The BlackBerry 10 and BES confusion untangled

Research in Motion has finally clarified how today's BlackBerrys, the promised BlackBerry 10, and its BES tools will work together

If Research in Motion ships its reinvented BlackBerry devices by April 2013 as currently promised, IT will face a big decision: whether to support the new BlackBerry 10 platform, which requires an entirely new management server than the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) that has been part of IT ships for well over a decade. That's right, BES won't manage BlackBerry 10 devices, and RIM won't upgrade BES to do so. Instead, the imminent BES 5.0.4 is the end of the road, though it will be supported for the foreseeable future.

RIM now says it will ship a new mobile management server called BlackBerry Device Service to manage BlackBerry 10 devices. But BDS won't manage today's BlackBerrys. And, confusingly, BDS does exist today in limited form as part of the Mobile Fusion product to support BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, for the handful of companies that use them. The new BDS will expand its support to include BlackBerry 10 devices.

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At the end of the day, this means an organization will need to run both BES and BDS servers if they have a mix of BlackBerry devices: BlackBerry 7 and earlier smartphones will be managed by BES, and BlackBerry 10 smartphones and any PlayBooks will be managed by BDS.

Late last week, RIM revealed its plans to provide a Web-based console so that IT can manage both BES and BDS devices from a single pane of glass. This console is called BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (not Server, as in BES) and is promised to ship at the same time as the BlackBerry 10 devices and the compatible version of BDS. It's not a unified BlackBerry management server, just a common front end.

BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 will also act as a front end to a third RIM management server for iOS and Android: Universal Device Service, currently on the market under the name Mobile Fusion. Essentially, UDS will get merged into BDS when BlackBerry 10 comes out, not remain as a separate server.

Today, UDS gives you a console to manage the iOS's native policies and to manage policies installed on Android devices via a RIM client app. (On iOS, UDS supports the delivery of iOS's native management certificates, comparable to what OS X Server or the Apple Configuration Utility do, but using the RIM console instead for simpler integration with other device management capabilities.) The client apps for iOS and Android also allow device auditing and controls over business-delivered apps. Essentially, it offers the capabilities of most MDM tools.

If you choose not to deploy BDS, BlackBerry 10 smartphones and PlayBook 2.0 tablets can be managed via a server that supports Exchange ActiveSync, as they support the core EAS policies. Such servers include Microsoft Exchange, System Center 2012, Google Apps for Enterprise, and a whole cottage industry of cloud-based EAS-based MDM services. RIM says BDS will offer more management capabilities for its devices than EAS provides.

It's clear that RIM is hoping organizations will sweep out their existing -- and aging -- BlackBerry devices in favor of an all-BlackBerry 10 fleet. That's an ambitious hope, as it will require from IT the same effort as sweeping out BlackBerrys in favor of an iOS or multiple-device environment managed by one of the leading MDM tools -- after all, most organizations have already deployed an MDM tool, so replacing it with UDS would cost money and time for no additional capabilities, and deploying BDS to support BlackBerry 10 à la BES would mean a whole new deployment for an unproven platform.

It's hard to understand why an IT organization would go through the effort to introduce a BlackBerry 10 environment rather than simply use the change in technology to wind down the aging BlackBerry infrastructure. If BlackBerry 10 is an amazing product, then IT may embrace the effort of essentially adding a whole new mobile ecosystem. After all, IT organizations have largely done so in the last year to support iOS and later Android through the adoption of MDM tools. But that MDM adoption happened largely under protest, as users forced the issue onto a recalcitrant segment. Today, there are few BlackBerry huggers in most organizations, and IT organizations have made peace at least with iOS.

If you are planning for BlackBerry 10 adoption, or least its possibility, now you know what the management pieces are and how they work -- and don't work -- together.

This article, "The BlackBerry 10 and BES confusion untangled," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.