Are you ready for EMaaS?

Enterprise mobility as a service has many benefits over traditional internal infrastructure

Mobility has become mainstream for nearly all enterprises, and companies have generally addressed the complexity it brings with their own infrastructure. But bring your own device (BYOD), app fragmentation and end-user demands are often overwhelming these systems. Some organizations are beginning to implement limited cloud-based services (for example, by providing mobile device management and private app stores), but a major change is coming.

I expect to see a significant shift to enterprise mobility as a service (EMaaS), which moves most or all of the services normally provided by IT in internal systems (such as device management, security, app deployment and policy enforcement) to third-party, cloud-based services. In fact, I expect EMaaS to grow dramatically over the next three to four years and become 20% to 25% of the overall market for enterprise-directed applications and services.

EMaaS offers organizations several key benefits over traditional internal infrastructure:

* Rather than capital spending (capex), it requires operational spending (opex), which is often easier and quicker to obtain.

* EMaaS allows a mix-and-match approach between opex and capex, since it is possible to supplement or partially replace internal facilities. That makes the transition smoother than with a rip-and-replace approach.

* It can be implemented very rapidly and is therefore more responsive to market conditions and changing business needs.

* It scales effectively to allow growth or contraction as necessary. Instead of having to support a fixed-cost infrastructure, companies can deploy (and pay for) only the mobile services they need.

* It provides more flexibility in choosing devices and applications and in providing management and end-user support. The rapid pace of change that has been seen in the mobile market is likely to accelerate. Internal systems will have to strain to keep up.

* Because EMaaS shares resources across organizations, it has an economy of scale that can increase efficiency and lower total cost of ownership, especially for smaller organizations.

* It makes it more efficient and less costly to extend the enterprise mobility umbrella to be extended to strategic business partners, affiliates and customers.

Admittedly EMaaS may not be a good fit for all organizations. These include those that need to have complete control of all assets (devices and data), such as companies in highly regulated industries like the financial sector and health care, government agencies and organizations in the field of public safety. But even among these exceptions, I see opportunities for some level of EMaaS being provided for any users who are less subject to regulation or susceptible to data loss. And I expect that EMaaS, over time, will achieve a level of security close to that of internal infrastructure.

The EMaaS market is currently fairly small, with just a few companies offering relatively limited services. But I expect to see continued expansion of EMaaS by many of the large infrastructure and application vendors (such as SAP, IBM, HP and Oracle), with a focus on hosted and shared apps; by carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, with a focus on managed services; and eventually by the traditional outsourcing vendors, such as Accenture, HP, Dell and IBM. I also expect the security-oriented vendors, such as McAfee and Symantec, and the mainstream mobile device management vendors, such as MobileIron, SAP/Sybase, Zenprise and AirWatch, to rapidly move to cloud-based, hosted models.

Many of the smaller, specialized vendors will need to partner with larger players to achieve true EMaaS capabilities, and larger players will need to add complementary technology to supplement their own. So I expect a significant number of mergers and acquisitions to take place over the next couple of years.

Bottom line: Enterprises will soon have a real choice between implementing internal, behind-the-firewall services for their mobile users and using alternative services offered by true EMaaS vendors. In some cases, a hybrid, internal/external approach will be the best fit. Ultimately, EMaaS will emerge as a strategic advantage for many enterprises.

Jack Gold is the founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, an information technology analyst firm based in Northborough, Mass.

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