Updated software from Trellia Networks will now let enterprise IT groups set policies for automating and managing mobile access for devices running Android, BlackBerry OS and Apple iOS operating systems, in addition to laptops.
With the Trellia Mobile Policy Management Platform (MPM), IT administrators can set policies to automatically require use of a specific VPN, block access over an unsecure public Wi-Fi network and disable 3G data services when a user's phone has roamed. As mobile carriers shift to tiered pricing for their 3G data plans, enterprise are likely to want much better control over network access and usage.
Previously MPM was an on-premises client-server or hosted client-cloud application that inventoried laptops, monitored their network access (via Wi-Fi, 3G or wired connections), identified problems, and enforced mobile access policies for workers on the go. Trellia was one element in a revamped mobile laptop deployment by Export Development Canada, the country's export credit agency. The goal was to give these critical remote users much easier, more direct, and more cost-effective, access to enterprise data and applications.
The updated software includes new client agents, which can be downloaded and installed on the handsets, and corresponding updates to the server code. Depending on the mobile OS, the agents can be downloaded via an enterprise Web portal, or from the corresponding online application catalog, such as Apple's iTunes App Store. Apple also now offers an enterprise-based download option.
With the Trellia Policy Manager application, IT staff can set connection policies that are enforced on the mobile device automatically by the Trellia agent, without requiring decisions or actions by the users. On the laptop, Trellia supplants various underlying proprietary connect managers, such as Intel PROSet Wireless or Microsoft Windows Zero Configuration, and controls the various hardware interfaces directly. Earlier this year, the vendor added the ability to collect real-time statistics on 3G data usage and tracks devices using Qualcomm's embedded 3G Gobi technology.
On the smartphone operating systems, the agent collects a range of information about the handset: inventory data on its OS version; software patches; and details of its network usage, including whether a 3G connection has roamed, the level of security enabled in a public Wi-Fi connection and the device's GPS coordinates.
It's important to note that Trellia, like other third-party independent software vendors with mobile management and security offerings, is limited in what it can do with a given smartphone or tablet by the mobile OS itself. In the case of Apple iOS devices, for example, the management and security functions are enabled mainly via Apple's support for Microsoft Enterprise ActiveSync (EAS), which leverages Microsoft Exchange. But with iOS 4.0, Apple enabled an additional set of APIs to allow third-party applications deeper management access, and the Trellia software makes use of these where applicable.
BlackBerry OS will be the first platform to be supported, with an agent available "by November," according to the vendor. Android and iOS agents will be ready before year's end. All three agents will be free downloads. Trellia typically charges $5 to $10 per month per client, depending on the functions desired.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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