Category Archives: Mobility

iOS or Android? The key option for your new car

Carmakers offer plenty of choices, but not the one we need – Android, or iOS. Look on the sticker of your new car and you’ll find a $1,000 to $2,000 option for an entertainment or navigation system that has less capability than your typical smart phone.

Nokia, Blackberry and Motorola have all learned the hard way that apps drive the device and the operating system drives the apps. On the other hand, new vehicles come with closed operating systems and a set of confusing and inconsistent manufacturer supplied apps.

I made two round trips from Florida to New Jersey in the last 60 days. My 2012 RAM 1500 pulled another car on a trailer without slowing down. The truck gets an A for acceleration, braking, comfort and sound system. Garmin navigation is excellent. The entertainment options all work, but the interface is quirky. Turn the knob? Or look for the button on the touch-screen? Big icons let you know you are listening to radio while a tiny font tells you what song is playing. Soon, they will make it illegal to read that tiny font while driving. Get a phone call and you have to wait until the system finishes telling you that you have an inbound call before it will answer.

Driving a Mustang convertible with a 5.0 and 6 speed manual transmission down the Blue Ridge Parkway is so wonderful that even the trooper who pulls you over has to smile. Maybe if I offer him a chance at the wheel I can avoid a ticket.

Of course, he might get a little peeved when the radio tells him his iPhone has too many songs to sync.  Everyone gets a chuckle at the ‘Send” and “End” prompts for phone calls. Wasn’t that how cell phones worked in the 90’s? The 5 gig hard drive is there for you to load a personal jukebox. But you can’t load mp3’s or iTunes, you can only rip CD’s. You still buy CD’s, right? Are these cars meant for old people?

Bloomberg Businessweek had a commentary suggesting a startup wizard for new cars. Meanwhile a new iPhone comes with tiny pages containing government required safety messages like, “Don’t hold the power cord in your mouth while you plug it in.” Android and iOS  phones and tablets compete on how intuitive they are and how you don’t need a manual. Ford’s Mustang Sync manual is 100 pages. We don’t need a startup wizard. We need auto manufacturers to join this century.

Tonight, I will look through the manual again and see if I can figure out why my phone starts to play music automatically when the car starts. Step on the clutch, start the engine…take out the phone and stop iTunes…release the brake and drive away.

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BYOD: Powering the “Shield”

Regular followers of this blog know that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a hot button issue of mine.  In recent posts, I’ve explored some of the challenges faced by the never-ending flood of personal devices in the workplace – security, compliance and management key among them.  But hopefully, I’ve also conveyed an enthusiasm for all BYOD has to offer.  More than a powerful enabler of productivity, it also helps employees be more responsive to customers.  When you think of it, this is every company’s goal. 

There are many strong opinions about BYOD, and I can take up more than a few blogs on the topic.  But the truth is – whether you love it or hate it – BYOD is here to stay and companies must be prepared to handle all it brings.

As a first step, companies must devise a strategy that specifically addresses security, compliance, and management.  It’s more than securing the individual device – but ensuring the actual network stays safe.  Going beyond security is addressing such things as mobile application management, or how enterprises ensure access to apps that improve employee productivity.  It’s also about application enablement – determining which apps to include in the mobile device toolkit — and then limiting those that pose a threat.  The biggest challenge is delivering all this functionality under one umbrella – in a cohesive package.

That’s why I’m so pleased to introduce BYODShield.

Today, Westcon announced our teaming with BlueCat and Fiberlink to provide an industry first – a subscription-based service delivering a multi-layered “shield” that specifically addresses security, compliance, and management issues created by personal devices in the workplace.  We’re tightly integrating formerly disparate network security and enterprise mobility offerings — packaging them alongside our deep GOLDShield technology pre- and post-sales support model – and creating an all-in-one solution.  It’s a service that virtually eliminates current and future headaches associated with provisioning, servicing, securing, and managing thousands of personal devices. 

But it’s much more than a simple partnership.  Really, any distributor can do that.  We’ve successfully brought together BlueCat and Fiberlink to jointly write code exclusively for Westcon.  The functionality delivered by this deep collaboration can’t be found anywhere else.  We’re really proud of the result – integrating award-winning technology with our unsurpassed expertise in security and unified communications. 

When it comes down to it, BYODShield is about demystifying the complexities of managing and securing personal devices in the workplace.  Instead of trying to contain BYOD, we help you embrace it.  And it’s something you’ll see us do even more down the road.  Because the real future of distribution comes through offering resellers a consistent, unified, and integrated approach to solve their most complex technology challenges.  And a good distributor will tackle the integration and do the legwork for you – backing it with all services necessary to make it work.

