IBM Corp and Nokia Corp took a major step towards guaranteeing a healthy enterprise future for Symbian-based mobile devices this week, with the announcement of a systems integration tie-up between the two companies for Nokia’s Mobile VPN (virtual private network) offering.
Under the deal, IBM’s Global Services unit, which is the world’s biggest IT services company with annual revenue of approximately $35bn, will sell Nokia’s Mobile VPN, and by extension the Symbian OS-based devices it supports, into its global client base of Fortune 5000 companies.
Neither IBM nor Nokia would comment on the likely take-up of the product, which comprises the server-side Nokia Security Service Manager (NSSM) and the Nokia Mobile VPN Client, other than to say that customers are planning large roll-outs.
However, the potential ramifications for the wireless enterprise are great, not only in terms of encouraging wireless access to back-end data, but also in paving the way for Symbian-based devices to become access points of choice for global companies seeking secure wireless access to back-end systems.
When we work with customers we’re seeing a demand for more and more mobile devices, said Lars Alm, general manager wireless ebusiness services for IBM EMEA. It’s good that companies have a choice [of mobile devices], but clearly smart phones will play a more significant role in future.
We definitely see this agreement as very significant. Symbian devices will be used more and more by business users, said Mauri Niininen, services director mobile internet security with Espoo, Finland-based Nokia.
For many companies, the partnership will represent a robust means of embarking on an enterprise-wide wireless initiative, delivering secure and easily manageable wireless access to back-end data through NSSM, a tool for over-the-air provisioning, updating and management of security applications on Symbian OS-based devices launched in early November.
Users are not committed to Nokia’s own VPN products, with compatibility guaranteed with IPSec-based products, such as those from Cisco Systems or Check Point Software Technologies.
However, Nokia’s Niininen warned that a wireless VPN is simply the first step in implementing a wireless strategy. From the IT point of view, it should not be that complicated to implement. The real bottleneck is developing the applications [that make use of it]. IBM’s and Nokia’s experience with mobile applications should help here.
Nokia first made its wireless VPN intentions clear in March when it began to bundle its VPN client software with its 9210i Communicator. ComputerWire speculated at the time that Nokia’s involvement could put pressure on wireless VPN specialists such as Certicom Corp and Columbitech AB, at least where support for Symbian-based devices is a requirement.