It seems as though just about everyone in enterprise computing is talking about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon that has quickly swept the MDM market. While it's not surprising given the popularity of mobile computing and the vast array of mobile devices to choose from today, the BYOD trend has still manged to surprise many that govern mobile devices. Regardless of the reason an employee wants to use their own device, when it enters a corporate network it must be secured.
Historically, BlackBerry has dominated the sector of MDM solutions. In the early days, it used to be just a few players that provided any kind of worthwhile MDM solution. Companies like Intellisync (now owned by Nokia) were able to provide PIM sync to a variety of devices, and offered a decent amount of security options. However, most of those companies soon fizzled out.
Now, everyone's got their hands in MDM. Every company wants a piece of the BYOD pie. Unlike BlackBerry, the name "Samsung" does not necessarily translate into enterprise solution. However, to the company's credit, they have maintained a solid following with their SAFE Samsung For Enterprise program. The program includes components that include EAS (Exchange ActiveSync), VPN (Virtual Private Network), ODE (On Device Encryption), and MDM (Mobile Device Mangement).
On Monday, the company announced the availability of their new end-to-end security solution, called Samsung KNOX. This new component of their SAFE program hardens select devices, so that personal data can be kept completely separate from corporate data. KNOX incorporates quite a few features that will seriously enhance security on devices in the enterprise, but haven't we heard this before?
Yes we have, it's called BlackBerry Balance, the mobile mullet of the enterprise world. Introduced by BlackBerry almost two years ago, it provided a win-win situation for employers and employees. An employee could now just use one device instead of having to carry around two devices: one for work and one for personal use. Since then, it has been completely revamped and integrated within the company's latest BlackBerry 10 devices.
But what's the difference here, and does Samsung's KNOX really pose a threat to BlackBerry Balance? The real question comes down to, what does one have over the other?
Experience when dealing with technology is just as important as knowing the technology. Mobile technology is an area in which BlackBerry (formerly RIM), has excelled in over the years, ever since its introduction of the first two-way messaging pager in the early 90's.
Samsung has a rich history as well, going back even further than BlackBerry when it introduced its first built-in car phone the SC-100 in 1983. The company also made the first mobile phone (SCH-A790) in the United States, that was able to roam both on CDMA and GSM networks.
But enough with the history lessons here, the point here is that both companies have rich roots in technology.
Underlying technology and security
It wouldn't be a fair assessment if we didn't compare the underlying technology and security features of both solutions. It's important to note that both of these solutions have the same end goal in mind, and that is to securely separate work data from personal data.
One of the features that BlackBerry incorporated within BlackBerry Balance was an easy “flow” from the personal workspace to the business workspace. Balance is baked into the OS so that all it takes is a simple swipe from the home screen to transform into a secure workspace. In addition, both work and personal data can be seen from the Hub so that everything is easily accessible.
From what we know so far, KNOX will be accessible via an icon on the home screen. Clicking on this icon will allow for a quick switch between environments. However, as far as accessibility and integration, BlackBerry has KNOX beat in this department.
Most users will find the ability to “flow” between environments much more desirable than having to “tap” through environments. So this round goes to BlackBerry Balance.
Both solutions offer access to enterprise resources once switched to the work section of the device, but it is here where we see the first advantage of Samsung's KNOX over BlackBerry Balance.
Samsung's KNOX solution will incorporate container-based technology that's enforced by Security Enhanced Android (SE Android). While the concept of SE Linux is not new, it something that were not used to seeing on an Android smartphone This makes the device very secure by separating information based on confidentiality and integrity requirements.
Samsung announced that they would be partnering with Centrify Corporation. Centrify specializes in Unified Identity Services, and cross-platform Active Directory integration. The company will be providing multi-application SSO for mobile, and web apps inside the Samsung KNOX container. This means that companies can use their existing Active Directory infrastructure to mange KNOX containers. This is an advantage that KNOX has over Balance, as it makes mobile device administration even easier and implementing security much easier.
BlackBerry Balance also provides a wealth of security features, but currently, it does not have the ability to integrate with Microsoft Active Directory. Most companies already have some sort of Active Directory environment setup, so this ability will be desirable for many IT admins. In addition, end users will enjoy the one-click access to enterprise applications.
Recently, BlackBerry announced its Secure Work Space that will provide a BlackBerry-Balance-like experience to iOS and Android devices. This solution will be managed by BES 10, and delivered via an application download. The ability to mange, and separate work data from personal data across multiple mobile OS platforms is an advantage that BlackBerry has over Samsungs KNOX.
BlackBerry is seeing pressure from its competition from all sides, and it's important that BlackBerry 10 receive a warm welcome within the U.S next month. The company will need to see an influx of consumers that want their new BlackBerry 10 devices integrated within their workplace. In turn, BlackBerry will see business that previously walked away from BlackBerry return.