Intel eyes remote wireless device management

Intel is working on a device management technology that could allow IT departments to take advantage of existing management...

Intel is working on a device management technology that could allow IT departments to take advantage of existing management software and bring a host of disparate wireless devices under the IT department umbrella.

Wireless devices, such as smartphones, personal digital assistants, or handheld e-mail readers like the BlackBerry, have infiltrated their way into IT departments as employees bring the devices from home.

Many IT managers loathe taking on management of such devices without an easy way to show a return on that investment, said Nikhil Deshpande, a business development director in Intel's Corporate Technology Group, at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's Wireless Entertainment and IT conference in San Francisco.

Over the past few years, the chipmaker has developed a number of components designed to help manage wireless devices. In April, it began a pilot deployment with the University of Arkansas, where developers were able to provision smartphone applications and operating systems using popular management software, Deshpande said.

The company's strategy is based on the Common Information Model (CIM) schema for managing different types of hardware and networks.

Intel developed firmware for a prototype handheld communicator and CIM-based server software that can interact with the device before the operating system boots, Deshpande said.

Wireless devices can already be identified across networks once the operating system has booted, but not all management software works with all of the different types of mobile operating systems used by smartphones, he said.

IT managers could provision the operating system and applications using a management software application, such as Computer Associates International's Unicenter software, which was used by Intel in its proof-of-concept with the University of Arkansas.

Developers have programmed Unicenter to recognise specific firmware on the wireless device and assign the appropriate software image to that device, eliminating the need for an IT staff member to individually set up each device, Deshpande said.

Intel's strategy may be a little ahead of its time because it assumes that phones will be centrally purchased and managed by enterprise customers, something that rarely happens today. PC makers offer custom configuration services, but the smartphone industry has not reached that level of maturity at this point.

Sprint announced a service at CTIA that will help bring that level of purchasing to the mobile world. The carrier is rolling out a managed service that would provide wireless devices with specific software images to corporations.

Intel's technology is about three to five years away from commercial readiness, Deshpande said.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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