Business is grappling with mobile device management.

Business is grappling with mobile device management. Photo: Reuters

DEMAND for solutions and consulting services that help companies wrestle control over and manage the influx of mobile devices has skyrocketed in Australia.

IT analyst firm Gartner has predicted the worldwide market for mobile device management (MDM) software will be the fastest-growing IT market, rising to more than $US500 million ($478 million) this year, as the technology becomes an ''essential'' IT practice.

While it is only a fraction of the $50 billion-plus domestic enterprise IT market, according to KPMG's IT Advisory national managing partner Ian Hancock there has been a ten-fold increase for MDM-related advisory services in Australia in the past six months.

''Most large Australian organisations are evaluating or re-evaluating their mobility policies/practices and deploying MDM tools to enhance controls over the mobility devices connected to their corporate networks,'' Mr Hancock said. ''Many customers are evaluating, selecting and implementing systems to manage connectivity, deploy productivity applications, and securely extend functionality onto mobile devices. The majority of our clients are managing this capability internally and on-premises.''

Five MDM providers nominated as leaders in Gartner's latest magic quadrant - Zenprise, MobileIron, AirWatch, Fiberlink and Good Technology - offer some form of cloud-based solution (sometimes with data centres and/or network operation centres based overseas).

MobileIron announced an Australian data centre in November last year. Earlier this year, Fiberlink, which operates under the brand MaaS360, claimed St Vincent's Hospital as one of its users.

With more than 100 organisations worldwide offering MDM, many of them operating in Australia directly or through channel partners, the cloud-based options are likely to increase.

Mr Hancock attributes the current preference for on-premises solutions over cloud to several factors, including: the level of maturity of cloud offerings and reference user cases in Australia; and difficulty in creating an interface between the cloud and existing identity and access management tools and processes.

He also pointed to ''typical cloud contracting concerns'' around service level agreements, business resilience, disaster recovery controls, unknown exit costs and contract complexity.

The head of Accenture's mobility practice in Australia, John Cassidy, described a similar experience with initial demand driven by on-premises solution but added that interest was rising for the cloud.

''At Accenture, we're seeing universal demand for mobile device management solutions - both cloud and on-premise - from all sectors of the market,'' he said.

As organisations are faced with the headache of keeping up with fast-changing mobile technology developments, threats and skills requirements, they are now looking for ''flexibility'' in MDM offerings. In other words, cloud-based.

''Many organisations find it challenging to get a business case approved for the initial capital outlay involved in doing this via an on-premise solution, so more recently, we have seen a higher demand for cloud-based MDM solutions,'' Mr Cassidy said.

''Fundamentally, the issue is what do you want MDM for? Is an organisation trying to solve a security problem? Logistical? Behavioural?'' Tech Research Asia director, Tim Dillon, said.

''If so, then a cloud-based, managed service is more appropriate as it provides flexibility and the capability to roll in additional services as requirements change.

''If an organisation is looking at MDM more as a pseudo desktop management solution, then on-premises is a more suitable approach.

''Companies need to consider how their mobility environment will evolve - it's a multi-OS, multi-device world out there now and there are a number of new solutions coming to the market.''