Mobile, Modern Apps and Macs: We’re not in MSI land anymore Toto!

By Logan Hutchinson

I’m often
asked these question by concerned IT Managers and Administrators: “How do I
manage mobile apps?” followed by “I’m approving a boatload of Macs every week,
but have no idea where they are going.” or “How can I deploy mobile apps?” and
“How do I test compatibility, and do I need to?”    

These are
all valid concerns. The proliferation of Macs throughout the Enterprise is a
direct result of the exponentially growing demand for mobile apps, be it
smartphone or tablet. In the case of iOS, the only way to build these apps is
through Xcode, an IDE developed exclusively for iOS and OSX apps that only runs
on the OSX Operating System. This leaves most IT Admins in a quandary. They now
have laptops and apps proliferating the organization that are not under
management, or being tested in a common Application Readiness process.     

This raises
new questions with regards to application readiness. What form factor is the target
device? What OS does it support? What hardware on the device is it dependent up
(front facing camera, accelerometer, display type, etc.)

IT Admins
now rely on the software developers to package everything correctly, for both Line
of Business (LOB) and store apps, which goes against everything that has been
done in packaging for the last decade or so.

The good
news is that there are currently many tools that can help IT wade through these
new mobile waters. The Casper Suite from Jamf Software is the de-facto standard
for managing Macs in the Enterprise, and Microsoft Config Manager 2012 SP1
supports side loading of .appx (Windows Modern Apps) and .ipa (iOS apps) files.
It also supports Mac app management.  

There are
also a slew of startups and established organizations that have emerged in the
Mobile Device Management (MDM) space including Citrix XenMobile, MobileIron,
and Airwatch. These companies are certified Apple partners and have special
permissions to get access to the MDM stack built into each iOS device, offering
advanced functionality that is not publically available. I have personally seen
many of the management interfaces for these tools and they are really good for
offering full control to the IT Admin to push Line of Business (LOB) apps to a
device, send app store deep links to a user for Store downloads, and manage
volume purchasing from an App Store all while enabling IT to maintain the
control they need for management and compliance. Developers can also embed MDM
API’s on a public App Store app for management within the Enterprise. Through
deep links, users can download apps from the store and IT can maintain full
control over the app to protect corporate data. This includes things like
disabling copy/paste on a corporate app, or not allowing printing of corporate
documents outside the firewall.     

In summary,
mobile apps, modern apps and Macs bring a whole new dimension to the packaging
and deployment ecosystem. IT managers should be prepared to support these new
app types and formats. It will mean learning new things outside the traditional
MSI and application virtualization landscape, but it’s the path down which we
are headed.  

 

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