At Global SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in Orlando, it was the year of mobility. Tablets and smartphones were ubiquitous and thousands of them were in the hands of the global SAP team. As global service owner, Mobility for the SAP Global IT team, Josh Bentley was responsible for configuring these devices, and keeping them fully up-to-date during the fast-moving event. Josh took time out to speak with Bill Kozel about his team’s pioneering use of Afaria, the Sybase mobile device management and security solution.
Bill Kozel: Josh, how many SAP mobile devices are operating at SAPPHIRE NOW?
Josh Bentley: We have about 5,000 iPads, 1,600 iPhones, 20,000 BlackBerry smartphones, and thousands of traditional cell phones within SAP. BlackBerry devices don’t require the use of Afaria, but 2,300 of the iOS devices are currently managed by Afaria, and all are expected to be enrolled by Q3 of 2011. It’s a safe bet that anyone with an @SAP.com email address attending SAPPHIRE has a mobile device that is managed by Global IT.
Bill: What did it take to get these devices ready?
Josh: One restriction of Apple devices is that you can’t image them with our policies; they have to be set up by the individual remotely, and you can’t self-enroll them on the server. Before Afaria, this was all done manually for our Apple devices and it took over an hour for each one. You had to e-mail the help desk and request credentials, which had to be activated. Then, you had to download the security certificates.
With Afaria, that whole process takes less than five minutes. You simply unbox the device, and register it on iTunes over WiFi. The profiles come from the server, and the instructions are all on our WIKI.
We had an entire pallet of 250 iPads for the SAPPHIRE NOW show floor, and we enrolled them all in less than three hours. It’s easy to see the productivity gains that Afaria brings to IT organizations and why it’s a must-have for organizations that support multiple mobile device types.
Bill: How does Afaria make the devices more secure?
Josh: It actually makes security automatic. If I remove the Afaria security profile it wipes all corporate data delivered by the server from the device. It’s gone. So if I want to keep my VPN credentials, I have to keep the Sybase Afaria profile active. It’s a phenomenal system.
If I sound like a cheerleader, I apologize. But I love this stuff; it makes my job so much easier.
Bill: How so?
Josh: I’ve got a small service team globally, and it used to be we were always playing catch-up and instructing the field IT support teams on how to do manual processes. Having the server perform all these functions has really saved time for all of us on the IT staff. And it has made the users feel like they’re in control of a new technology that is really cutting edge.
Bill: What special challenges did you face at SAPPHIRE NOW?
Josh: SAP developed a number of apps for this event, and they needed to be continuously updated during the show. With Afaria, all we do for Apple devices is upload an IPA (iPhone/iPad application) file onto the server. Then, when users reopen the Afaria client, they get the new files automatically.
For example, if someone says, “An update was made to SAP BusinessObjects Explorer; please get it out,” everyone on the floor immediately gets what they need. No server admin on back side has to go to each device. All the admin has to do is change the IPA file. That’s made it much easier for us to connect people to the applications they needed.
Bill: How are the apps distributed?
Josh: We can categorize apps as demos, or as SAPPHIRE-specific, or as exclusively for Board members, or IT only, or HR only. We can do anything with the categories in the server. The really cool feature is that if an app is important to one group, we can send a pop-up and all they have to do is hit one button and now they’ve got the new app. You don’t have to go to a web page; just click on your Afaria client.
Bill: What’s next? Are you going to roll out company-wide?
Josh: We already have. Sybase has always used Afaria internally. In October of last year, SAP rolled out general availability of Apple mobile products. The Afaria server went live at SAP in January of this year. We did a lot of prep work for the conversion code Apple was allowing for its MDM controls. But January was our proof of concept and in less than three weeks we were ready. Then we launched it live and got a few hundred devices live for a soft launch. In March, we had a thousand devices configured. Now, in May, we have 2,300.
As I see it, what’s next is that everything becomes mobile. SAP is a mobile company. I’m right in the middle of it, and I’m very lucky to have the job I have.