Products to connect mobile and wireless clients to enterprise networks
The explosive growth in mobile and wireless clients—PDAs, data-capable cellular phones, notebooks, tablet PCs, and Research In Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry wireless email devices—has led to a similar growth in the availability of software to support them within the enterprise network infrastructure. A wide range of client software is available for these devices. Before getting into the specifics of the many types of client software that are available, you need to be familiar with the various mobile and wireless client platforms.
Mobile and Wireless Client Platforms
A variety of mobile and wireless devices are available. In the information that follows, I've identified which applications run on which platforms. These platforms include
- the Palm OS platform, which Palm, Handspring, Sony, and others use
- the Windows CE platform, which Pocket PCs and larger handheld PCs (H/PCs) use
- Symbian's EPOC, which some cell phone vendors use
- Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows Me, and Windows 98, which notebooks use
The newer tablet PCs, which also use XP, can run applications intended for notebooks. However, tablet PCs are so new that few applications have been optimized to take advantage of tablet PCspecific features. Some applications—particularly those from large vendors—support Java-based devices and any device with a Web browser. A few vendors support specific mobile phones, but this support appears to be rare.
Now that you know about the types of platforms, let's look at various categories of mobile and wireless client software. The categories are backup, connectivity, database, device management, messaging, security, synchronization, and wireless administration.
You can use traditional means to back up notebooks and tablet PCs, but backing up PDAs and other lightweight devices can get complicated. The synchronization process, if used, provides some redundancy because synchronized data exists simultaneously on the mobile or wireless device and on the desktop PC or server with which the device has been synchronized. However, you can maximize reliability and availability only if you provide local backup. Most Pocket PCs and some of the more advanced Palm OS devices include a slot for a CompactFlash (CF) card, Secure Digital (SD) card, or Sony Memory Stick, all of which users can use as a backup medium.
Products in this category include Blue Nomad's BackupBuddy and BackupBuddyVFS, jkWare's CardBackup 2.0 for Palm OS devices, and Sprite Software's Pocket Backup Plus for Pocket PCs. A new trend in this category is to provide the backup software on a removable memory card, which users can use as the backup medium. Proporta's ProBackup works this way and is available in versions for both Pocket PC and Palm OS devices. With this approach, even if users lose or physically damage their PDAs, they need only to acquire another PDA of the same type, then use the backup card to restore their applications, files, and other data.
In an enterprise environment, giving mobile and wireless users access to host data from legacy systems is frequently desirable. Connectivity software meets this need. It can range from simple terminal emulation to sophisticated client/server systems that put a graphical front end on legacy applications.
Among the products in this category are Visto's MessageXpress, which provides access to personal and corporate email, calendar, contacts and files on BlackBerry and Palm OS (selected models) devices, Pocket PCs, and laptops. MessageXpress is offered in partnership with a variety of wireless carriers. NetMotion Wireless's NetMotion Mobility is a unique client/
server suite that provides seamless roaming between wireless LANs (WLANs) and WANs for Pocket PCs and Windows-based laptops. This suite maintains sessions even when the user wanders outside an active coverage area. Citrix ICA Clients let Pocket PCs, H/PCs, Symbian EPOC devices, and laptops function as thin clients to a Citrix MetaFrame server. Microsoft offers a similar capability with its Terminal Services Client. This Windows client is built into Pocket PC 2002 devices and is available as an add-on for H/PCs.
Many companies offer terminal-emulation software, including Cambridge Computer's vxHpc, pkHpc, and mediHPC; Ericom Software's PowerTerm CE; FutureSoft's DynaComm Connectivity Series for Windows CE 3.0; and Naurtech's CE3270—all of which run on Windows CEbased devices. A Secure Shell (SSH) client for Windows CE devices, mov Software's sshCE provides Telnet-style host access over an encrypted link.
One new trend in mobile and wireless connectivity client software is specialized software that provides a mobile front-endtoback-end business application. AM Professionals' VTI provides SAP R/3 connectivity from mobile devices; the company plans to expand the product to non-SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems next year. Antenna Software's A3 Mobile Foundation provides XML-based system-level access to customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Navara Mobility Suite provides disconnected access to application data from legacy host systems. IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Access is designed to provide wireless access to Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange Server, and business-critical data.
