Research In Motion's BESX (BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express) breaks new ground with enterprise-grade mobile device management, extending centralized security, configuration and application controls to any BlackBerry device, regardless of service type, without any licensing costs for server software or client licenses.
Companies can use BESX for some of the most critical application and policy management plus security controls to help bring the entire mobile device fleet into compliance with the various regulations affecting the business.
Two types of customers stand to gain the most. The first are small businesses that are hosting their own e-mail environments and are already standardized on BlackBerry handhelds but that could not otherwise afford RIM's higher-end management products (or those using RIM's old Professional Software). These companies can now bring their corporately owned but unmanaged devices under management.
The second type encompasses larger businesses that are already running BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) for corporately owned assets. They can use BESX to extend mobile device services and usage policies to users bringing in personally owned BlackBerry devices without incurring the additional client licensing costs it would take to add those users to BES.
BESX is free: There is no charge for either the server-side software or the client licenses. This allows companies to focus on getting the server hardware configuration best suited to handle the expected number of devices to be supported. BESX is available for download now at www.blackberry.com.
BESX only extends support to a subset of customers that could use BES, as the new software only works in conjunction with Microsoft Exchange Server, supporting Exchange 2003, 2007 and 2010. Smaller companies will also find they can use BESX with the Exchange implementation that comes with Windows Small Business Server 2003 or 2008. I performed my tests in conjunction with an SBS 2008 Standard environment.
Companies that need to support more than 75 BlackBerry devices should opt to install BESX on their own Windows Server. I tested with BESX installed on a separate Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2-based server (Windows Server 2003 SP2 and R2 are also supported) virtual machine, outfitted with 2 processors and 2GB of RAM-which RIM states should be sufficient to support up to 2,000 devices.
However, companies looking to manage fewer than 75 devices can install the core BESX software directly on the Exchange server, provided it is outfitted with an additional 1.5GB of RAM, which means that customers won't even need to spring for Windows Server licenses to get going.
RIM's documentation states that BES and BESX cannot coexist in the same BlackBerry domain, so any companies looking to maintain them side by side should make sure that BESX does not use the same database as a currently deployed BES implementation.
BESX works with BlackBerry devices provisioned by the mobile operator for either BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) or BES data plans. Indeed, in my tests, my BIS-enabled T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 9700 test unit did activate correctly with BESX, accepting the appropriate service books from BESX in addition to those provided by the operator. This allows employees to gain the benefits of BlackBerry's back-end services, without necessitating the extra fees that operators commonly charge for enterprise BlackBerry services (for example, T-Mobile charges an additional $5 per month for a BES data plan).
Unfortunately, RIM doesn't control carrier pricing, so there is no guarantee that the mobile operators won't change their pricing terms down the road to require additional fees for use with a BESX deployment.