BYOD Smackdown 2012: Nukona lets corporate apps securely mingle on personal devices

Nukona App Center approaches enterprise mobility by focusing on managing applications, with device management as a secondary feature.

Nukona App Center approaches enterprise mobility by focusing on managing applications, with device management as a secondary feature. In January, Gabe and I got on the phone with Chris Perret, their founder and CEO, and Brad Murdoch, CMO.

Nukona has strong features for distributing and securing in-house apps through corporate branded app stores. Users are invited to download an organization’s app store by email. The administrative side consists of a web-based console; the back-end is provided by as a service by Nukona and there are also options for on-site infrastructure, as well.

The user is free to let corporate apps intermingle with personal apps, and each corporate app can have whatever level of security it needs. The device doesn’t have to be completely locked down, instead all the security policies that annoy users but make admins happy—constant re-authentication with a complex password, camera turned off, network restrictions, et cetera—can only apply when certain apps are in use.

About the apps

One of the prominent features of Nukona is that it manages security features in apps, and the apps themselves do not have to be developed using an SDK or any special APIs. Developers are free to code as they please, without having to be overly concerned about various levels of security features. Instead, the security settings are customized and baked in at distribution. Application package files (.IPA for iOS or .APK for Android) are uploaded to Nukona App Center, where they are opened, modified, and repacked. The repackaging process injects rules for user authentication, sharing or “open-in” privileges, offline access, local storage access, encryption, offline access, and network restrictions. These rules can be applied to individual apps, or default sets of rules can be created; an individual app can also have security features for specific devices and platforms, and can also vary based on a user’s AD permissions. After the “wrapping” process, apps are pushed to corporate app store, where users are free to download apps as desired.

All of these baked-in security features assume that the organization has access to the .IPA or .APK file—so it only works for apps that are created in-house or purchased directly from a developer. For apps available from commercial app stores, App Center simply points the user to any recommended apps. Nukona isn’t be able to apply any security layers to these apps—or any other random apps that users download from the wild—but if an organization is using Nukona, then they’ve probably already ensured that any sensitive data is their own apps is secure, and random user apps won’t be a threat.

For web apps, though, the situation is a little bit different. Since it would be much more difficult to repackage a web app, all the same security features that are available for native apps are now baked into what is essentially site-specific browser for each web app. With these features, external web apps can be made just as secure as home-grown apps, and in house web apps can be developed once and be used across multiple platforms, instead of rebuilding an app from the ground up.

The MDM part

Nukona App Center includes basic device management features—locking, wiping, password rules—but the real value is in the app securing and distribution capabilities. The secured apps and app catalogue would be ideal for a BYOD situation that doesn’t include mobile device management. For scenarios where an organization wants more MDM than Nukona provides, third-party MDM solutions can be accommodated.

Final thoughts

Nukona’s app-centric approach means that an organization can do BYOD without hard-core (or any) mobile device management, creating a scenario that’s probably what a lot of people (well, users at least...) have in mind when they think of BYOD. On the other hand, if an organization is just having its employees buy off the shelf apps (that can’t be repackaged), then it doesn’t really need Nukona. Either way, an organization has the responsibility to provide the apps that its users want, otherwise the users will head to the wilds of public app stores, corporate credit card in hand.

Feature overview

This feature overview will be updated from time to time. If you notice any inaccuracies, please comment or email me at jmadden@techtarget.com. There are a lot of vendors and features to keep track of, and I want to be sure and keep everything straight.

  • Platform iOS, Android,
  • Architecture corporate apps co-mingle with user’s apps
  • Security at app level, optional device level
  • App sources in-house or 3rd party, integrated browser
  • How external apps are brought in any apps desired can be “wrapped” with the Nukona security layer
  • App stores branded corporate app stores
  • Split plans/phone numbers no
  • Management interface web-based
  • On-site requirements optional
  • Provisioning users are invited via email to download app store
  • MDM capabilities optional, can also use 3rd party

The Nukona App Center product comes in three editions:

  • Basic free for up to 1000 users, includes non-branded app store and MDM; doesn’t include the granular security controls around individual apps
  • Standard adds support for unlimited users, support from Nukona, on-premise option, end user web-portal
  • Enterprise adds all the granular app security features (pretty much all the cool stuff)

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