The new BlackBerry 10 smartphone, the Z10, finally goes on sale this week. Yet enterprise IT groups, who've been waiting for BlackBerry to get its act together, face a bigger challenge than learning the distinctive gestures of the phone's new touch interface.
To fully exploit the new BB10 operating system and devices, BlackBerry customers will need to change their traditional BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) infrastructure in whole new ways. Subtly renamed as BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10, the new server is BlackBerry's attempt to cope with increasingly complex, and multi-vendor, mobile deployments in the enterprise.
"In the past when you upgraded from BES 3 to BES 4 or BES 5, you brought up a new server, ran a configuration tool and migrated your users to the new server," says Brett Wilson, director of mobile engineering for Vox Mobile, a Cleveland-based mobile systems integrator, and a key BlackBerry partner for the BES 10 migration. "Some people assume it's the same process for BES 10, and then you decommission BES 5."
That assumption is wrong, says Wilson. "It's a whole new breed of device and new set of capabilities. And through [BlackBerry] Universal Device Service, it also supports Android and iOS devices. You actually have two environments to maintain." Companies will upgrade to and stick with BES 5 to manage their existing BlackBerry devices, based on the older BlackBerry OS. BES 10 will let them manage the new BlackBerry 10 smartphones and eventually the PlayBook tablet, as well as the upsurge of iOS and Android devices.
BlackBerry has put together a wide range of technical resources to support enterprises that decide to take the step to the brave new world of BES 10, which is actually for now two separate server programs. Together, the servers monitor and manage three classes of mobile devices: the existing older BlackBerry models, through BlackBerry OS 7.x; the recently announced first phones running the all-new BlackBerry 10 operating system -- the Z10 all-touch smartphone, due out this month, and the Q10, with hardware keyboard and smaller touch screen, due out in April, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet; and finally, iOS and Android devices, either personally or corporately owned.
One of those resources is Vox Mobile, which originally focused on enterprise BlackBerry deployments but now specializes in a full range of consulting, procurement, deployment, management and support services for large-scale mobile deployments, regardless of the OS platform. For BlackBerry, Vox also currently hosts webinars and information briefings aimed at enterprise IT staff contemplating the move to BES 10 and the new BlackBerry 10 devices.
Reclaiming the enterprise?
The challenge BlackBerry now faces in the enterprise is reflected in how Vox itself has changed since it was spun out of its parent company in 2006, one year before Apple unveiled the iPhone, and changed everyone's idea of what mobility was. At that time, "BlackBerry was the only thing going on in enterprise mobility, and we got very good at it," says Jim Haviland, chief marketing officer for Vox.
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