Wireless access to Instant Messaging (IM) is another growing area. Microsoft provides an IM client—MSN Messenger—in the latest Pocket PC versions. Ruksun Software Technologies' MSN Messenger Force is an add-on that provides the same capability on earlier Pocket PCs and handheld PCs. Ruksun also offers an Odigo Messenger Force, an interoperable IM client for Pocket PCs. Similarly, AOL Anywhere offers AOL browsing and IM on Pocket PCs and Palm OS devices.
Most corporations store their data in relational database tables. All four major database players—IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Sybase—offer software that provides mobile access to this data. In some cases, this access is limited to particular devices; in other cases, the access is cross-platform. For example, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition 2.0 runs only on Windows CE devices. In contrast, IBM's DB2 Everyplace runs on Windows CE, embedded Linux, Palm OS, and Symbian EPOC devices. Oracle 9iAS Wireless runs on Palm OS, Windows CE, and Symbian devices as well as traditional laptops. Sybase's SQL Anywhere Studio runs on Windows CE devices, Windows-based laptops and tablet PCs, and Linux-based devices. In each case, the product is designed to synchronize tables with the vendor's back-end database.
Several other vendors also address this market. They mainly offer applications that you can use to create and edit tables and forms locally on the device. You can then synchronize the devices' tables and forms with the tables and forms on a desktop PC or server. For example, DDH Software's HanDBase for Palm OS Enterprise 3.0 and HanDBase for Pocket PC Enterprise 3.0 are ODBC-compatible databases that run on Palm OS devices and Pocket PCs, respectively. Expand Beyond's PocketDBA offers real-time access to Oracle, SQL Server, and DB2 databases from a wide range of mobile devices. KelBran Software's Wireless Database provides wireless access to predefined Microsoft Access database files from as many as 100 simultaneous Pocket PC clients. PhatWare's Pocket dbExplorer 2.1 lets users browse, view, edit, and manage built-in databases on Windows CE devices. Resco's ADOCE Manager is a set of visual tools with which you can design, view, and change Microsoft Pocket Access and SQL Server CE database tables on Pocket PCs.
Traditionally, PDAs and other mobile devices have been treated as a desktop extension and haven't been actively managed by IT staff. However, as these devices achieve greater penetration into the enterprise, this tradition is changing. Device-management software provides corporate administrators with the ability to inventory hardware and software, distribute software, perform upgrades, and in some cases, support mobile users with remote control and troubleshooting features.
One unique product in this category is Sprite Software's Sprite Clone, which automates deployment of Pocket PCs in enterprise environments by letting you clone (i.e., duplicate) a Pocket PC image to a desktop PC or storage card. Mobile Automation's Mobile Lifecycle Management Suite is an enterprise management product with modules for device discovery, system management, software upgrade, device security, and remote support. Novell's ZENworks for Handhelds 5.1 is an automated management solution that lets you manage device security, software and content distribution, hardware and software inventory, and file retrieval. It runs on Palm OS devices, Pocket PCs, H/PCs, and BlackBerry devices.
Some vendors in this category are beginning to combine device management with other functions. For example, Synchrologic Mobile Suite is a complete mobile solution for laptops, tablet PCs, Pocket PCs, Palm OS devices, and Symbian EPOC devices. It extends the enterprise infrastructure to mobile users, including access to enterprise applications and data, email, personal information manager (PIM) data, intranet sites, and Web content. It also provides integrated remote-management capabilities and loss or theft protection. Sybase's iAnywhere m-Business Studio is another combination product that offers mobile messaging and device management in one package. It runs on Palm OS devices, Pocket PCs, H/PCs, and Symbian EPOC devices. XcelleNet's Afaria is a scalable software solution that combines configuration management (e.g., deployment, asset management, device and data security), business process support (e.g., process automation, content distribution), and optimized communications and policy-based management through a Windows .NET Frameworkbased control console. It runs on just about any kind of mobile and wireless device.
