RIM's road map to unified mobile management

RIM unites its three-server strategy for old and new BlackBerrys, as well as Android and iOS devices under BES 10

When Research in Motion finally ships the BlackBerry 10 smartphones in early 2013, your existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) won't be able to manage them. Instead, RIM offers a new server called BlackBerry Device Service (BDS) for the new BlackBerrys. You'll continue to manage the earlier versions of BlackBerry -- those running BlackBerry OS 5, 6, or 7 -- on the current BES 5.04 product.

That sounds messy, especially when you throw in two more factors:

  1. RIM is trying to convince IT organizations to manage iOS and Android devices through a third RIM server called Universal Device Service (UDS).
  2. The BlackBerry 10 platform will support Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol, so you won't need a proprietary RIM server to manage them.

[ Why RIM developers have faith in BlackBerry 10. | IT: The three steps to saying bye-bye to BlackBerry. Users: How to transfer your BlackBerry contacts to iOS or Android. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with InfoWorld's Mobilize newsletter. ]

The good news is that RIM intends to merge the three servers into one product, to be called BES 10, in May 2013. The tripartite split previously announced, as well as their common Web console (called BlackBerry Enterprise Service), that debuts in early 2013 isn't the endgame. Instead, it's an interim step, says Jeff Holleran, director of enterprise management at RIM. He says the multiple servers were needed to get support for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry 10 (including the BlackBerry PlayBook tablets that are sort of a proto-BlackBerry 10 release) to enterprises quickly.

BlackBerry 10 and BES 10 are still very much works in progress. Holleran and several colleagues spent three hours with me recently to discuss BlackBerry 10 and the BES strategy, and they couldn't answer many of my questions given the platform's under-development reality. They also showed me some of the BlackBerry 10 user interface, but under very controlled circumstances that reinforce the product's unfinished state.

The situation today
If you want to manage BlackBerry devices, you need a BES as a front end to your email system to secure the manage the connections between the BlackBerry and the email server, as well as to impose policies on the device such as access to the camera, password requirements, and so on. There are more than 500 such policies that BES can impose on a BlackBerry.

Your other choice is to use the BlackBerry Internet Service to set up user email accounts in advance. It's a fancy way of enabling email access via POP or IMAP but otherwise essentially leaving the device unmanaged.

RIM also sells BDS, which is used to manage just BlackBerry PlayBook tablets that have enabled RIM's Balance technology -- a managed virtual partition for access to corporate email and related resources.

And it sells UDS to manage iOS and Android devices. UDS delivers configuration profiles that let you manage VPN, Wi-Fi, and other network connections (such as to route communications only through secured ones), as well as provision apps and enforce basic policies around encryption and passwords. In iOS, UDS installs the same configuration profiles that any mobile device management (MDM) tool would, as Apple has made this facility native to the operating system to expose its security and management APIs universally.

You can also buy Mobile Fusion Studio, which is essentially a common administrative front end for BES, BDS, and UDS.

Just to confuse matters -- RIM is good at this -- iOS and Android devices managed by UDS run a client app called Mobile Fusion Client, which gives UDS visibility into device state and is the conduit through which the management profiles are delivered to the devices.

The plans for early 2013
When the BlackBerry 10 devices finally go on sale, RIM will continue to provide BES 5.04 for legacy BlackBerrys. BDS will manage both PlayBook tablets and BlackBerry 10 smartphones. UDS will manage Android and iOS devices essentially unchanged from today's version. Mobile Fusion Studio will be renamed BlackBerry Management Studio (BMS), which keeps the role of the common administrative front end to all three servers. The collection of BES 5, BDS, UDS, and BMS will be called BlackBerry Enterpriser Service -- easily confused with today's BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

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