Motorola enhances VPN for smartphones

Motorola is making it possible for handheld devices to connect more securely - and easily - to core business networks.

Good Mobility Suite 6.0 from Motorola Good Technology Group extends mobile VPN connectivity to all TCP-based applications behind corporate firewalls and beefs up its mobility management capabilities.

Available in the fourth quarter of this year, the new suite will expand Good's mobility platform beyond its bread-and-butter mobile email business with Good Mobile Connection, an invisible VPN with seamless roaming and session persistence that gives smartphones secure and sturdy access to internal applications.

The Mobile Connection feature allows users to connect to any TCP-based resources, such as file servers, Web applications, enterprise applications or networked PCs, according to Dan Rudolph, director of product marketing for Motorola Good Technology Group. He described the feature as the first "managed service" VPN. The technology is built on the company's network optimization center (NOC) infrastructure, which Good has traditionally used to power and secure its messaging technology.

"There are a number of mobile VPNs on the market right now, and they all have one thing in common -- they don't work well," Rudolph said. "The user experience is bad because it's a pure software solution running on the handheld. When the handheld loses coverage, when you turn the radio off and on, you have to re-login to the VPN, you have to reset networking configuration screens, and if you're in the middle of retrieving a query from an SAP system, then you've lost that session and have to re-login with SAP and start your query again."

With Good Mobile Connection's NOC-based approach, the VPN session persists during gaps in service coverage, making for a more seamless user experience.

"The underlying VPN technology is similar to other mobile security point solutions," said Sean Ryan, research analyst for mobile enterprise device solutions at IDC. "Microsoft now offers VPN with its System Center Mobile Device Manager [SCMDM]. BlackBerry does not offer a bundled-in VPN, but the data is encrypted and VPN software is available for BlackBerrys. The key difference is the integration of the VPN with Good's NOC to allow for a very non-intrusive VPN experience for the mobile worker."

Jack Gold, president and founder of analyst J. Gold Associates, said Good's VPN is similar to the VPN that Microsoft offers with its SCMDM, but Microsoft's solution is very complex and requires multiple servers within the enterprise and the DMZ, while a deployment with Good and its NOC requires no servers in the DMZ. There's only an Exchange or Domino server and a Good server behind the firewall, connected by a secure tunnel to Good's NOC.

Rudolph said that there is no special coding required to connect mobile devices to enterprise applications with Good. Companies can build a mobile application or buy a package of mobile applications that run on Windows Mobile and connect seamlessly to Good without having to leverage application programming interfaces (APIs) to make it happen.

"You still have to have a client that can access the application, and if you have Web-based service applications, you need a client on the device that can take advantage of those Web services," Gold said. "It's not automatic. An SAP client would be needed on your device to run an SAP back-office application."

Ryan said that the need for clients to run these applications will necessitate partnerships to render content that is optimized for viewing and interaction on mobile devices. Motorola does have those partnerships, he said. And they are moving to build more.

Microsoft has some advantages in the application partnership side, according to Kitty Weldon, principal analyst for enterprise mobility at Current Analysis. Microsoft claims to have 18,000 applications built for Windows Mobile by independent software vendors (ISVs). BlackBerry maker Research in Motion has also opened up a development environment for ISVs recently, she said, because they also "see line of business applications as the next wave."

The new suite also features Good Administration Center, a mobile management Web-based console that offers a unified environment for deploying and managing Good applications, devices, security policies and data access rights. The console features a dashboard that gives an overview of all devices and servers managed by Good, as well as integrated monitoring features.

Rudolph said Good Administration Center allows IT to remotely enforce security polices on all devices, such as setting password policies or encryption requirements or turning off smartphone Bluetooth ports. It also gives help desk technicians good visibility into handsets, allowing them to go into Good and see what's happening with a device.

"It's a nicer interface, and it's easier to get into and do granular device management," Gold said. "Overall, there's nothing important about that stuff. Everybody is moving in that direction. They're not light years ahead of everybody else, but it's important, and you shouldn't underestimate its ease of use."

Good Mobility Suite 6.0 is the first product announcement Good Technology Group has made since Motorola bought it in January 2007, Weldon said. The release is something of a coming-out party for Good and Motorola, she added. Motorola has suffered some bad publicity as a result of the poor performance of its mobile devices division. The company's recent announcement that it intends to spin off its mobile devices unit and concentrate on its enterprise mobility and networking businesses has only partially assuaged concerns about the company's future.

"Motorola has a tough row to hoe, but they have some really cool assets that I hope they can leverage," Weldon said. "I hope they can leverage that, and the organizational split doesn't affect what they were doing in the enterprise space anyway. If they can just leverage the device management and security and usability of the Good platform, they will be well positioned. That doesn't mean that RIM and Windows Mobile are going to be displaced by them, but it does give Motorola a place at the table."

Pricing has not yet been set for the new Good Mobility Suite. Rudolph said there would be a one-time fee per client access license, plus support adoption fees. The client access license would cost less than $US100 per user, he said, and those buying in bulk might see licenses in the $US50 range.

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