The small display size and limited memory of mobile and wireless devices, along with the limited bandwidth of many wireless networks, have created a market for specialized mobile-messaging software. You'll find some overlap between this category and synchronization. Some products, such as Microsoft Mobile Information Server, span both categories. Mobile Information Server provides wireless messaging (including text compression) and server-based synchronization (for Pocket PC clients only) between mobile devices and Exchange. Microsoft expects to discontinue this product soon and integrate its features into Exchange Server 2003. Psion Software's Transcend Mail is an enterprise-grade, push-email solution for Symbian OSbased mobile phones. It continuously updates email, contacts, and calendars on both Pocket PCs and mobile phones. LRW Digital offers RemoteAlert, RemoteAutoReply, and RemoteDistributionList for use with BlackBerry devices.
As mobile devices move deeper into the corporate space, the need for security increases. IT departments must ensure that confidential information or trade secrets aren't compromised if a device falls into the wrong hands. Software in this category includes functionality such as enhanced passwords, biometric signature verification, and the ability to remotely lock down or even erase data on a device. Several vendors also offer antivirus software for operation on mobile clients.
Communication Intelligence Corporation's (CIC's) Sign-On is a logon security product that uses biometric signature verification. It runs on Pocket PCs and laptops. Romsey Associates' PDALok provides similar capabilities on Pocket PCs and Palm OS devices. Transaction Security's PDA-Protect is a biometric remote-authentication technology for Pocket PCs. VASCO's Digipass provides one-time passwords, strong user authentication, and e-signature support on Palm OS devices, Pocket PCs, and Windows-based laptops. Glück & Kanja Technology's CryptoEx Pocket lets Pocket PC users send and receive encrypted email messages.
Certicom offers three security applications: movianMail, which provides encrypted email for Pocket PCs; movianVPN, which provides VPN access for Pocket PCs and Palm OS devices; and movianCrypt, which provides file encryption for Pocket PCs and Palm OS devices. Columbitech Wireless Suite provides end-to-end wireless security by using a combination of technologies, including VPN and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). This suite runs on Pocket PCs and on XP and Win2K laptops. HP's PocketPC(SE) is a security enhancement that provides alphanumeric password support for Pocket PCs. It also erases all memory on the device after a preset number of failed logon attempts.
Chapura's Cloak organizes encrypted private databases on Palm OS devices. LRW Digital's RemoteKill is a security enhancement for BlackBerry users. RemoteKill provides on-device password protection and an administrator-defined master kill password that can completely disable a device with a simple email message. Inciscent's Incident Response Solution (re-SECURE) runs on most mobile platforms and provides wireless alert and response capability to deal with security threats. With this solution, you can change passwords, lock out user accounts, kill unauthorized jobs, view event logs, shut down computers, and manage firewalls and routers.
Among the antivirus products for mobile users are F-Secure Anti-Virus and Network Associates' McAfee VirusScan Wireless. F-Secure Anti-Virus offers on-device protection for Pocket PCs and Nokia 9200 Communicator Series mobile phones. McAfee VirusScan Wireless provides on-device virus scanning for Palm OS devices, Pocket PCs, and Symbian EPOC devices.
To understand the need for synchronization client software, consider enterprise users who work away from their desks. If the users have traditional notebooks, laptops, or tablet PCs, they'll have all the files on their local hard disk; unless they have a wireless connection, they won't have continuous access to email and other rapidly changing information. Even with a wireless connection, users will sometimes be out of range. Users with PDAs and other non-PC devices will have, at best, a limited subset of the information that's available to them at their regular desktops.
One way to deal with this situation is to synchronize the mobile or wireless device with the user's desktop PC or a corporate server when a connection is available. Microsoft, Palm, and RIM provide such software (ActiveSync, HotSync, and BlackBerry Desktop Software, respectively) with their PDA devices. These applications provide out-of-the-box synchronization between local databases on the mobile or wireless device (typically contacts, appointments, tasks, selected files, and email messages) and Microsoft Outlook or other PIM software on the user's desktop PC.
