The problem with EMM is it doesn't enable businesses to do anything they can't do without it.

On, we like to say that we focus on the broad space of "end user computing," though really that's just a fancy way of saying we cover desktop virtualization and enterprise mobility / EMM.

On, we like to say that we focus on the broad space of "end user computing," though really that's just a fancy way of saying we cover desktop virtualization and enterprise mobility / EMM.

We've put down a lot of words this year talking about how VDI finally seems to be picking up steam, and how many technologies that we've wanted for years (cheap and efficient storage, non-persistent app delivery solutions that work, virtualized and remote GPUs) in the VDI space are really coming into their own. In the VDI industry there's a collective feeling of "we made it!" as we look to roll out VDI in a way where we actually believe we can be successful now.

Compare that (VDI) to the other thing we cover on Enterprise Mobility. Modern enterprise mobility management (the umbrella term for things like mobile device management, mobile app management, BYOD, data separation, etc.) has really only been a thing for a few years, so clearly it's a young market. And depending on whose data you believe, it appears that only one-quarter or so of enterprises have gone down the enterprise mobility path in any kind of meaningful way.

So naturally people in our space love to say things like "In 2014, EMM is where VDI was in 2008," or it's where "server-based computing was in 1998." But I wonder. Is this true?

In my entire career, I'd say there are four technologies I've been close to that I've witnessed from conception through birth:

  • Server-based computing / Citrix: late 1990s
  • Server virtualization / VMware: early 2000s
  • VDI: 2006 through now
  • EMM: 2011 through now

Anyone who's been in the industry awhile can look at that list and immediately see those four things did not have the same adoption patterns.

Quite simply, server-based computing of the 1990s and server virtualization of the 2000s both sold themselves. They were automatic. The vendors didn't have to "sell", they just had to take orders.

Citrix WinFrame and MetaFrame had immediate and obvious ROI. You could use big slow fat client/server apps over slow networks. You could update a fat client app for dozens of users just by updating it once. You could deliver Windows apps to Mac users. You could roll out your new patient management system in a way that any doctor and any nurse could instantly logon from any device at any location. This stuff was obvious, it was necessary, and it sold itself.

The same is true for VMware in server virtualization in the early early-to-mid 2000s. Virtualizing servers meant you could consolidate all those servers that had to be separate yet never used more than 15% of their capacity. You could increase your overall reliability by isolating all your datacenter apps which suddenly didn't require separate servers. You could test new environments and new configurations instantly. You could move entire systems to bigger or smaller hardware platforms overnight. This stuff was obvious, it was necessary, and it sold itself.

Compare those two technologies and adoption curves to EMM today. If I went to the average IT pro on the street and asked him or her, "Quick! Tell me why you need EMM!" What do you think their response would be?

"Umm.. for.. regulations? Or something?"

The problem with EMM is that it doesn't enable a business to do anything they can't do today. Citrix in 1997? You're using this app now. Boom! Done. VMware in 2004? You just stood up a new server in 25 minutes instead of 25 days. Boom! Done.

EMM today? It lets users get email on their phones? No, wait... their phones can already do that without EMM.

It lets users get their data and files on their phones? No, wait... their phones can already do that too without EMM.

It lets the company delete corporate data and apps off users' phones if they lose them? Yeah, I guess, but that's sort of an edge case that's more like an insurance policy.

Seriously, what does EMM "do" that users and companies can't do without it?

I guess it's just a security thing? Like Antivirus software? (No, wait, without Antivirus software then users take down the network. But what exactly happens without EMM? Seems like nothing? Heck, at TechTarget we're a 700-person publicly traded company and we don't use EMM. So it can't be that important.)

To be clear, I'm not saying that EMM is doomed, or that EMM is bad, or that EMM is unnecessary. What I'm saying is that the EMM of 2014 is more like the VDI of 2008 and less like the Citrix of 1998 or the VMware of 2004. EMM is something that has to be sold to people. They have to be convinced that they need it—and not via some FUD about how regulations require it. (Because if regulations really required it, then there'd be a lot more than 30% of the Fortune 500 companies using it.)

The good news for EMM is that VDI got there—it only took eight years. So by that schedule then EMM should really start to heat up and catch on in 2019 or so. In the meantime it will keep plugging away, the EMM vendors will keep spending money trying to convince people they need it, and the products will slowly evolve into what customers actually want. We'll get there, but we'll have to earn it.

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Hi Brian,

Are EMM and VDI not fishing in the same pool ? With VDI, or remote Apps on BYOD, you have a lot of functions available which EMM systems try to solve by controling your BYOD. It's the old paradigm, having a fat client or a thin client.



it is not about doing something new or you can not do without... It is about doing something differently (which means with expectation on simplicity, scalability, security and/or cost)...

VDI is a good exemple... Nothing you can not achieve in the physical world... The way to do is just different and the outcome expected too...


Hey Brian, it's a sweeping statement - and an incorrect one - to say that MetaFrame and VMware "sold itself".  I worked at Citrix in 1997 and VMware in 2002 and I can assure you SBC and server virtualization wasn't obvious nor did it sell itself to the many channel partners and customers I worked with - it was a hard slog!  Looking in the review mirror, yes it's obvious, yes it was needed, but it took a lot of technical, sales and marketing resource to make it so!


I'm with Kata on this: yes, in 2014 VDI can handle more scenarios than back in 2008, but still, there's nothing you can do with VDI today that you can't do without it. In that sense, based on your analysis, EMM and VDI appear to be more-or-less in the same place..


Correct me if I'm wrong, but EMM allows IT to control access to company apps and data on mobile operating system, even ones not owned by the company. How do you do this without EMM? Am I missing something?


Well, again, if this was so critical, then why are only 30% of F500 companies doing it?

How do you control access to company apps and data on mobile OSes not owned by the company without EMM? I dunno? You don't, I guess. But does that even matter? If I have a corporate file sync and share app, then I can just remove the user's rights from that app and then they can't access it, and I don't need EMM, right? The power is in the app, rather than in the management of the device.


Great article.  VDI is still a niche product.  Users will come kicking and screaming if you implement it.  It only survives as long as companies need access to Windows apps.  

If I have all I want on my Mac or Web browser I don't want or care for VDI.

Early EMM (or just MDM) was only useful for some extra visibility and not to wipe an entire phone if lost or stolen. Now that it's about securing company data (Web, Apps, Docs) typically via secure containers.  I think the light bulb moment is now going off for IT managers... it's now showing it's true value.  Agreed EMM still needs to extend itself further as it's 'all about the app' ... I'd say into unified services for mobile and PC/Mac too.


EMM is really just one piece of a complex puzzle as organizations work to build a unified culture capable of collaborative innovation.  In many organizations the EMM just adds a layer of distrust because its an add-on not part of a well developed strategy.. I think where many make the mistake is that they buy the various technologies and expect results. Technology, especially around mobility and collaboration, needs to come with a sincere commitment to culture development as well.  

Peter Fretty, IDG blogger working on behalf of AT&T