Is app wrapping dead? Cortado thinks so.

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A conversation with Cortado's Henning Volkmer is always fun. He really understands the issues companies face when dealing with mobility issues. Cortado has always focused on making remote application and data access easier and more secure. This time, the conversation focused on "app wrapping," a technique often used to make corporate applications and data available to users of remote devices, such as smartphones, tablets and the like. Henning believes that recent changes appearing in operating systems such as Android and IOS are making this approach unacceptable.

What is app wrapping?

App wrapping can been seen as a form of application virtualization. Applications are processed, read encapsulated, allowing them to be accessed from remote devices, run in new processing environments, and increasing levels of security.

Why does Cortado think this approach is dead?

The newest versions of Android and IOS have added local security controls that duplicate some, if not all, of the features offered by most app wrapping tools. In some cases, these operating system additions are incompatible with approaches used by app wrapping products. Cortado's Volkmer believes that this will add complexity and introduce unacceptable levels of incompatibility.

He also points out that users see added complexity as an enemy and will work to disable or avoid complex approaches. This, he points out, means reduced levels of security are common.

Cortado's Corporate Server 7

Cortado announced a new version of its Corporate Server product that focuses on the needs of companies using Apple's IOS. Here's what the company says about the product:

Cortado has announced at VMworld in San Francisco a new version of Cortado Corporate Server. The new version 7 includes full support for iOS 7 business functionality while offering enhanced and secure file sharing and mobile printing. The combination of iOS 7 and Cortado Corporate Server 7 enables secure and productive integration of iPhones and iPads into the corporate IT landscape based on the existing Windows environment and complete Active Directory integration.

With Cortado Corporate Server 7 businesses can:

  • Manage iOS 7 business features based on the Windows Active Directory rights system
  • Fully set up new devices with e-mail accounts, VPN and Wi-Fi profiles
  • Selectively delete apps and data on smartphones or tablets
  • Create a secure container for iPads and iPhones
  • Use the native Apple e-mail app in the secure container
  • Connect the container via a container-specific VPN with the file and print systems in the company
  • Embed intranet applications in the mobile container via the secure browser
  • Synchronize laptop, PC and Mac folders and constantly backup documents while simultaneously making them available on iPhones and iPads

In addition, Cortado Corporate Server continues to support iOS devices with previous operating systems, Android smartphones, in particular Samsung SAFE, as well as BlackBerry devices. Enterprise file sharing with the Cortado solution is based upon the existing file system, meaning all PC workstations can also exchange data.

Snapshot analysis

Cortado's marketing pitch centered on why app wrapping was dead. I typically ignore PR pitches that are based upon such extreme statements because if anyone looks at the history of computing, they would see that once a technology is accepted into the corporate data center, it stays around for a very, very long time regardless of new products or approaches.

Integrating mobile devices into a company's IT infrastructure offers many challenges. I commented on some approaches companies have used to add smartphones, tablets and the like in a recent post (see The BYOD dilemma - accessing corporate applications for more information.)

Cortado's Corporate Server appears to be an approach based upon adding a stub, a small app designed to allow access to applictions and data residing on the company's host.  The access can be verified on the host so individuals can only access applications and data they're allowed to see and use.

This approach allows individuals to download data for viewing only. The data is protected and can not be edited or shared locally.

While Cortado's approach appears to add an increased level of security and access to corporate applications and data, it faces the same requirement that high speed access to the network is needed. This is the same challenge that many other approaches, such as implementing a corporate app, implementing an HTML wrapper for applications and using virtual access to virtual machines running on the host.

Other suppliers offer ways to encapsulate corporate applications and data so that they can actually be hosted on the remote device so that the network is no longer an issue.

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