Is an app store really mobile application management?

As the mobile application management (MAM) space is continuing to develop, it's becoming clear that when we're really talking about MAM, we're really talking about two different things.

As the mobile application management (MAM) space is continuing to develop, it’s becoming clear that when we’re really talking about MAM, we’re really talking about two different things: (1) corporate app store products and (2) application security and management tools (SDKs and app-wrapping).

Why bring up this up? I was preparing to write an article about how MAM is less important when most of your apps are SaaS clients, but I realized that first I would be spending a lot of time explaining what type of app management I was referring to. So let’s look at the two different types of mobile application management.

The first type of MAM

The more basic forms of mobile application management are corporate (or custom, build-your-own, private, whatever you want to call them) app stores. Think of the things that are done to distribute SaaS client apps or basic productivity apps. It’s most likely that the apps in these situations are mostly available in public app stores via Apple or Google, or if not available through those stores, they’re still generally available.

In this scenario, MAM efforts consisting of an app store are mostly for convenience. Likely, you’re doing a lot of linking to public app stores, so that employees can easily find your expense system’s mobile app or a mobile VPN client or something, but in general, they’re apps that employees could find anyway.

There’s nothing too technologically advanced about this type of app management, but a shiny, custom-branded, possibly native store to distribute apps goes a long way towards saying “Look, our company gets consumerization!”

The second type of MAM

The second type of mobile application management that we can talk about includes more advanced security and management features that come from SDKs or app wrapping. The implication is that these apps contain sensitive information and that the apps themselves need to be controlled after they’re distributed. The control methods include restricting access to the app in the first place, de-provisioning access, pushing updates, and remote wiping apps. Of course, these features aren’t exclusive to apps that we develop or wrap ourselves, but the point is that this type of management goes beyond a shiny app store interface.

What this amounts to is the ability to control an app itself after it’s out there. (Contrast that with apps that are simply SaaS clients. We don’t need to worry about who has the actual apps, we can just cut off the service instead.) And remember that scenarios that involve this more advanced type of MAM will also often include app stores.

The end result

We see that there are two different classes of mobile application management: building an app store, and using SDKs or app wrapping to get more advanced security features and manage apps after they’re deployed. As more and more players enter the field, we’ll have to distinguish between these two types of products.

Is dividing MAM into these two categories accurate, or how else should we conceive of different types of mobile application management? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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I would not divide MAM into these 2 categories. Rather it is a super set of capabilities/policies that includes all app types:

1) Generic apps (available on public app stores)

2) Custom Apps built by enterprise in-house or by 3rd party.

The adoption of MAM is driven by CSOs/Security officers of an enterprise who want to enforce policies on Apps regardless of the app type and regardless of the device (whether the app is on a employee owned device or enterprise owned device)

App wrapping, MDM, App store, Secured app containers are set of tools that enable an enterprise to enforce corporate governance on sensitive apps and achieve the above goal.