Many CIOs were hoping the iPad would fade into the shadows of the next new thing, asso many other tech gadgets have. But the iPad is proving to have a lot more staying power than many predicted—and the consumer-driven iPad is on a crash course with enterprise IT. CIOs will need to handle anything and everything the iPad, Apple and iOS app developers throw at them.
CIOs, you’d better get on board and manage the iPad before it manages you.
Two Tech Hurdles: Provisioning and Apps
What are the biggest challenges CIOs will face in the brave new world of the iPad? Charles Edge, author of Enterprise iPhone and iPad Administrator’s Guide (Apress, Nov. 2010) and director of technology at IT consultancy 318, says there are two major technical hurdles: provisioning iPhones and iPads en masse, and getting the data to the right user and then back to the server.
“How do you push out 5,000 [iPads] and build a process around it?” asks Edge. The traditional IT mindset is to image devices. However, data bits don’t lay on the iPad or iPhone the same way they do on a laptop or desktop computer—that is, you don’t image an iOS device.
Instead, CIOs will need to build specific provisioning profiles for various users with the iPhone configuration utility tool or a mobile device management vendor’s tool. Many companies, though, make the mistake of implementing iPads or iPhones without a clear understanding of the user requirements, according to Edge.
The iPad also doesn’t interact with file servers the same way as PCs do. Thus, CIOs face a bit of a learning curve about which iOS apps let users access and edit certain content, such as Microsoft Word documents, Apple Keynote presentations and even video. Then the content has to make the roundtrip back to the server where it can be saved.
“Normally, there’s at least two apps involved in that process,” Edge says.
Set Policies Early
The iPad will no doubt test the business and technology relationship within a company. CIOs must get ahead of the integration planning before business units take the initiative, Edge advises. Business units may not understand all of the policies that need to be enforced, and trying to correct their behavior can lead to political pressures.
The first thing CIOs should do is define a set of policies governing access, authentication and security, and then implement these policies into iOS. Take what you have learned from policies for BlackBerries and Windows Mobile devices. These existing policies can form a baseline for iPad and iPhone policies.
But iPad and iPhone policies shouldn’t be too rigid because users won’t put up with limitations on their new-found freedom with Apple’s consumer-focused devices. Limiting access to the App Store, for instance, might be politically unwise and ignite a user revolt, Edge says.
“I can take a laptop, workstation or tablet and say you can only access these five applications and that’s all you can do,” says Sharon Finney, corporate data security officer at Adventist Health System. “I can say you cannot store data locally because that device is not rated and secured for that functionality. I cannot do that on an iPad.”
Another hospital group counters that the iPad is ready for enterprise primetime. “There’s this myth IT people perpetuate that these Apple devices can’t work in the enterprise,” says CIO Dick Escue of RehabCare, which is developing iOS apps for some 8,000 iPod Touches, 700 iPhones and 120 iPad. “We’ve had internal and external legal and compliance departments review every single thing. They bless everything we do.”
Edge has written two books on IT security, Foundations of Mac OS X Security (Apress, March 2008) and Foundations of Mac OS X Snow Leopard Security (Apress, February 2010). His take on iPad and iPhone enterprise security: “We’ve had a few hurdles with some of the various types of SSL certificates you find out there. But overall, we’ve been able to leverage MDM or various apps and have been able to meet the security needs of most environments.”
Next iPad Challenge: Network Bandwidth
Apple CEO Steve Jobs revved up the iPad engine last week by unveiling a super-fast, ultra-thin iPad 2, which hits Apple Stores on Friday. The iPad 2 boasts video-conferencing using Apple’s FaceTime app, which might impact companies in a big way.
“FaceTime will be appealing to a lot of enterprises that may look at it as easy, entry-level video teleconferencing,” says Dan Hays, partner at management consulting firm PRTM, which focuses on operational strategy and execution for C-level executives within Fortune 2000 organizations.
Executives may love it, but can your network handle the iPad video-conferencing load?
Much like the iPad’s rush to the enterprise, CIOs won’t be able to stop FaceTime on the iPad if and when it takes off. The correct answer is, your network had better be ready.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.