Review: BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 provides server high availability, a new Web interface, improved deployment status visibility and role-based administration. eWEEK Labs' tests of BES 5.0 for Microsoft Exchange show that the updated platform will simplify day-to-day mobile device management and allow more effective delegation of tasks among front-line and second-tier administrators.
The latest iteration of Research in Motion's enterprise device
management solution, BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0, greatly
simplifies centralized mobile administration tasks.
Delivering features such as server high availability, a new Web
interface, improved deployment status visibility and role-based
administration, BES 5.0 will simplify day-to-day mobile device
management and allow more effective delegation of tasks among
front-line and second-tier administrators.
I tested BES 5.0 for Microsoft Exchange. Pricing starts at $2,999
for the software (per server pair) and a single client access license,
or $3,999 for the software and 20 CALs. A pack of 500 additional CALs
costs $27,999. Customers needing 1,000 or more CALs can opt to
join the BlackBerry Enterprise License Program for customized licensed
packages at additional levels of discount.
Customers with current CALs who wish to upgrade BES from a previous version face a one-time charge of $999 per server.
To the Test
I tested BES 5.0 for Exchange in conjunction with a range of
BlackBerry handsets to ensure compatibility with both the latest and
older models in RIM's fleet. Client software versions ranged
from 4.2 to 4.7, as the test bed included the BlackBerry Bold, the
Curves 8310 and 8900, and the new BlackBerry Tour
BES 5.0 features a new Web-based management console called the
BlackBerry Administration Service, rather than the desktop software
that was needed with previous BES versions. The Web
interface--which can use either Microsoft Active Directory domain
credentials or the built-in user database to authenticate
administrators--makes it easier for administrators to log in and make
quick changes even when not at their primary machine. However, I was
disappointed in the lack of browser support. BAS works only with
Internet Explorer browsers, and perhaps not every version, since I was
cautioned by RIM representatives against using BAS with IE 8 (although
I did not encounter any issues when doing so).
From the Web GUI, administrators will discover improved flexibility
when assigning policy, although I didn't find the implementation as
flexible as I expected in tests. RIM touts the fact that with BES
5.0, users can now be assigned to multiple groups simultaneously, that
groups can be assigned to groups, and that policies can be assigned to
any of those groups or directly to a user's account.
I expected to be able to tier and structure policies, creating a
default policy that could apply to the entire user population and
layering on additional policies that would apply to subsections of the
inventory--something analogous to how Group Policy works in Active
What I found was that only one policy can be assigned to a
user. If a user is assigned an individual policy, applicable
group-assigned policies will be ignored. If multiple policies are
assigned to the same group, only the policy with the greatest
precedence will be enforced. Administrators therefore must take great
care to establish a hierarchy of policy precedence to ensure that rules
are deployed as expected.
I also wanted to be able to apply policy according to a user's
hardware-for example, applying a certain rule or software configuration
that would apply to the Bold--but BES 5.0 does not allow this kind of
assignment. However, it does free a few categories of
settings from standard policies, giving administrators the ability to
create and assign wireless LAN, VPN and voice over IP settings via
configuration templates alongside standard profiles (although these
options can also be set within a standard policy).
Improved Management Experience
BES 5.0 vastly improves the management experience after deployment,
providing much more insight into deployment job status once jobs have
been sent to devices.
From BES, I could run reports against inventory to find devices
still awaiting update, devices with update failures or devices with
successfully completed updates to ensure that policy was being enforced
across the deployment.
To enable better workflow when creating user accounts tied to
particularly large Active Directory implementations, BES 5.0 performs a
daily query and pull of users from AD. This somewhat speeds the
discovery process when creating new user accounts within BES.
Another significant improvement with BES 5.0 is the new role-based
administration implementation. With this feature, BES customers
can more effectively organize the administration force according to
task. Front-line administrators can be assigned only to the BES
servers or user groups for which they are responsible, with read-only
permissions if needed. By default, BES 5.0 comes with eight roles
pre-defined, but senior administrators can create new roles or modify
existing ones to tune permissions as appropriate within the company's
Also new with BES 5.0 is high availability, creating a pool between each active server and a paired backup.
For no additional costs from RIM--one server license activates one
active server and the redundant one--administrators can add resiliency
to their BlackBerry management infrastructure. Failover from the
active primary to the secondary server can occur automatically in case
of a downed service or loss of connectivity, and administrators can set
other health thresholds, as well. If failure to the standby server
happens automatically, administrators will need to manually trigger the
system to revert to the original server.
Administrators can also leverage the cluster to maintain uptime
during upgrade cycles, moving users to the backup server before
performing patches or upgrades. RIM's documentation claims
administrators can share the load of certain BES components between the
pair, although I did not test this.
BES 5.0 also lays the groundwork for additional new features that
can be delivered to handsets once RIM updates the client software to
Version 5.0, a move that is expected to occur later this
year. Among the list of new features is remote access to Windows
network file shares, direct manipulation of e-mail folders on the
device, better handling of calendar items with attachments and e-mail
flagging capabilities more compatible with Outlook.
Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.