by Maria Martinez

Strategy for Connecting Mobile Devices to Your Corporate Network

Apr 15, 20033 mins
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Your enterprise integration and management strategy just got derailed. Devices, ranging from the office photocopier to industrial tools, will no longer run standalone. Instead, this new generation of devices will connect to the network?your network. This “extended Internet” will expose significant shortcomings in your infrastructure. Without a device-oriented strategy in place, you will find yourself reacting to IP address depletion, ad hoc software problems, as well as management and security concerns.

While there is growing awareness about machine-to-machine standards for servers, devices have not been considered. They are also different from client systems; devices usually run autonomously and remotely while performing a specialized task. And then there’s security. Devices typically do not use SSL or other “heavy client” technologies but rely on resource-efficient algorithms like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). Simply put, the integration fabric and the management services needed for device-based systems are missing from today’s network infrastructure.

In spite of such challenges, the extended Internet is coming, driven by the strong economic benefits that it offers. For instance, by putting devices online, organizations will be able to automate data collection for initiatives such as process monitoring. And imagine the benefit of installing a biometric access control system that can automatically and securely connect to provision itself with the latest templates and security policy parameters and then automatically maintain itself and alert you to device problems before they affect your operations. One leading retail chain significantly improved labor management by eliminating the local host PCs and manual processes for its time clocks. Integration of employee card-swipe information with payroll processing and human resources reduced administration and manual costs by 10-to-1.

Unfortunately, under today’s paradigm, devices integrate with applications through hard coding. The problem with this approach is that it requires a significant investment in custom software, and it does not scale. Every time a device or application changes, you must redo the integration. In addition, there is the added work of exposing device management information for incorporation into your management systems.

As you prepare for this new world, you must adopt this mantra: “Keep devices, applications and management services separate from each other.” Previously infeasible, this has recently become possible with a class of software called device brokerage. Under this paradigm, applications and devices appear as abstractions?in the way that a modern printer is represented by an abstraction to word-processing applications?and are securely connected and managed through brokerage services. This has a number of immediate and long-term benefits.

First, you don’t need to change your existing applications to integrate them with devices. Second, devices, with their multiplicity of operating systems and protocols, can be dealt with as abstract entities, dramatically simplifying integration. Third, you can do an entire device-application integration?and make updates later on?in a matter of days and weeks, rather than months. Plus, security issues are resolved from the outset, since a comprehensive security model is built into the infrastructure. And finally, managing the hundreds?or hundreds of thousands?of devices that are in your organization’s future will be greatly simplified with built-in management services.

The device brokerage infrastructure is the “missing link” in the Internet’s evolution. As your company begins thinking about its long-term device strategies, you can prepare to deliver something previously unthinkable?the seamless integration of extended Internet solutions into your current architecture and infrastructure. This should be a welcome change.