A variety of third-party synchronization products are also available. For example, Chapura's Pocket Mirror Professional provides Outlook synchronization for Palm OS devices. CompanionLink Software's CompanionLink Professional synchronizes Palm OS devices and Pocket PCs with third-party PIMs (including Talking Technology's Goldmine and Symantec's ACT!) as well as with Outlook and Notes. Pumatech's Enterprise Intellisync synchronizes Palm OS devices, Pocket PCs, and H/PCs with Outlook, Outlook Express, Microsoft Schedule+, Notes, Lotus Organizer, Novell GroupWise, ACT!, and Palm Desktop. An optional administrator's console provides options for remote configuration, lockdown, upgrade, and troubleshooting.
One trend is to combine synchronization and business connectivity. Extended Systems' XTNDConnect series of products provide mobile access to groupware (e.g., Notes, Exchange), PIMs (e.g., Outlook, Palm Desktop, ACT!), and business-critical application data. XTNDConnect runs on virtually any mobile device. Synchrologic's Email Accelerator provides centrally managed, secure server-based email access for all popular handheld devices. CommonTime's Cadenza mNotes synchronizes Palm OS devices, Pocket PCs, and H/PCs with Notes. Amplifi Real-Time Enterprise Server from Eizel Technology (recently acquired by Nokia) is a middleware product that provides access to server-based email and attachments, intranets, and Web content on most PDAs and wireless devices. It supports Notes, Exchange, GroupWise, and IBM Domino servers.
KelBran Software's Sync Manager and Path Manager are specialized products that let Windows CEbased devices maintain more than two ActiveSync partnerships. These products also let you control the folders to synchronize. Finally, Information Appliance Associates' PocketMac Professional Edition lets Pocket PCs synchronize with Macintosh computers.
Some vendors have recognized the unique opportunity that mobile devices provide for enterprise system administrators. Wireless administration software lets you perform systems management tasks, including starting and stopping processes, examining event logs, and even rebooting systems.
Among the products in this category are Expand Beyond's PocketAdmin, which offers an SSH for wireless administration of UNIX and Windows-based servers, and NORTHERN Parklife's MobiServer, which provides event-log viewing and rebooting of XP, Win2K, and NT servers or workstations. Both products run on a wide range of PDAs and, in some cases, mobile phones with WAP capability. Epiphan's CEMyNetwork Analysis Suite runs on Pocket PCs, H/PCs, Pocket PC Phone Edition devices, and Windows CE embedded devices. It provides all the functions of a wireless network monitor, including decoding UDP, TCP, Ethernet, DNS, and NetBIOS packets; packet filtering support; and providing records-trace statistics. In addition to running on wireless networks, the suite runs on wired and Bluetooth networks. Help desks can even use the suite as a remote control product.
Sonic Mobility's sonicadmin is a complete wireless-network management system that runs on Pocket PCs, BlackBerry devices, and laptops. Epoch Integration's NeedTEXT Shell provides an interactive command-shell interface for BlackBerry wireless devices and lets you remotely manage and even remotely reboot servers. NetStumbler.com's NetStumbler and MiniStumbler utilities are 802.11 wireless Ethernet Access Point (AP) detectors that run on Windows-based laptops and Pocket PCs, respectively. Incentive Solutions' IPer is a Pocket PC utility that provides network adapter information, protocol statistics, ping data, a traffic generator, an SNMP MIB browser, and a TCP port scanner.
Finally, Inciscent's Infrastructure Command & Control (IC2) is a complete Windows systems administration tool that runs on most commercially available handheld devices. You can use it to browse servers and shares; view, start, and stop services; shut down router ports; reboot computers; and run command scripts. IC2 includes a command shell and the Ping, Traceroute, and Nslookup utilities.
A vast, expanding sea of software is available for connecting mobile and wireless clients to enterprise networks. By no means do the products I discussed comprise a comprehensive listing, but they provide an overview of the wide range of software that's now available.
While compiling this directory, I discovered some interesting trends. For example, in the past, quite a few vendors supported Palm OS but not Windows CE. Today, support for Windows CE for Pocket PC is now nearly universal among enterprise mobile and wireless software vendors. I also noticed an increasing trend toward cross-platform support for mobile and wireless clients from most of the large software vendors. The most notable exception is Microsoft, which supports only Windows-based devices.