BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, announced Tuesday, isn't just Research In Motion's first entry in the race to manage enterprises' whole mobile environments. It's also positioned to ultimately succeed the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
Mobile Fusion, which is in limited beta testing and due to ship in late March, is a software platform for managing Android and iOS phones and tablets as well as BlackBerry smartphones and RIM's PlayBook tablet. It can handle security, policy definition and enforcement, app management and other tasks required to oversee mobile devices in an enterprise.
For BlackBerry smartphones, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) will continue to carry out the tasks for which it is known, especially the secure synchronization of mail, calendars and other data. Mobile Fusion will run on its own server or virtual machine and will manage the BES even as it controls the broader array of devices, all from one console, said Alan Panezic, vice president of enterprise product management.
But in the longer term, a key role for Mobile Fusion will be to deliver BES capabilities for the next generation of RIM devices that will run the emerging BBX operating system. (BBX will encompass the OSes for RIM's tablet and future smartphones, as well as other hardware, based on the QNX operating system.) Starting with Version 2.0 of the PlayBook operating system, due in February, Mobile Fusion will offer direct management of the PlayBook. The tablet has not enjoyed all the benefits of the BES so far but will get them through Mobile Fusion.
"A PlayBook will get connected to Mobile Fusion by the same 256-bit, AES-encrypted, end-to-end connection" provided on the BES, Panezic said. "It is the next iteration of how the BES is going to work."
As future BBX devices such as smartphones hit the market, they will be managed through Mobile Fusion, Panezic said. Eventually, once an enterprise has finished migrating from BlackBerry to BBX devices, it will be able to manage them purely through Mobile Fusion, without the BES, he said.
"Think about BES as what's gotten us to this point," Panezic said. "Fusion is the new platform, the new architecture that leverages all the strengths of BES but dramatically expands our role and starts to introduce some new technology."
As a next-generation platform, Mobile Fusion provides basic technological advances, key among them being greater scalability. Tests indicate that the new platform offers five times the scalability of a BES, supporting as many as 10,000 devices per server or virtual machine, up from the maximum of 2,000 recommended for a BES, Panezic said. For enterprises with tens of thousands of mobile devices, that will mean fewer physical or virtual servers to maintain, Panezic said.
Despite its central role in RIM's strategy for its own devices, Mobile Fusion is also intended to compete with other mobile-device management systems regardless of client operating system. RIM believes it can compete with specialists in this growing field, which already includes vendors such as MobileIron, Zenprise and Sybase's iAnywhere division.
RIM's advantage will be its own reputation and the unified management that Mobile Fusion will offer, Panezic said. He believes enterprises are just starting to embrace mobility as a mainstream technology and will roll it out on a much larger scale.
"The opportunity for us is to be the architecture, the platform of choice as customers go big. And if that means they're going to choose a different (device OS), we are happily going to support that," Panezic said.
"We're in this to win it," Panezic said.