Research In Motion announced on May 4 that its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 is now generally available. The server, which provides a central link between the company's BlackBerry smartphones and enterprise systems, includes several IT administrator features designed to make enterprise mobility computing more flexible and robust.
The announcement was made at RIM's eighth annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Fla.
The server integrates with IBM Lotus Domino, Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise, and has been designed with an eye toward improved security for e-mail, organizer data, instant messaging and enterprise applications.
Code-named Argon, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 was originally unveiled in a presentation in New York on Feb. 11. Upgraded from Version 4.1.6, the server had been running in production mode at RIM for over two years and had been in the hands of early adopter users for around a year.
In a demo during the presentation, RIM showed how the Web-based administrative interface made IT management processes more rapid and flexible, giving administrators a Web-based interface and users the ability to view e-mail attachments and manage, add, rename and delete e-mail folders.
The server also features over-the-air software loading so that mobile devices within a network can be wirelessly updated as soon as new software becomes available. Administrators can automatically schedule these updates remotely, at times most conducive to workers' schedules, and use the dashboard screen to reconfigure software and other components.
The server includes role-based access controls so that certain tasks can be delegated to the IT staff, with the dashboard displaying only functions available to that particular IT worker. In addition to giving an IT administrator the ability to "push" mandatory applications or updates to individuals, the server also prevents prohibited applications from being downloaded by smartphone users.
In total, some 350 IT policies can be applied to individuals or groups by the administrator, including password protection and the use of certain BlackBerry features such as the camera. A color-coded view on the dashboard allows administrators to see parts of their environment that could be developing potential user- and server-related problems.
The server supports all current BlackBerry smartphones. It has also obtained Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 4 (EAL 4+) certification with regard to security.
RIM finds itself in an arena of increased competition, as Apple's iPhone and various Microsoft products seek to dominate the mobile and wireless device marketplace. The company recently debuted its own application store, BlackBerry App World, during the CTIA Wireless convention in Las Vegas. At the launch, RIM announced that applications from Salesforce.com, Bloomberg, the New York Times and other top-marquee companies would be available, seemingly putting it in direct competition with Apple's App Store.