IBM is aggressively expanding its mobile management capabilities with the announcement last night that it is buying Fiberlink Communications. The acquisition will enable it offer clients the ability to develop secure Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies through IBM’s MobileFirst applications.

IBM’s MobileFirst Platform

The target of this acquisition is Fiberlink’s MaaS360 cloud-based solution, which provides customers secure mobile management. Once the deal is closed, which should happen by the end of the year, IBM will boost security offerings on MobileFrist.

MaaS360 will enable IBM to offer either cloud-based or on-premises mobile device management (MDM), mobile content management (MCM) and mobile application management (MAM).

Matthew Casey, a software analyst with Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H., noted in statement that Fiberlink will "help bridge the gap between IBM’s traditionally deployed MobileFirst solutions and cloud use-cases." He continued:

Complementing existing solutions within MobileFirst such as IBM Endpoint Manager, IBM Worklight and IBM Security AppScan, the cloud delivery capabilities of mobile device management and mobile security solutions from Fiberlink will help extend the presence of MobileFirst solutions through new cloud use-cases."

Although IBM is more often associated with information management or infrastructure development, it has  been building up its mobile business for a number of years.

It has some 270 patents in wireless innovation and has been steadily building up its mobile capabilities with the acquisition of 10 other mobile vendors in the past four years. It also has a strong relationship with AT&T, which provides developers with a wide array of tools to incorporate into their mobile apps.

Currently, the MobileFirst portfolio includes:

  • IBM MobileFirst Platform: Its base product that has been greatly expanded over the years, particularly in Worklight and single sign-on for all its mobile apps.
  • IBM MobileFirst Management: An Endpoint Manager that supports BYOD programs and security standards required by governments and regulated industries.
  • IBM MobileFirst Analytics: The Tealeaf CX Mobile analytics solution has been expanded to include more information on mobile behaviors.

Development of BYOD Strategies

However, for enterprises, the biggest issue may be the development of BYOD strategies. These enable workers use their own devices in the workplace and access enterprises data and silos through those devices.

Workers have insisted on using their own devices, even when requested not to do so. Some enterprises, including IBM, even went so far as to prohibit the use of personal devices. It hasn't been an effective solution.

The only realistic possibility is better security to prevents enterprise information from landing in the wrong hands. As a result, in the past 18 months, companies like IBM have been buying-up new technologies through the acquisition of smaller companies such as Fiberlink.

Financial details of this deal were not released. That could mean, relatively speaking, that IBM got the company relatively cheap, since Big Blue has never been shy to release details of its really big deals. Robert LeBlanc, IBM Middleware Software vice president, noted in a statement that Fiberlink’s MaaS360 will advance its strategy bringing all mobile resources onto the same platform:

In a mobile first world, clients require a comprehensive mobile management and security offering. Often times they integrate solutions on their own and take on unnecessary risk…To protect and enhance the complete mobile experience, it’s crucial to secure the app, user, content, data and the transaction. The acquisition of Fiberlink will enable us to offer these expanded capabilities to our clients, making it simple and quick to unlock the full potential of mobility."

MaaS360 will become part of IBM’s Software as a Service (SaaS) portfolio and will be offered on the SoftLayer cloud infrastructure.