Like anything new, BYOD is a scary proposition that can cause nightmares for any CIO… But before losing any sleep, take a step back and see what’s possible when leveraging the right tools.  And be sure to check out more about BYODShield at http://us.westcon.com/byodshield

 

BYOD – Framework

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

Our conversations with the channel (vendors, resellers, service providers, and systems integrators) around BYOD break into two categories – Security and Productivity. It sometimes helps to frame the categories of the conversation for our customers, and thought we would share some of that here…

Security
BYOD creates a number of security challenges and it sometimes help by breaking down the different ways to look at what needs to be secured:
1. Securing the actual device – We have been working closely with vendors and partners in Mobile Device Management (MDM). This is a very hot topic, and continues to see extensive growth. We are engaged with Mobile device management solutions in three different forms around the world – cloud based, appliance based and data center software based. Within MDM there are four areas of functionality to be assessed for any given solution – Hardware control, Software control, Network Services management and Security management.

2. Securing the network – Our focus here has been around Network Access Control. Reason being, our long-history in networking allows us to work closely with our partners to help them jump on NAC quickly. NAC was last really utilized when companies installed their guest wifi networks, and now that same type of concepts can be applied quickly for a BYOD zone within the wireless architecture as a quick “if you do nothing else, at least do this” type solution. In addition to NAC, IPAM is another area getting more and more activity with our channel partners. There are some excellent vendors who have focused on this market for years, and with BYOD, they now step back into the spotlight again.

3. Enterprise policies – Many of our security partners are working closely with customers on the development or enhancement of employee policy write-ups necessary as BYOD continues to grow. There is a global implication that companies really need to understand since the legal definition and acceptability of wiping a device, as an example, is different around the world.

4. Securing the Data at the source – in addition to the security capabilities that may be available with your MDM solution, organizations still must evaluate their Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies and solutions. It’s obvious on paper, but sometimes not caught in the BYOD planning, that there has to be a review of the firewalls, WAN opt, Application Acceleration tools and appliances.

Productivity
1. Mobile Application Management – not to be confused with MDM, MAM is all about how the enterprise makes available apps that improve productivity of the employee who decides to utilize their own device. MAM helps the organization properly present to the employee the corporate developed apps as well as the 3rd party apps that are part of the “approved app store” that the enterprise wants to present to the employee.

2. Infrastructure – As organizations take on multiple devices per employee, it is only natural that the bandwidth of the network will need to grow. Wireless/Wired security, port size, and alternate network access technologies such as 4G/LTE and Femtocells are viable components of the new network architecture.

3. Application Enablement – so….about those apps….organizations will turn their developers loose on mobile app development, which is to be expected. But, in addition to those tools, there will be more and more utilities that organizations will incorporate into their toolbox. Two that we see becoming very popular are 1) tools that provide direct access to corporate data. Think of these as mini pipelines into select corporate databases with raw interfaces. And 2) Tools that convert existing corporate applications to fit alternate BYOD form factors such as tablets, phones and phablets.

Hopefully this gives you a framework for how to think about your BYOD project, and perhaps even a mini-checklist for you to use as you consider different aspects of the impact BYOD will have on your organization. This is by no means exhaustive, but has shown to be a good start for our resellers when they partner with Westcon and Comstor to provide BYOD solutions to their end-users.

GPN, GPS and Distributor-as-an-agent

One of the great things about being in distribution is  the ability to deliver products and services that can simultaneously generate excitement and create value for both our customers and our vendors.

Westcon prides itself on its global capabilities.  We truly believe that our ability to deliver on the needs of our local customers and simultaneously meet the requirements of our customer’s global deployments really gets to the heart of what Westcon and Comstor is all about.  We have been delivering this capability for a number of years through our Global Procurement Service (GPS) which eliminates much of the complexity normally associated with global logistics.  These complexities are usually in the areas of global trade, customs and duties, tax recoverability, audit, compliance, global staging and configuration, and the ability to manage complex global projects from a single “global desk”. Comstor’s GPS handles this for the reseller.  This gives our customers a single point of contact, consistent global discounts and pricing, a single global contract with consistent credits and terms, local relationships, in-country fulfillment, and local invoicing in 60+ countries.

What gets really exciting is when you can bond together that capability with creative offerings from world-class vendors and technologies that focus on solving end user global business requirements while empowering local
resellers to leverage our global footprint.

One of the poster-children for global technologies is video conferencing.  Not just to drive down the costs of travel (which is a great) but more importantly, to help accelerate the business growth and effectiveness of end users as they globalize their business processes.  Telepresence technologies produce greater business value not just for those firms that are already global but also as a tool to accelerate the maturation of firms who wish to move from “national” to “global”.
As an organization specifically built and operated to distribute Cisco products and services, Comstor is now working with Cisco to leverage our GPS
capabilities and simultaneously create more value for the reseller.  This is what today’s GPN announcement is all about.

