It was the early 1980’s when IBM first announced the Personal Computer (PC), a major breakthrough for delivering affordable and practical computing into the home. One of the primary features of this computing evolution was the “open architecture” of the PC, built from off-the-shelf and commodity components. Of course, we all know that around this time, DOS became MS-DOS via Bill Gates and Microsoft, where the rest as they say, is history!
At this time the IBM Mainframe (1964) had nearly 2 decades longevity and was already proving a scalable, secure and reliable platform. So here we are, some 3 decades later, where Apple and IBM have announced a Global Partnership to Transform Enterprise Mobility.
Whatever your opinion of Apple technology, in the last decade or so they have undoubtedly delivered slick design and style for mobile devices, namely the smartphone and tablet. Therefore whether the Enterprise accept the premise or not, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is inevitable, where employees expect to use their personal devices in the workplace.
IBM have continued to be a dominant force in the Enterprise market, whether with Mainframe technology or not, while establishing a credible presence in the Cloud market space. As always the world of IT is constantly changing and even though IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo in 2004; some 10 years later, as part of the exclusive IBM MobileFirst for iOS agreement, IBM will sell iPhones and iPads with industry-specific solutions to business clients worldwide.
So what role if any will the IBM zSeries platform play in this Apple deal? As always, the zSeries platform will deliver enterprise scalability and strength for Security, Database and Messaging integration, but beyond these features, I’m not so sure. Of course, from a data presentation viewpoint, nothing changes, iOS integration and the ability to present Mainframe originated data remains forever thus for Apple and indeed all other mobile devices. Similarly from a business transaction viewpoint, the zSeries platform participates in the delivery of mobile support, where from an IBM technology viewpoint, the Worklight solution is one example of an end-to-end integrated development studio software product.
Despite the obvious benefits for Apple, gaining access to the Enterprise via IBM technology and their customer base, and for IBM, delivering the market leading mobile technology into their customer base, what does this mean for the Enterprise?
Business as usual mostly, but Identity & Access Management (IAM) would appear to be a significant challenge. Firstly, rightly or wrongly, most people don’t consider Apple software to have any security exposures, as the market place for iOS security solutions (E.g. Anti-Virus, Malware, zero day exploits, et al) is limited? However, one might ponder why the Windows Operating System became such a target for the hacker. Said hacker might be an opportunist, just because they can, or something more sinister, trying to gain government or business secrets. So, if the Apple smartphone and tablet devices become ubiquitous if not de facto in the Enterprise, how long will it be before security exposures for iOS and related apps become common place?
I’m open-minded about BYOD (or am I)? My heart tells me, yes, let the workers use their own device in the workplace, but my head tells me, no way! Generally for technology decisions, my head always wins. In this instance, I don’t think my head has a chance; overwhelming company worker desire to use their own mobile device in the workplace, whether iOS, Android, Java ME, Windows Phone, Blackberry, et al, will win out. If this is the case, this is perhaps where the maturity and reliability of the IBM zSeries Mainframe can assist.
Therefore, at least for Identity & Access Management (IAM), secure access to the most valuable resource within an organization, the data itself via the zSeries server makes sense. Whether this is via two if not several factor authentication remains to be seen. However, I’m much more comfortable with an IAM solution that leverages from a Mainframe External Security Manager (ESM), namely ACF2, RACF or TopSecret, as opposed to a universal log-in via a Social Media web site, such as Facebook. Just because you can log into an Enterprise and arguably mission critical CRM application, such as Salesforce via Facebook Authentication, doesn’t necessarily mean you should…