EMC In The Fast Lane Toward The Third Platform

Unleashing the power of mobile computing in your organization while keeping your information secure is an evolving challenge in today’s fast-changing world of mobility.

Mobility is an extremely important component in the evolution to the Third Platform, given the “consumerization of IT” and the fact that enterprises are seeking to run their business from mobile devices. Freedom to compute using the device you prefer, freedom to roam where and when you want,  freedom to consume using different apps, and freedom to collaborate —these are the mantras of the evolution to the Third Platform.

The vision for the EMC Pervasive Mobility program, therefore, is to provide user-centric, value-driven secure access to any enterprise information from any device, anytime, from anywhere.

A couple of considerations for the enterprise mobility strategy are how is the underlying data made available in a secure manner, and what services are provided to enable agile application development.

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How do you make sure that the data you deliver to mobile devices as well as the data on the corporate network is protected? For this, we have gone down the path of Mobile Device Management (MDM), requiring mobile device users to register their devices with EMC IT and be managed. This gives us the confidence we need to provide users with the content they need and ensure its safe use, as well as the ability to take mitigatory steps if a security problem occurs.

To hear more from KK about the Third Platform, watch his interview from EMC World 2014

For more sensitive data, we have also created a secure container framework which encrypts content that is downloaded to mobile devices. It also prevents downloading (or “open in”) sensitive documents to third-party applications. This serves to protect the integrity of all documents in the container, but still allows remote users to view them.

Control the app, not the device

While there are many advantages to MDM for IT and users, such as letting EMC users automatically connect to EMC Wi-Fi, there are challenges.  This includes some users perceiving IT as Big Brother imposing heavy-handed security requirements. In addition, the overall user experience is not as seamless and convenient as it should be, creating a barrier to the easy enablement of the mobile applications our employees need and want.

EMC IT has been working to create a more light-weight mobile security approach, using some MDM elements along with Mobile Application Management (MAM) strategies.

Through MAM, applications would have security controls built in. Security policies, such as who can access an app and what kind of content they can tap into, would be assigned at the app level, reducing the need for management of the mobile device itself. For example, if I want to access EMC data on my smart phone through a particular app, the app itself will provide necessary controls to prevent insecurities from the app perspective. With MAM, a user would not have to always register their personal smart phone with EMC IT.

The field of MAM and MDM is very fluid and we are navigating a path that will allow us to move our mobility program forward while improving user delight. In our expected solution, an MAM component would guarantee security for mobile apps, and a lightweight MDM would provide minimal management of the device. In addition, we are adopting an adaptive authentication model to simplify cumbersome authentication processes. Through adaptive authentication, requirements can be based on who the user is, their behavior patterns, and what they are seeking to access.

Embracing app demand with foundational services

In addition to securing the device, we have to also help maximize our employees’ experience and productivity. We have recently introduced Syncplicity as an enterprise-grade secure Sync-and-Share solution so that employees can share content across multiple devices. At EMC, Syncplicity is swiftly changing the model of ad hoc collaboration behavior: from one of emailing documents back and forth to one of seamless content collaboration.

In addition, EMC IT is in the process of rolling out an enterprise Unified Communication solution with which I can, sitting at home, make a video call from my iPad (!) to a colleague on the EMC network with almost the ease of picking up the phone. Incredible! These are just scratching the surface of what is possible.

Beyond these productivity apps, we have been developing capabilities for a number of use cases as well. One guiding principle when developing apps in the Third Platform is Mobility First, i.e. how would you design the application assuming that it should be made available on mobile devices with different form factors, and not just website requirements. In addition, we are adhering to the principle of “Mobilizing, not miniaturizing.” In other words, we don’t want to just take an existing website and make it available to a smart phone, requiring users to zoom and pinch to use it.

And finally, we are focusing on pieces of functionality that are more relevant to apps sitting on a mobile device— what makes sense on a mobile device versus a desktop. We are not looking to replicate all of our desktop functionality on a mobile device.

This approach has started to make people think about how app functionality is rendered with the desired user experience effect.

Spurring app development

Since mobile enablement is in demand for so many app use cases, EMC IT has been providing a spectrum of services to not only build and support apps soup-to-nuts, but to also provide foundational services that developers across the organization can leverage to build their own apps. These include authentication/access management, secure container with browser, content management, push notification, content rewrite, analytics, development tools and standards, automated build/code review/testing, security scans, etc. We also have an enterprise App Store for hosting apps. Several business organizations such as Marketing and Customer Services that are already developing their own mobile apps, which we will host in our App Store.

To further mobile app development, EMC IT has established a Mobile Technical Competency Center which offers skills, technologies and a full suite of mobile development services to fulfill the growing demand of internal and customer/partner-facing mobile apps.

We have developed several applications thus far, ranging from productivity apps to apps that have access to our enterprise SAP ERP platform. We will continue to grow the apps portfolio we have on the basis of focused development on multiple use cases that will make the  “day in a life” of an employee as well as customer/partner far better,.

EMC IT has made substantial progress in realizing Pervasive Mobility over the past three years. We have had a robust social platform for the past seven or eight years and we are making this available to mobile devices as well. The intent is to make all of these elements integrated and available from an overall customer perspective on the Third Platform.

For additional perspective, read EMC Chief Information Officer Vic Bhagat’s blog The Art of the Possible and Talking Third Platform in Silicon Valley by David Goulden, CEO, EMC Information Infrastructure.

About the Author: KK Krishnakumar