Security software companies are busy buying up mobile device management (MDM) and Mobile Applications Management (MAM) technology companies. The latest deals involve Sophos buying Dialogs and Symantec snapping up both Nukona and Odyssey Software. For Managed Services Providers (MSPs) sorting out MDM and MAM strategies, these can be confusing times. Here are five questions you gotta ask to make sure the MDM solution you choose is not a dead-end system.

First, a little background. Plenty of MSPs are trying to figure out how to manage Apple (AAPL) iPads and iPhones, Google (GOOG) Android devices, tablets and smart phones. The goal is to manage smart phones and tablets for customers, especially as the BYOD (bring your own device) trend accelerates in small, midsize and even enterprise businesses.

Back in November 2011 MSPmentor noted that the RMM (remote monitoring and management) software market was set to converge with MDM. Key examples: Most of the major MSP-centric software companies are introducing mobile device management (MDM) capabilities on their platforms. Kaseya introduced an MDM module in 2011. More recently, Level Platforms has promoted MDM to its MSPs. And additional companies like LabTech Software and N-able Technologies have indicated that MDM capabilities are a core focus for 2012.

What Is Mobile Device Management?

Not sure where to start? Gartner says a good MDM platform needs to offer these five core capabilities:
  1. Software Distribution — The ability to manage and support mobile application including deploy, install, update, delete or block.
  2. Policy Management — Development, control and operations of enterprise mobile policy.
  3. Inventory Management — Beyond basic inventory management, this includes provisioning and support.
  4. Security Management — The enforcement of standard device security, authentication and encryption.
  5. Service Management — Rating of telecom services.
But here's the challenging part: Big software companies are now buying up MDM technology companies. And there are dozens of additional MDM players that could get snapped up over the next year.

Five MDM Questions MSPs Have to Ask

For MSPs, that means carefully evaluating how an MDM solution fits into the managed services ecosystem. You can't predict specific M&A deals, but you can study the long-term viability of an MDM solution. To do so, ask questions in these five areas:
  1. Current deployment information: Which customers are using the MDM platform and why?
  2. Current partnerships: With whom does the MDM company partner, and are those partnerships strategic to your own business?
  3. Financial viability: Is the MDM company self-funded, venture backed, profitable, growing, cash-flow positive? Ask those questions. You may not get exact answers from privately held companies but you'll certainly gather some clues.
  4. Your current platforms: How are your current PSA and RMM software providers addressing mobile support? Do the solutions seem fully baked or are they rushed out the door to jump on the mobile trend?
  5. The Channel as Customer: Plenty of MDM platforms are used in corporate IT environments. But are VARs and MSPs using the MDM platform within their own businesses to manage customer devices?
I suspect numerous MDM and MAM software companies will get snapped up this year.