MobileIron and Good break new ground with secure containers on mobile devices

Containerization may be the future of mobile security, surpassing MDM and MAM in overall ability and importance

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The second approach, which addresses some of these issues, is app wrapping, which does exactly what its name implies: It adds an enterprise wrapper to an app that creates a secure container for it. Ideally, that wrapper can be centrally managed to secure the data, require authentication for access, and offer protection against data leaks by disabling copy/paste, printing, and the ability to open files in unapproved apps. Essentially, it extends the container advantages to nearly any app, including private enterprise apps and apps publicly distributed through Apple's App Store and Google Play.

Beyond building the secure container, a goal for many organizations is to have secured business apps that can share information with each other. After all, if you have an app for mobile ordering/billing as well as CRM, you'd want them to be able to share contacts and other key customer data.

There are, of course, different ways that apps can share data: copying and pasting content, using the option to open a file using an alternate app, and through integration with back-end systems or cloud services. Depending on the data, the app, and the individual user, it may be prudent or necessary to limit what data sharing is available on in the same way that you would set file permissions on a network share or SharePoint site. Secure containers, and apps integrated with them, require granular and flexible rights management options.

The final challenge of containerization is ensuring that these processes are as invisible and frictionless to the end-user as possible. In the age of personal cloud services and mobile apps, users will find ways to work around a solution that they feel is limiting, clunky, or just plain confusing. They don't want to enter a username and password for each business app or hunt for specific functionality inside of large or complex enterprise apps or navigate around restrictive limits.

Many companies have begun to address these issues, but MobileIron and Good seem to be doing the best job of offering containerization in an effective but minimally intrusive way.

MobileIron has done a phenomenal job in its new AppConnect product in designing a powerful solution that makes containerization almost completely transparent to the user. The company ticks all the security boxes: enterprise authentication, single sign-on, authorization based on the user account, as well as the device and installed apps. It also offers flexible policies. Despite the container approach and app wrapping, users have virtually the same experience under AppConnect as on an unmanaged device. The companion AppTunnel solution also offers secure connections from secured apps to a corporate network without the use of a resource-heavy VPN infrastructure.

Good has also done an amazing job on this front as well with its Good Dynamics platform and its recent acquisition of AppCentral, which allows it to provide app wrapping and an SDK option to its customers. Good's overall on-device presence isn't as transparent to users as MobileIron's AppConnect, but it's user-friendly and packs the security needed by most enterprises.

As I mentioned, Centrify has also recently stepped into this arena with its own Mobile Authentication Services (MAS) SDK that focuses on single sign-on and mobile authentication. The MAS SDK is available through a freemium model and focuses on securing mobile access to enterprise data systems and cloud services.

As mobile app management becomes a companion to, and to some extent displaces, device management as the IT mantra for mobile management, we'll see a lot more evolution of the secure container -- and most likely a number of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships to deliver the best container options. Overall, containerization looks almost certain to be one of the key mobile security technologies for a long time to come.

Ryan Faas is a contributor to CITEworld, where he covers Apple, mobile device management, and BYOD policy and practices. Read more of his work on CITEworld.

This article, "MobileIron and Good break new ground with secure containers on mobile devices," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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