Interview: Ron Hassanwalia of Canadian MDM provider SOTI

If mobility is hot, mobile device management is scorching.

Ron Hassanwalia, chief operating officer of Mississauga, Ont.-based MDM provider SOTI Inc., figures there are some 300 companies around the world selling solutions that incorporate mobile device management capabilities of some sort.

They include BlackBerry BES, IBM Endpoint Manager, Hewlett-Packard Mobile Management Center, Citrix ZenMobile, SAP Afaria and Symantec Mobile Management and offerings from startups like AirWatch, Good Technology and MobileIron.

Enterprises can’t easily have control over staff that access to corporate data over mobile devices without MDM, which enforces security policies and pushes out software updates.

Recently Hassanwalia came to the office to talk about how enterprises should choose an MDM solution and the mistakes they sometimes make.

The interview came shortly after SOTI released version 11 of its MobiControl suite, and two months before it overhauls its Canadian partner program and looks to find more integrators here.

MobiControl 11 – available as on premise software or in the cloud, supports the Samsung Android Knox security features found in select Samsung devices, as well as Apple’s new iOS7, Windows Phone 8 and Amazon Kindle.

The SaaS version now has a user-based licencing option, so subscribers can have more than one device per account; a self-service portal lets users reset password, remote wipe data, lock a lost device, and find device via geo tracking; and the ability to restrict access to sensitive data based on device’s location

Although there are a lot of players their strength in the market is hard to determine, said Christian Kane, an industry analyst with Forrester Research. Many organizations have several MDM solutions in different departments, he said in an interview.  “It’s still a market in flux.”

He predicts there will be mergers/acquisitions. In January, he noted, Citrix bought Zenprise to gets its MDM suite.

From simple PIN enforcement, device configuration and the ability to remotely wipe data, he said vendors are piling on features including application, data and security management and security.

In picking an MDM solution, organizations first want to ensure it fits with its mobile strategy, including supporting all the mobile operating systems used by staff and integrating with corporate applications.

Security-conscious companies will look for capabilities like an application container that strip out attachments and malware.

All organizations will want sophisticated reporting and analytics to keep up with what staff are doing with their devices.

SOTI has just under 300 employees, with 12,000 corporate customers in 170 countries. Not all of them use its solution for BYOD. The company originally started as solution for portable Windows CE-based devices like product scanners used in warehouses or by delivery staff and white-labeled to scanner manufacturers like Symbol (now Motorola Solutions) and Intermec (now part of Honeywell).

Hassanwalia said one way SOTI separates itself from competitors is it also makes a help desk suite called MobiAssist. It also has a security technology called Android Plus that increases confidence in that Android platform, as well as an arrangement with anti-virus maker Webroot that lets its AV engine works automatically remove viruses.

In Canada SOTI sells direct to certain named customers; otherwise it can be bought through system integrators like QData and the Herjavec Group.

Hassanwalia said it is looking for more so in January will launch a four-level partner program called Altitude, with increasing margin and benefits tied to sales and technical certifications.

Many current partners here are selling hardware (like scanners) and using SOTI’s software to push sales, he said. What SOTI wants are integrators that sell l full solutions such as managed services and advice on how companies can mobilize.

SOTI’s goals for the next three years include finding ways to leverage security containers built into mobile; how to integrate its software with other solutions, such as cloud storage like Dropbox and Microsoft SkyDrive; and keeping an eye on new mobile operating systems like Tizen.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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