplifying the integration of the omnipresent personal smartphone into corporate networks.

Mobile App Manager, the company says, removes several of the many headaches associated with preparing personal mobile devices for safe and efficient business use -- packaging enterprise apps for mobile use, providing a unified mobile device management console, and making sure that business and personal data remain separate on an employee's device.

The core of Mobile App Manager is a SaaS offering, though it can also mesh with F5's existing data centre hardware to provide app-level VPN access to computing resources remotely, according to the company. The tool can be used to collect business intelligence and to deploy, lock down and otherwise tinker with corporate apps remotely.

One feature lets employees copy information from personal apps into corporate ones, but not vice-versa, while another syncs personal information and calendar data from company sources automatically. The product starts at $6 per device per month.

The mobile app component is available for Android and iOS, and is designed for ease of use, F5 says. It encrypts enterprise apps and information stored on the device, and provides dedicated corporate email and app stores, as well as a secure browser.

More important may be what it doesn't do, according to F5.

"Employees are more comfortable knowing that their personal content is completely inaccessible to IT, won't be automatically wiped in the event a device is lost or stolen, and that device functionality (such as the camera) cannot be restricted," the company said in a statement.

Mobile App Manager follows hard on the heels of F5's announced purchase of SDN startup LineRate Systems, making it the second major enterprise IT topic that the company has attempted to address in about a week. The world of the data centre is changing fast, and F5 appears determined to keep up as well as a traditional hardware vendor can.

Enterprise Management Associates managing research director Jim Frey recently said that there's no shortage of possible new roles for F5's flagship app delivery products in the data centre of the future.

ZK Research principal Zeus Kerravala said that, since businesses have less and less authority over endpoints and applications, it's important to move mobile device management (MDM) somewhere where the company still has control -- like the network.

"What F5 has done ... is a very good example of that," he says. "By moving that MDM-type capability into the network, that allows IT to scale much better."


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