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IBM Watson supercomputer
IBM’s Watson AI software is best-known for winning at “Jeopardy!” in 2011. (Credit: IBM)

LAS VEGAS — IBM today announced a new initiative to tackle a big challenge for IT professionals in the enterprise: “bring your own device (BYOD)” scenarios where employees increasingly want to use their own tablets and smartphones on enterprise on premise and cloud networks, requiring IT professionals to manage and secure those devices, and their connection to enterprise resources.

This is not a new scenario. IBM’s competitors — notably Microsoft and its Intune products — have been tackling various aspects of it for a number of years. IBM, however, says that its new MaaS360 Advisor is different.

MaaS360 Advisor, announced at the IBM InterConnect conference in Las Vegas today, is described by the company as a “cognitive assistant” that uses IBM’s Watson technology to help manage and secure networks used not only by mobile devices (such as laptops, smartphones and cellphones) but also new “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices (such as sensors, cameras and manufacturing devices). IBM calls this approach “unified endpoint management” (with each of the devices connected to the network being considered an endpoint).

“Our investments in bringing Watson to MaaS360 are a major springboard into the Unified Endpoint Management space for IBM Security,” said Jim Brennan, the director of strategy and offering management for IBM Security. “Enterprise administrators are responsible for digesting an incredible amount of data, including security vulnerabilities, privacy regulations, multiple OS and device updates, and compliance requirements. Through MaaS360 with Watson, we’re not only able to streamline and sharpen the data so administrators can stay ahead of the curve, but also transform the way they interact with their environment.”

Part of this new offering is an app called MaaS360 UEM that IBM is making available for use on Windows, iOS, Android and macOS/OS X devices so that all these devices can easily get managed access to enterprise network resources.

As part of the rollout, IBM also cited a Forrester Consulting report – entitled “Mobile Vision 2020: The Impact of Mobility, The Internet Of Things, And Artificial Intelligence On The Future Of Business Transformation” that IBM commissioned from Forrester last fall to study the issues facing enterprises around their growing challenges in device management.

The authors of the report said they conducted an in-depth survey of “556 IT and security leaders” in the US, the UK, Germany, India, and Australia in October of 2016 and found that, although most organizations currently have a fairly decentralized approach to managing mobile devices, there’s definitely a movement towards centralized management of devices.

“As endpoint environments get more and more complex and enterprises place greater scrutiny on device and endpoint management cost of ownership, organizations will begin to move from device-specific to device-agnostic management,” concludes the report. “By 2020, 42% of organizations will be taking this more centralized approach, up from just 26% today.”

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