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A new way to get iPhones under control

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from Network World.

TrustDigital has released an updated version of its mobile device management software, with improved support for the iPhone, including the new 3GS model, and iPod touch.

Don’t miss Network World’s 20 cool third-party iPhone apps

The new release expands on TrustDigital's basic pitch to enterprise IT: creating centralized, policy-based management and security controls over the unruly iPhones, something Apple has yet to fully realize. The goal, says TrustDigital Vice President of Marketing Dan Dearing, is something analogous to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, to create and enforce a wide range of enterprise mobile policies for multiple platforms: iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Palm OS.

The main part of the TrustDigital Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platform sits in the enterprise DMZ. This group of applications, dubbed EMM Proxy, acts as a go-between for the iPhones and other devices, and corporate mail servers behind the firewall. A separate program lets managers create polices, and a central Web-based console lets you view the devices, their software and hardware assets, relevant policies and so on. Traditionally, a client-side agent application is downloaded to the device.

Apple’s release of the iPhone 3.0 operating system, and the advent of the iPhone 3GS model, introduced a battery of management and security features long-craved by network IT departments. Among the additions: VPN support, always-on encryption, and remote wipe-and-kill. It improved support for ActiveSync policies and released the 2.0 version of the free iPhone Configuration Utility. All of these are important changes, but they don’t create a central point of control to enforce such measures as password controls, content blocking, or application restrictions. (See InfoWorld’s Can you manage an iPhone like a BlackBerry? test.)

With the new EMM version, iPhones (and other supported devices) can now access any backend e-mail server that incorporates Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. There’s no Lotus iPhone client for example. But the EMM Proxy can now act on behalf of the iPhone client and access the Lotus server.

Also new is a small iPhone app, dubbed EMM Agent, which when downloaded automates the iPhone enterprise activation process, including configuring enterprise VPN settings, Wi-Fi policies and other security standards.

EMM can also now work with the native security and enterprise features on the iPhone out of the box, without the need for a full agent application. The vendor created a full agent and is awaiting approval by Apple to offer it on the App Store. This agent will support the full range of EMM controls on the device.

Finally, the new release can scan the iPhone 3GS to ensure that a pin or password is activated, before allowing the handset to connect to the corporate email server.

One rival attacking the mobile management gap is Zenprise, which has branched out from a focus on end-to-end troubleshooting for enterprise BlackBerry deployments to a wider embrace of multivendor mobile device management. It embraced the iPhone in 2008 and earlier this year added support for Windows Mobile

The new release of TrustDigital EMM ships August 1. Pricing is based on client licenses, starting at $65 each, with volume discounts. A starter kit for 25 devices, including one year of tech support, is about $5,000.

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