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Exclusive Q&A with Senthil Krishnapillai of Sybase iAnywhere

Sybase's Mission to Mobilize the Enterprise is Moving Full Speed Ahead

In this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's Jeremy Geelan, Senthil Krishnapillai - Sybase iAnywhere's Director of Product Management - talks about the mobile email market and Sybase iAnywhere's most recent announcements regarding Mobile Office and the iPhone 3.0.

Jeremy Geelan: Starting at 35,000 feet first: what's the overall state of enterprise-class email, on mobile devices? How fast is the sector growing?

Senthil Krishnapillai:
According to Gartner, "Wireless e-mail is going mainstream in the enterprise. There are approximately 100 million wireless e-mail users worldwide, of which about 30 million are business users. By year-end 2010, wireless e-mail users will increase in number to more than 300 million."

From Sybase's perspective, the mobile email market has certainly matured. Enterprises now expect a fully functional comprehensive email and PIM solution. Users expect to be able to do everything on a mobile device like they do on a PC. The challenge is to support this level of service for all types of mobile devices that are in the market. It's important for enterprises to look for solution that supports a wide range of mobile devices, including emerging devices (iPhone, Android, etc.).

Geelan: Does email remain the #1 collaboration tool, or are there others beginning to rival it?

Krishnapillai: Email still dominates as the #1 mobile collaboration application. We see email being used in various forms. For example-just like people accept meeting requests-they want to do more within their email client. Sybase envisions the mobile email client being able to handle automated business processes and serve as the bridge for mobile workers to also interact with other enterprise systems.

Geelan: If IM is big too, then, what will happen in the future - will people go on jumping between email and IM, do you think?

Krishnapillai: We do not expect IM to replace email because they serve different needs for end users. Email is the new "formal" communication while IM is predominantly used for quick, instant chats. Since IM requires a person to be "online" - and email doesn't require that - it allows users to work and respond at their own pace, not making them reliant or interrupted by other users.

Geelan: What about issues such as
security, data protection, device management, profile administration, support, and deployment? Isn't that a nightmare for IT?

Krishnapillai: IT is certainly concerned about securely deploying mobile devices and data and should be focused on how to support the complete mobile device life cycle of provisioning and managing and decommissioning devices. The challenges are multi-fold, especially when enterprises are looking to deploy a variety of mobile device platforms - such as Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry. Solutions, like those from Sybase, help enterprises to control and streamline the deployments in a heterogeneous device environment.

Geelan: So sensitive data on a mobile device can be encrypted?

Krishnapillai: Yes. The degree of encryption and security completeness generally depends on the device capabilities. For example, Afaria from Sybase provides complete on-device encryption for Windows Mobile devices. For devices like the iPhone, we have approached the security and encryption in a slightly different way. We create an enterprise sandbox model to isolate enterprise data within our iAnywhere Mobile Office application to ensure the data is encrypted and secure.

Geelan: Now how about the iPhone - the most talked-about mobile device - now that Apple has announced details about the "iPhone 3.0" operating system, will Sybase be announcing the App Store availability of anything exciting for enterprise users of the iPhone?

Krishnapillai: Sybase iAnywhere just released expanded iPhone support with a new version of iAnywhere® Mobile Office. The latest release combines enterprise-class email, calendaring and contacts capabilities along with a unique approach for enhanced security and usability which is intended to strengthen iPhone adoption in the enterprise.

With this release, iAnywhere Mobile Office provides iPhone users with email, calendar, tasks, and contacts with Corporate Directory lookup. In addition, it enables configurable application password protection and provides on-device encryption for all enterprise data contained within the iAnywhere Mobile Office application on an iPhone.

There are some exciting new features that Apple announced in 3.0 that we find very interesting - especially the push capabilities which will add more value to enterprise applications, including email, by providing always-on access to enterprise data.

Geelan: Tell us more about iAnywhere Mobile Office - what briefly is the history of that product and what's its current trajectory?

Krishnapillai: iAnywhere Mobile Office has traditionally been a solution that allows enterprises to enable wireless email and PIM applications on a wide range of mobile devices. We have been providing enterprise customers with this type of solution for more than 10 years. With the maturity of the wireless networks and the enhanced capabilities of today's mobile devices, Sybase has expanded our support to enable a collaborative environment for mobile workers. Sybase is working to extend the familiar email paradigm to broader collaboration by providing a converged experience of voice, data and business processes.

