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Enterprise App Stores: What Is It? Who Needs It?

Mobile apps strategies

With the proliferation of mobile devices being used in the workplace, and the concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices [to work], "the Consumerization of IT" is not just buzz in the marketplace - it is a reality for many corporations, and soon to be mainstream. Needless to say corporate IT is now facing the challenge of controlling the distribution and management of applications being used on mobile devices in the workforce. Most firms currently don't have in-house mobile development and management teams at their disposal, and as such are turning more and more to Enterprise App Stores (EAS) as a solution.

But what is an Enterprise App Store?

Simply put: An Enterprise App Store for corporate IT (not to be confused with app stores that sell business apps) allows a company to securely control the licensing, distribution and management of approved applications to end users more effectively. Designed for the new generation of tablet computers, smart devices and cloud computing platforms, the Enterprise App Store is a way to ensure corporate policies and procedures are met while giving employees the user-friendly experience commonly found in consumer style app stores.

How is it different from Mobile Device Management?

There are certainly some overlaps such as data wipe and authentication, but fundamentally the two come from very different perspectives. Mobile Device Management, as the name implies, is focused on what's happening on the device, such as inventorying all apps on a device and enforcing security policies associated with it. Enterprise app stores, on the other hand, deliver a "consumer style" app store experience for end users, while providing IT with full control over which apps gets published, how it's vetted, and how they're distributed and managed on an individual user level.

What are the benefits of an Enterprise App Store?

  • For corporate IT: Corporate IT can control what users have access to through the establishment of a secure internal app store that contains only approved apps. It can contain a combination of company-developed or externally licensed apps. Using this process, apps can go through a formal vetting process to ensure security and authenticity based on internal policies and procedures. The distribution of apps can then be managed through the concept of user and/or license management. Application and data security policies can then be applied to an app or user level no matter what devices they are using or how many.
  • For users/employees: Users will continue to experience the ease-of-use in the consumer world, and will also be able to do so for corporate apps as well. BYOD users will still be able to access the consumer world of app stores, but now also have a sanctioned location within the corporate network where they can access apps without violating corporate policies. The same process and policies can then be extended consistently to other device end-points that the user may be using.

What types of Enterprise App Stores exist and how do they differ?

Recently, there have been a number of vendors offering Enterprise App Store solutions, including Partnerpedia. Each with a slightly different approach and all with the goal of providing end users the ease and flexibility of consumer app stores while enabling IT to securely control policies and procedures:

  • McAfee: Known for antivirus and security technologies, it has added basic EAS functionality as part of its Enterprise Mobile Security solutions. McAfee offers IT a way to control the publishing and distribution of applications to end-user devices. Where the apps come from and how it's developed appears to be up to IT.
  • Cisco: Officially unveiled at the recent Cisco Live event in Las Vegas, Cisco's AppHQ takes a unique approach to EAS by offering IT customers both an apps marketplace to purchase and license apps, as well as an internal EAS to distribute and manage apps to end users whether those apps were purchased from the marketplace or developed internally by corporate IT.
  • Apperian: Recently funded by Kleiner Perkins and others, it offers an EAS solution as part of its mobile application development platform. Apperian is taking an application development lifecycle approach to creating, deploying and managing mobile apps. EAS is a part of that overall solution.
  • Apple App Store: Though not an EAS solution, its recent announcement of a volume purchasing program indicates the need to serve enterprise customers with policies that align with corporate buying behavior. The program enables IT to purchase app licenses in bulk and distribute accordingly to end users. This is a feature found in some EAS solutions.

With no slowdown in sight with respect to mobile devices entering the enterprise, now is the time for IT administrators to take a look at their mobile apps strategies to determine how they plan to support the myriad of devices and applications that is sure to grow within their company. Planned accordingly, this presents not only an opportunity to get ahead of the inevitable challenges sure to come, but is also a chance to reinvent how the company distributes and manages applications across all users and endpoints so that users can be more productive while saving the company money in the long run.

More Stories By Sam Liu

Sam Liu is VP of Marketing at Partnerpedia, a provider of private label marketplace and Enterprise App Store solutions. He has extensive experience in mobile application strategies working with device manufacturers and enterprise IT companies.

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