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If you’ve ever tried to set up Box, Workday, Oracle, SAP or one of many other Enterprise apps on an Enterprise Mobility Managed (EMM) device, you know it’s not fun.

In fact, chances are good you’ve downloaded a handful of apps you’ve never used — just because you couldn’t properly configure them.

“Public apps often get stuck on the device,” said Kabir Barday, lead product manager, application development at AirWatch by VMware.

Would-be users frequently become frustrated entering user names, passwords, server URLs and ports. Sometimes it’s cumbersome. Other times, they don’t have easy access to the required information.

The result? Error messages like “App can’t be displayed." But that’s not the biggest difficulty. The real problem is the loss of productivity.

Just Go Away

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AirWatch by VMWare, an EMM provider, felt compelled to address the problem. It’s bad for end users. It’s bad for enterprise app providers. And it’s bad for them, Barday said.

In fact, he continued, it got so bad that partners and would-be partners didn't want to talk about the apps in the AirWatch solution. They'd be told  “don’t even bother showing up,” Barday said.

The difficulty doesn’t reside within AirWatch or app providers like Box, Workday, Cisco and Xamarin, among many others. Instead it’s that there are no standards.

So say, you want to download the Box Enterprise app on your phone. You’d have to guess and pick the right one, based on your company’s settings and your needs.

If you’re an app provider like Box, you’d more than likely need to build a different app to work with each of the various EMM providers. It’s time-consuming and a headache, to say the least.

But not compared with the SDKs that app developers and IT tried to use. There were compatibility issues based on developer practices and low-level code. Not only that, but there was also risk caused by wrapping engines, apps or operating systems updates.

Never mind the security challenges.

There’s Gotta Be a Better Way

Inherent in every problem, is an opportunity … at least that what the folks in Silicon Valley (and at AirWatch's corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.) believe.

AirWatch by VMware, Box, Cisco, Workday and Xamarin have joined together to create an open standards approach for managing and securing apps deployed via EMM solutions. The result is a standard called ACE (App Configuration for Enterprise).

Its founding members have tackled common security and usability challenges that organizations have had when deploying apps by simplifying and scaling the process. These standards include:

  • Automating the first-time setup experience with app configuration capabilities
  • Securing app connectivity to corporate networks with per-app tunnel
  • Avoiding separate user login requirements for each app with single sign-on
  • Allowing access to native apps only on secure, compliant devices with access control
  • Preventing data leakage with a flexible set of security policies including open in and copy/paste controls
  • Wiping corporate data remotely from lost or stolen devices

Saves Time, Money

ACE leverages the latest iOS and Google Android APIs. And it is available through operating system platforms such as Apple iOS and Google Android.

It provides a framework that makes it easy for both app developers and EMM platforms to integrate, while maintaining a positive end- user experience, the group claims.

The hope is that software vendors, EMM providers, developers and Enterprises will adopt ACE and take advantage of its benefits.

For Enterprise app developers this means that it will take less time and cost less to build enterprise ready applications. Why? Because there is no proprietary SDK or app wrapping, the apps are vendor neutral and there’s a single app build for enterprises — and no coding required for certain security settings.

Business users, on the other hand, will experience a seamless, native device experience, the ability to leverage existing investments in EMM, VPN and identity, as well as access to company networks and a broader set of available supported apps.

You can find out more here.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by Erik (HASH) Hersman.