The four zones of mobile success (or failure): Part 1, enterprise zone

“updated slightly from original publication in IBM Mobile Insights, December 2013, content still holds true”

The IT Managers nightmare !

It’s 2am, the phone by your bed wakes you. It’s only 11pm in “Next to Nowhere by the Trees”, Oregon.  The CEO is just getting back to his hotel from the big meeting and dinner with a client. He needs to stay another day, wants to rearrange his schedule and see if the inventory update came in and His device hasn’t updated in 3 hours; Where O Where can the problem be?

This series will discuss four “zones” of success or failure in an end-to-end mobile enterprise infrastructure.  The diagram below represents the typical end-to-end mobile enterprise network containing four zones: enterprise, security, Internet, and user zones.

2017 Note: for the purpose of illustration I’m using “mail” as the end to end application.  In reality, this directly relates to other B2B, B2Eor B2C business critical applications, website, storefront, claim processing, etc.  

All of these zones must be working properly for the successful daily use of mobile devices in the enterprise. However, they are not all under the control of the enterprise, and a failure of any one of the elements in a zone can cause an inability to perform daily enterprise activities on mobile devices.

We have all heard the help desk cries:

  • I can’t activate my BlackBerry! iPhone or new S7…
  • I stopped getting mail to my iPad!
  • My calendar won’t sync to my device!

Mobile infrastructure administrators and help desks hear these statements day in and day out. But they never hear:

  • My new iPhone 7 has been running fine for weeks!
  • I never have any trouble getting to my applications on the iPad!
  • I can work just as well with my tablet on the road as I can in the office!

—even if they are outside the control of mobile IT—mobile IT gets the blame because the user perceives that the servers or applications are not working. The chart above is sometimes called the mobile IT “black eye chart” because no matter the failure mobile IT gets the black eye for the trouble.

Only one thing has to go wrong in the enterprise network in order to get messages of frustration from users, like those in my first list.  But a lot has to go right in order to hear the other positive message “silence”.

The enterprise zone

For my first blog post in this series I will discuss the enterprise zone. The enterprise zone consists of the enterprise infrastructure servers—those boxes in the server farm or room.

The back-end infrastructure that exists in the enterprise zone (but not in the diagram) is the server farm itself: the racks, servers, storage, switches, cables, network, cooling, power and so on that the mobility application infrastructure runs on. Each is a possible point of failure that can potentially be immobilizing.

For the purposes of a mobility discussion it is assumed that the enterprise back-end application to be accessed by mobile devices is the typical mail, calendar and contacts. Therefore the enterprise zone for mobility would typically be the following servers: mail, mobile messaging, mobile messaging control, active directory or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) services for authentication and an SQL database to contain all the data about the mobile users, and in some cases a monitoring server.

The scenario also assumes that the enterprise zone is connected to the Internet for data flow to from the mail servers to devices through the Internet. This brings up the very first element of success or failure of the mobile infrastructure: the mail server.

The mail server, typically Lotus Domino or MS Exchange, is the heart of this and most scenarios. It is where all device-destined data originates. Again we make an assumption that everything is working in the infrastructure to ensure that data can flow into an individual’s mailbox on the server. When the mail server is down, is unavailable, has lost connectivity or is having other functional issues, the mobility infrastructure cannot begin to deliver data to devices. If it’s down long enough, it will begin to result in calls for help desk tickets indicating that the user is having trouble getting mail on a BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Windows phone or Android device. Quite simply, any issue with the mail server will be perceived by the user as a problem with the mobile technology.

The mobile messaging server (Lotus Traveler, BlackBerry, Good, MobileIron, Airwatch and so on) polls the mail server to determine if anything needs to be sent to the user device and forwards items created on the device to the mail server.

Mobile control server is a component of the mobile messaging solution. It manages the messaging servers and handles device enrollment. Device policy management in some cases provides the virtual private network (VPN) for the messaging service.

The Active Directory (AD) or LDAP server is an essential element of an infrastructure that is essentially the enterprise address book of all users. It is an essential part of enterprise security, managing the enterprise ID’s passwords, permissions and so forth. Any issues related to directory services will result in request failures in the mobility critical path and again simply be perceived by the user as a problem with the mobile technology.

Issues with the mail, messaging, control or AD/LDAP servers will result in issues for users. However, there are numerous times when these servers are fully functional and another component of the end-to-end infrastructure causes the user’s activity to fail.

The reality is, the average user will not even know a control or AD component exists and will blame mobility (more often than mail) as the issue, since they don’t understand which link in the chain is currently broken. Mobility apps by Traveler, BlackBerry, Good Technology, MobileIron or AirWatch are the most blamed and maligned element of the mobile infrastructure. This is simply because it’s the element the user is attempting to use and therefore must be the problem.

It is critical to an enterprise to have tools in place for monitoring, such as mobile device management (MDM) to identify, isolate and assist in resolving issues in the above components that are within the enterprise control.

More Importantly for 2017 and beyond as some monitoring tools have gone by the wayside the role of active and passive Analytics will be drivers in determining points of failure and success.

The next area discussed is the enterprise security zone.  share your thoughts below and stay tuned for more in my “Four zones of mobile success (or failure)” series.

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