The Comstor-Cisco GPN announcement is based on the concept of “distributor as an agent”, which allows customers to better utilize Cisco partner resources to service their global requirements.  Focusing on the Telepresence technologies,
the GPN program basically empowers the reseller to work with their customer’s
headquarters to centralize design and purchasing decisions for the global solution whilst utilizing Comstor and Cisco’s global reseller partner base for local
delivery of the products and services that make up the global solution.  All parties get the Comstor inherent advantage associated with our GPS capabilities as described above.

As the CTO and CIO for Westcon and Comstor there is nothing more rewarding than knowing Comstor’s systems and processes are being leveraged by vendors such as Cisco to help our reseller partners successfully embrace their customer’s ongoing march towards globalization.  Now Comstor and Cisco have a program that can really give the authorized reseller the ability to act globally and locally at
the same time.  It’s always exciting when every member of the channel can work in synch on creative offerings wherein everyone wins.

Hot, Not Hot, and Be On The Lookout For….

Hot

– Flat network – already discussed in earlier posts, but continues to remain an early, “going to get hotter”, topic. Each of the vendors is, or has, recently made significant announcements about their converged Ethernet/fabric/2-tier/1-tier offerings.  Driven in large part by the need for a data center network with lower latency, optimized for virtualization, the network is the data center, and the data center is the network.

– Data Center to Data Center networking – really a subset of the above, but there are nuances such as WAN Acceleration technologies specifically designed for DC to DC as opposed to DC to Campus. This nuance will become more and more of a marketing issue for those better positioned as opposed to those perhaps not really in that DC-to-DC space.

– SBC’s – starting to get the recognition of their importance relative to their role in UC. They can be considered the switch/firewall equivalent for VOIP/UC. As companies and the public overall migrate to VOIP and SIP, SBC’s become critical. Expecting steady growth with an inevitable over-hype by the media once they understand the technology in the next few months.

– Cloud failures – the stories will remain hot for a while. In addition to service failure there will be offering failures – established vendors pulling out of initial cloud forays.

Not Hot

– Cloud success stories – this will take a backseat for a while, but cloud successes will definitely continue nonetheless.

Be on the lookout for:

– Virtualization security – as vendors continue to realize the exposure that virtualization presents, more and more messaging and positioning will appear. The exposure is two-fold. First, the obvious – a new layer in the stack introduces new opportunities for bad people to do bad things. But second, perhaps not as obvious, is the governance associated with the potental consolidation of previously physically separate servers/applications/data onto one single physical server. The IT group doing the consolidation may not recognize the compliance risks they are introducing.  And potentially even more interesting, the hypervisor doesn’t have a mechanism to process business rules associated with the company’s compliance or regulatory policies yet.

– POE – probably not the most exciting discussion point, but POE dedicated vendors have technologies coming out that can help support the powering of all the new video demand going on in the network. This is especially important for the growth of outdoor video/signage (think stadiums and traffic). Many of the vendors embed POE, but some of it is “just enough” and really does not provide the flexibility companies will need as they grow their video usage.

– Tablet Videoconferencing – there is definitely the potential for a schism to appear. I think it is already appearing. We could end up with high end videoconferencing rooms and many low-end video conferencing end points being tablets. The issue over video quality is over. Pretty much every device now has HD capabilities. With the growth of tablets, I pads or Android, the consumerization of IT is forging some new paths in video and UC.

Tablets for the Execs

I have an iPad.  I love it for home use.  And I think it has some significant value in business today.  But the one thing that I don’t understand is the value of an iPad for senior executives. 

Often, senior executives are traveling on planes.  The iPad’s form factor is ideal for this.  And, most senior exec’s live in their email.  They get so much of it.  What confuses me is that if your email platform is Exchange (and I believe the same holds true for Notes) you cannot delete email or move email into folders if you are using an iPad on a plane without wifi.  I am guessing Apple will fix that some day, if they actually think it is a flaw.  But it is really important for senior execs to be aware of this gap in functionality. And, for the exec to understand that it isn’t up to IT to “fix it” – we can’t.

For a CIO, one of the toughest challenges is helping senior executives keep their email managed properly.  Their inboxes can get huge fast, and even with the proper policies and archiving capabilities, senior execs must still aggressively manage their emails almost every minute of the day.  Ideally, being on a plane is a perfect time to tidy up their inbox.  The iPad’s form factor is perfect for that.  Just be aware that if your execs ask for an iPad that they understand the limitations.  It won’t help you help them.

PS – although not an advertisement for Android – my Xoom does allow me to manage emails completely on a non-wifi plane.