Today, IBM made an unprecedented announcement that will accelerate the adoption of transformative mobile applications in the enterprise: IBM has joined forces with JAMF Software, MobileIron and VMware to form the AppConfig Community.

The mission of the AppConfig Community is to establish a common approach for enterprise application configuration and security to simplify the current complexities associated with app development and deployment. This approach builds upon the current frameworks available natively in mobile OS platforms.

App Developers Face Deployment Complexity

As businesses mobilize existing workflows to transform operations through mobility, they need the next generation of business apps to support the year-over-year rise in app adoption by global employees. These apps will come from a broad selection of developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) to meet business users’ demands for best-of-breed mobile experiences.

There are many historical issues developers have faced in delivering enterprise apps, such as the following:

  • There has not been a standard way to configure applications out of the box. This has led to inconsistent end-user and IT admin experiences.
  • Enterprise security requirements have been a blocker to enterprise adoption, since mobile app developers are forced to add additional layers of security to their apps. This is also not a developer’s core competence.
  • Because OS frameworks lacked support for ways to configure and secure apps, developers have had to use unique enterprise mobility management (EMM) software development kits (SDKs) and wrappers to meet enterprise needs. This required app developers to build different versions of their apps for each EMM vendor and maintain those on an ongoing basis.

These challenges are why leading EMM providers IBM, MobileIron, JAMF Software and VMware have come together and are working with Apple on a common approach for application configuration and security.

The Charter of the AppConfig Community

The AppConfig Community will provide tools, best practices and community forums to help developers use OS-native configuration and security standards consistently across EMM providers. This means developers will no longer require EMM-specific integrations for many enterprise use cases and will see simplification in how they develop and deploy mobile apps.

Additionally, enterprise IT will be able to easily configure and manage apps according to business policies and requirements. End users will also experience the benefits of a richer out-of-the-box experience.

Add in commitment from more than 60 ISVs to leverage the OS-native standards promoted by the community, and it’s clear “app”-celeration is exponentially increasing across configuration and security.

Deliverables of the AppConfig Community

The first developer tool released by the AppConfig Community is an open XML schema to use with the managed app config capability of iOS. The schema streamlines app deployment by making it easy for developers to define configurations across all their apps and for businesses to deploy them.

Apps built using this XML schema will work consistently across EMM providers in the AppConfig Community. Apple’s managed app config capability gives developers tremendous flexibility in configuring their apps using EMM. They will be able to leverage this capability in a standardized way, simplifying time-to-delivery and ultimately providing a better end-user experience.

The Role of IBM MaaS360 Application Security

Historically, gaps have existed between the security needs of the enterprise and the native security frameworks of modern operating systems. IBM MaaS360 Application Security helped bridge this divide by providing an SDK and app wrappers.

Since then, Apple has expanded the native security frameworks embedded in iOS. Now, several functions no longer require EMM-specific SDK integration or app wrapping, such as the following:

  • Configuring apps through managed app config;
  • Preventing data loss through Managed Open In; and
  • Connecting apps securely through per app VPN.

However, many enterprises have additional security use cases, necessitating MaaS360 Application Security as an essential part of a securely managed mobile app ecosystem. MaaS360 Application Security complements the AppConfig Community by filling the gap between what the OS does and what the enterprise needs.

While the use of OS-native standards with EMM simplifies the adoption of multivendor app portfolios and multiple EMM solutions, new threats against mobile devices and data crop up each day. Threats such as mobile malware and the inefficiencies associated with multiple logins across apps and cloud systems is where IBM MaaS360 continues to enhance the value of EMM outside of standard controls and configurations.

The value of OS-native standards and the AppConfig Community is faster development and deployment of mobile apps for the enterprise, which makes organizations better prepared to become securely and efficiently app-enabled.

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