Gartner Magic Quadrant names Sybase Afaria as a mobile device management leader

The first-ever Gartner Magic Quadrant report assessing the burgeoning mobile device management market gives the Sybase Afaria platform high marks.

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Sybase Afaria has been named one of the top mobile device management platforms on the market because of its maturity and wide-ranging benefits in the first-ever Gartner Magic Quadrant report on the market.

“If you look at what they’ve done,” said Gartner Inc. analyst Phillip Redman, who co-authored the report, “they have a very good reputation.”

Originally developed by a company called XcelleNet in 1997 and later acquired by Sybase in 2004, Afaria is a mobile device management platform that lets companies manage their mobile applications as well as the maintenance and security for those devices.

SAP acquired the device management platform last year when it bought database and mobility vendor Sybase for $5.8 billion and is using the technology as the primary way to deploy and manage applications on the Sybase Unwired Platform.

Sybase Afaria is one of the dominant mobile device management platforms because it includes a broad range of life cycle management features and is the “most mature platform among MDM [mobile device management] vendors for managed software distribution,” according to the report.

Afaria includes features like help desk support, application and service management, including expense management, and noncompliant devices can be quarantined.

Sybase is also one of the few mobile device management vendors that offers an embedded virtual private network (VPN) in its email client, Redman said, and that can potentially save users from having to purchase it themselves. Other mobile device management vendors, like McAfee, sell VPN services at an additional cost, he said.

One of the downsides is that Afaria can cost as much as twice what companies pay for other platforms, the report says, although this is not surprising for vendors that also have a broad range of features and platform support. 

Afaria gets demerits for being so hard to install, according to Gartner, and that’s a complaint industry analysts have voiced in the past. Overall, there are 11 different components to Afaria, stretching from firewall protections to inventory management and data archiving. The Afaria user interface could also use some updating, according to Gartner.

Other leaders in the mobile device management market included Good Technology Inc., AirWatch LLC, and MobileIron.

New entrants to the market

The market for mobile device management platforms, while still young, continues to mature and expand alongside the growth of smartphones and tablets, according to the report, while those devices are increasing in power and memory. Although mobile devices haven’t replaced PCs just yet, they’re getting close.

The market continues to evolve, Redman said, with new companies like San Jose, Calif.-based Notify Technology Corp. cropping up on a regular basis.

At the same time, Ontario-based Research In Motion Ltd. has also announced plans to expand its own Blackberry device management platform to include Android and Apple devices, a move that could have widespread appeal for companies with a range of different platforms.

Disney

Sybase Afaria’s strength in the mobile device management is one reason that Disney is considering using it at its corporate level, according to, David Hull, a SAP solution architect for the Burbank, Calif.-based company.

Disney employs a few thousand iPhones, about as many iPads, and a smattering of Blackberry phones.  That mostly includes the loose network of devices that employees have purchased on their own and been reimbursed for, as well as devices that employees have paid for but still use for work, Hull said. It’s a phenomenon some have dubbed the BYOD -- or bring your own device -- approach to enterprise mobility.  

At the same time, Disney has created a number of applications for those devices, like a directory of employees, and online libraries of some of their internal publications, all of which have to be downloaded manually off of the company’s intranet.

Right now, there’s no way to control the access those devices have to the company’s network once they have initial access, nor is there a way to make sure that employees are always using the latest versions of those Disney applications, he said. 

Additionally, there is no way to block network access if the user hasn’t kept up on the latest operating system release or bug patch from Apple, he said. “That’s definitely a concern for us,” he said.

Having Afaria -- or another mobile device management platform like it -- would allow Disney to manage those issues, he said.

On the other hand, Disney also wants to make sure that downloading a new version of the iPhone or iPad operating system doesn’t wipe out some of the policies and rules they’ve already set in place, he said.

But the fact that so many employees are using their own devices to do their work at Disney also raises some issues, like when it comes to telling them they can’t download the latest version of Apple software until Disney says it’s OK.

“That’s kind of touchy with people’s personal devices,” he said.

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