Beyond email, iAnywhere Mobile Office also mobilizes other functions that a typical mobile worker needs-such as enabling users to take action and complete business processes from a mobile device (example-approve a PO or work order from a Windows Mobile device vs. waiting to login to a PC).

Geelan: And what does iAnywhere see as the future trajectory of enterprise adoption of the iPhone? It is coming from top-down, or bottom-up?

Krishnapillai: As a consumer device, the iPhone is infiltrating the enterprise from a variety of fronts - including from the average employee to the CXOs. Much like laptops and BlackBerry devices, IT tends to be more responsive when senior management and executives are asking for access from and support for a new device. As enterprises begin to roll out support for the iPhone, we expect that IT organizations may start rethinking their broader mobility strategy and policies, including the ability of employees to use personal devices, like the iPhone, to access corporate information.

Geelan: So, again, you have no hesitation in saying that secure email, mobilized business processes, and seamless access to back-end enterprise systems - these essential ingredients are all now possible?

Krishnapillai: Sybase is confident in our solutions that are in the market today - including secure email, mobilized business processes and seamless access to enterprise systems - on a wide variety of mobile devices. Our latest version supports all of this functionality on Windows Mobile and Symbian devices. For the iPhone, we support secure email and PIM data today; we will support mobilized business processes on the iPhone in the future.

Geelan: What kind of metrics can you use at Sybase iAnywhere to guide your efforts? Is number of customers the only thing that matters or are there others?

Krishnapillai: While the number of customers is a good metric, we are also interested in the broad usage of wireless email and business processes on mobile devices. In addition, we are continuing to build our partner network with systems integrators and independent software vendors, like SAP, that are leveraging our mobile infrastructure to enhance their offering and benefit their customers. Industry analyst recognition is also important. Sybase has been positioned by Gartner, Inc. in the Leaders quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Wireless E-Mail Software, May 2008[i] and 2008 Magic Quadrant for Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms.[ii] And finally, a key metric for us is our quick response to market demand and requirements to support the latest mobile devices with enterprise-class solutions. At the end of the day, mobile solutions increase users' productivity and reduce the cost of doing business; that is the ultimate metric that we continue to monitor.

Geelan: Is it important to Sybase what analysts say in terms of characterizing your market position? How are you doing in that regard?

Krishnapillai: Market leadership and recognition by analysts is important to Sybase and to the enterprise mobility marketplace. Many companies look to the analyst community for recommendations about their IT infrastructure and the analysts' perspectives often provide a foundation for many companies as they develop and deploy mobility strategies. Sybase has recently been recognized for the following leadership positions.

  • Sybase is positioned by Gartner, Inc. in the Leaders quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms, 2008.

Geelan: Sybase iAnywhere is device-neutral: does everything you're doing for the iPhone already exist for BlackBerry devices and the growing variety of Windows Mobile devices, or...?

Krishnapillai: Consistency of features across devices is something that Sybase takes seriously. Since iPhone is a new entrant in the marketplace, we are working feverishly to bring it up to par to match features that we have enabled on on Windows Mobile and Symbian devices for many years. In addition, because of the personal nature of iPhone, we are adapting the solution to be more flexible on iPhone. Our enterprise sandbox functionality is a way for enterprises to create a space on the iPhone which doesn't interfere with the other capabilities of the iPhone. In addition, we have multiple products that support developing and deploying mobile applications on BlackBerry devices.

Geelan: What's the biggest still unresolved challenge with regard to mobile collaboration?

Krishnapillai: One of the biggest challenges is the emerging convergence of voice and data on a mobile device. This challenge is important not only to vendors like Sybase but also to enterprise customers that are looking to control costs of mobile deployments.

Geelan: I know you are speaking at SYS-CON's iPhone Developer Summit in NYC in June, an event largely focused on iPhone for the Mobile Enterprise. What lies behind your choice of title for your session, which is by the sound of it a clear call to action: "Break the Mold" - who should break the mold, and in what way?

Krishnapillai: The introduction of the iPhone has encouraged companies to rethink their current mobility strategy and expand their horizons to look at the iPhone as a viable option for their users. The title-Break the Mold-is really meant to encourage enterprises to think outside of the box and look at new technologies like the iPhone. With the addition of our software, the iPhone becomes a serious contender in the enterprise. The enterprise sandbox idea that we discussed earlier is one of the topics that we'll be highlighting in our talk - focused on how enterprises can adopt the iPhone without impacting the personal use of the device.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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