Intel eyes remote wireless device management

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Intel Corp. is working on a device management technology that could allow IT departments to take advantage of existing management software and bring a host of disparate wireless devices under the IT department umbrella, an Intel executive said Monday at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's Wireless Entertainment and IT conference in San Francisco.

Wireless devices, such as smart phones, personal digital assistants, or handheld e-mail readers like the BlackBerry, have infiltrated their way into IT departments as employees bring the devices from home. Many IT managers loathe taking on management of such devices without an easy way to show a return on that investment, said Nikhil Deshpande, a business development director in Intel's Corporate Technology Group, during a panel discussion on wireless devices.

Over the last few years, the chipmaker has developed a number of components designed to help manage wireless devices. In April, it began a pilot deployment with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where developers were able to provision smart phone applications and operating systems using popular management software, Deshpande said.

The company's strategy is based on the Common Information Model (CIM) schema for managing different types of hardware and networks.

Intel developed firmware for a prototype handheld communicator and CIM-based server software that can interact with the device before the operating system boots, Deshpande said. Wireless devices can already be identified across networks once the operating system has booted, but not all management software works with all of the different types of mobile operating systems used by smart phones, he said.

IT managers could provision the operating system and applications using a management software application, such as Computer Associates International Inc.'s Unicenter software, which was used by Intel in its proof-of-concept with the University of Arkansas. Developers have programmed Unicenter to recognize specific firmware on the wireless device and assign the appropriate software image to that device, eliminating the need for an IT staff member to individually set up each device, Deshpande said.

Intel's strategy may be a little ahead of its time because it assumes that phones will be centrally purchased and managed by enterprise customers, something that rarely happens today. PC makers offer custom configuration services, but the smart phone industry hasn't reached that level of maturity at this point.

Sprint Corp. announced a service at CTIA on Monday that will help bring that level of purchasing to the mobile world. The carrier is rolling out a managed service that would provide wireless devices with specific software images to corporations.

Intel's technology is about three to five years away from commercial readiness, Deshpande said.

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