Unified Endpoint Management is getting a lot of buzz, but as always the devil is in the details.

Managing mobile devices and traditional desktops from the same interface sounds great, but what's it going to take to make the shift?

Lately it seems like we’ve been hearing about unified endpoint management more than ever. If you’re not familiar with it, the concept is just like it sounds: use one management platform to manage desktops and mobile devices.

It’s certainly not a new concept, but the MDM APIs in Windows 10 are one cause of the current push. Gartner also acknowledged the trend recently by announcing that they will retire the Magic Quadrant for client management tools, and noting that innovation in client management is stalling and focus is shifting to unified endpoint management.

There’s a lot to like about the unified endpoint management (or UEM) concept; and one thing that has quickly become apparent is that two broad categories of UEM are emerging.

UEM derived from EMM

One broad category of UEM is emerging from EMM-centric vendors. Mac OS X has had MDM APIs for several years, and now that Windows 10 is on the scene with MDM APIs of its own. As a result, EMM vendors can now manage a wide variety of devices and form factors using MDM.

There are some compelling use cases for managing OS X and Windows 10 with MDM (and in time I think we could see quite a bit of this) but MDM is still very different from traditional client management. The most important difference is that MDM is better suited for newer types of desktop apps that come from app stores, and can't really control traditional desktop apps. So while EMM platforms can provide at least some management for all devices today, existing client management tools aren’t going away any time soon.

Client management tools combined with EMM

The other broad category of UEM comes from existing client management tools that have various levels of integration with EMM or MDM tools.

These integrations have been available for as long as MDM has been around, mostly in the form of extensions, add-ons, and shims to connect to mobile devices. For a while, many of these early products only did basic MDM, with more advanced features like app-level MAM and deeper support for Android remaining the exclusive realm of dedicated EMM vendors. But today there are a number of top client management platforms that are being integrated with top EMM platforms—Microsoft Intune with SCCM and IBM MaaS360 with BigFix come to mind.

One tricky issue is mobile app management. Vendors can get quite a bit of MAM functionality in iOS and Android by supporting the the operating systems' latests MDM APIS, but as I’m always carefu; to point out, that's just one type of MAM and can’t cover all use cases. Getting into other types of MAM—such as MAM SDKs, ISV partner programs, app wrapping tools, and basic productivity apps—is a huge undertaking, and not all client management vendors getting into UEM are going to go that far. One answer, though, would be to partner with one of the independent vendors concentrating on app-level MAM, such as Apperian, Bluebox, and Mocana.

Thoughts

So what do you think? When it comes to desktop management, a lot of people might reckon if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, and it seems unlikely that many existing client management implementations will be decommissioned soon. On the other hand, there are many good reasons to put at least some Windows 10 devices on MDM. As endpoints diversify and we have more to keep track of, unifying the management of desktops and mobile devices—no matter which of the categories I’ve outlined you use—could certainly help get to the future vision of seamless and efficient access to all apps and data.

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