BoxTone exploits Active Directory to automate mobile management

BoxTone exploits Active Directory to automate mobile management

BoxTone has announced the latest version of its mobility management software, tied more closely to Microsoft Active Directory roles and policies. The result is that BoxTone 7 automates hundreds of IT tasks for fast-growing mobile deployments.

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The new version imports from Active Directory a wealth of already-created data about employees and their enterprise roles and privileges. The vendor painstakingly deconstructed IT tasks, called "workflows," in three broad areas: managing employee devices from setup through eventual deactivation ("lifecycle management"); technical support and help desk operations; and mobile apps.

In addition, the UI has been redesigned with a tabbed interface for four over-arching IT roles: the original role of device provisioning and management, now dubbed "assets," and three new ones -- security, operations and support. Within each category there are now scores or hundreds of automated tasks.

Every minute, BoxTone 7.0 watches over 2,200 data points related to each mobile user, their device, connections and applications, according to BoxTone Chief Marketing Officer Brian Reed. The vendor says the new server software can handle 3 million transactions per hour and more than 100,000 devices.

A variety of vendors compete in some or all of the device management market, as smartphones and tablets burgeon in the enterprise. Rivals include AirWatch, Good, SAP Sybase and Zenprise. Most are moving to integrate with an array of existing enterprise infrastructure elements, such as Active Directory, and to go beyond simply configuring and managing the hardware.

The prior version of BoxTone connected with Active Directory but mainly to allow authorized users to log in using their standard Active Directory credentials, and to enroll their mobile device for network access. BoxTone 7 leverages the corporate directory, including other LDAP-based ones, much more thoroughly.

If an employee is promoted or transferred, for example, BoxTone now detects the changes to his role in the corporate directory. BoxTone correlates the changes with preset mobile policies and then can take action to change the user's device configuration, network privileges and standardized corporate apps.

The combination of in-depth device-related analytics and Active Directory integration is coupled with a battery of helpdesk processes. When a user calls the helpdesk with a problem, the technician can type in the employee's name, and see displayed role-based information as well as automatic diagnostics of his device, network connections and apps. Problems are flagged, and BoxTone 7 recommends a series of steps to fix them, based on the software's built-in rules engine and extensive knowledge base of mobility problems.

For the first time, BoxTone is aware of mobile apps, and whether they are personal or corporate. The "security" tab lets an administrator create "app sets," or groups of apps associated with specific Active Directory roles and groups. All employees may get a basic standard set of apps, but a salesman, for example, will get a specific set of additional apps, his manager yet another.

To do all this, BoxTone analyzed and codified hundreds of IT processes, designed rules to automate them, and created an extensive knowledge base of articles to support them. It worked closely with enterprise customers to redesign BoxTone's UI, tailoring it to fully exploit a tablet's touch interface capabilities, according to BoxTone's Reed.

BoxTone 7.0 will be available this month. Conventional "perpetual" software licenses start at $30 per device for the base BoxTone platform. Each of the three main workflows -- lifecycle, support and apps -- is an additional $30 per device. Volume discounts are available. A subscription-based option is $2.50 per month per device.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: john_cox@nww.comBlog RSS feed:

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