The iPhone Leaps into the Enterprise, but How Will You Manage It?

 
 
By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2008-03-06 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Microsoft Exchange support has just brought Apple iPhones into the corporate network. But how will network administrators manage them? 

Anyone who has ever used an Apple iPhone loves it. Besides just being cooler than an iceberg, it's actually a great smart phone.

So, from the very beginning, iPhone users wanted, oh how they wanted, to be able to use their iPhones in the enterprise.

I mean, a BlackBerry Pearl is pretty neat, but come on, which would you rather have? Enough said. Now, thanks to a just-announced deal between Microsoft and Apple, iPhones will be able to use Exchange as an e-mail and groupware server thanks to Exchange ActiveSync. And to think analysts used to say the iPhone wouldn't be relevant to the enterprise. Ha!

Great news, right? Well, yes, it's wonderful news if you're an eager iPhone user, or someone who wants his company to buy him an iPhone. But if I were a CIO or a network administrator, I'd be locking my door and turning off my phone right now.

In the case of the CIOs, that's because your CEO will want you to switch the corporate standard handheld device and mobile phone to being the iPhone by, oh, say, the close of business this week. Not for everyone, mind you, just for all C-level executives ... and maybe the executive vice presidents, well, OK, and the VPs as well ... oh, and did I mention my personal assistant?

You get the idea. You'll also get the "pleasure" of finding the cash for this move. At $399 for the 8GB model and a two-year AT&T contract that starts at $59.99 per month, I wish you lots of luck trying to talk the chief financial officer into making the move. But, look at this way: He or she will also have the CEO pounding on the door.

At least, the executive-level IT people will only have the problem of finding the cash for this move. If you're a network administrator, you, my lucky friend, will have to find ways to manage dozens or even hundreds of iPhones on your corporate network.

Just think about it, just when you have a handle on managing iTunes' Bonjour traffic on your intranet as users share music, you now must try to handle Bonjour over mobile (read expensive) links. That's not too bad, though.

No, the real problem will be actually managing the darn things period. If there are Active Directory Group Policy Objects for managing iPhone functionality, I haven't seen them. And, I know darn well, there's no easy way to get LDAP and an iPhone to work together.

Of course, with the just-released iPhone SDK (software development kit), some of this can be handled on the iPhone side. Is there anyone willing to bet me that within the next month or two, someone will be offering AD and LDAP client software for the iPhone?

That still leaves us with the problem of managing all those iPhones back in the server room. This isn't going to be any fun at all.

Then just consider the security implications. I've already called the iPhone a security hellhole once, and I haven't seen any reason to change my mind.

So, all those matters considered, here's what I want to know: "When can I get my corporate Apple iPhone? Come on! I need one, I really do! Believe me!"

 
 
 
 
I'm editor-at-large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. That's a fancy title that means I write about whatever topic strikes my fancy or needs written about across the Ziff Davis Enterprise family of publications. You'll find most of my stories in Linux-Watch, DesktopLinux and eWEEK. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, I worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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