When the CEO gives iPads to all: One CIO's story

Last summer, KLA-Tencor, a Silicon Valley semiconductor equipment maker, rebounded from the market doldrums to post annual revenues of $1.8 billion. The happy CEO surprised the company's 5,400 employees by telling them that they would each be rewarded with a shiny, new iPad.

"The whole euphoria of an iPad started, and we had to get into high gear," says CIO Ashwin Ballal, charged with the massive iPad rollout. "That's when my nightmare began."

While not officially supported as an enterprise device, the iPad would be allowed to tap into KLA-Tencor's network for e-mail, calendaring, contacts, Web apps and other purposes. Customer-facing sales and service technicians could use the iPad to access critical data over a virtual desktop.

[ Find out why one company is ditching sales laptops for iPads, reports CIO.com. | Check out 15 best iPhone apps for newbies. ]

Just call the help desk and get started, right? Ballal envisioned hordes of people calling once or twice in a span of a few days to find out when they would be receiving their iPads and how to hook them up to KLA-Tencor's network. "That's a good 10,000 calls to the help desk," he says. "We don't have the capacity to take that load."

The Enterprise iPad Frenzy

More CIOs will be facing iPad excitement: The iPad enterprise adoption wave has been swelling ever since the iPad began shipping last April.

Today, more than 80% of the Fortune 100 are deploying or piloting iPads, up from 65% in the September quarter, Apple said in its earnings call this month. iPad enterprise customers include JPMorgan Chase, Cardinal Health, Wells Fargo, Archer Daniels Midland, Sears Holdings and DuPont. "Generally, enterprise is much slower and much more cautious and uses things that have been in the market for a long time," said Apple COO Tim Cook. But companies have seen the value of the iPad, he said, "and they're really moving fast, and so I think we're just scratching the surface right now."

KLA-Tencor's Ballal didn't have a choice about the speed and timing of an iPad rollout. The CEO had made a promise to give iPads to employees as a form of appreciation; when you promise someone an iPad, you can't wait six months to deliver one.

So why couldn't KLA-Tencor just ship the iPads to employees? Employees wanted the gadgets right away, even though half lived outside the United States. "The big thing was the logistics of getting these devices to different parts of the world," Ballal says. "It was all the nightmare of shipping. The iPad wasn't yet released in the different countries when we rolled this thing out. We learned a lot about logistics."

Setup Challenge Demanded Outside Help

Ballal, though, faced a bigger question: What will happen after employees got a hold of the iPad? Many will no doubt experience the "five-day euphoria," says Jeff Letasse, vice president of IT at Conceptus, a medical manufacturer that rolled out iPads to sales people. That is, they simply won't be able to put the darn thing down. They will spend the first few days downloading apps, music, photos -- and, yes, connecting to the company network to get e-mail. Fearing the number of calls would swamp the help desk, Ballal quickly searched for a mobile management solution that would let employees connect to the network on their own. Startup vendors promised that they could make it easy for employees to integrate the iPad without the help desk, but Ballal dug deeper and found many of their promises wanting.

Then he found MobileIron, and was impressed with the vendor's simple instructions for employees to set up their iPads. "People want to do self-service, but you have to give them documentation that they can follow, written at the third- or fourth-grade level with a minimal number of steps," Ballal says. MobileIron, Microsoft and KLA-Tencor worked together to configure Active Sync and Active Directory in a way that allowed KLA-Tencor's Active Directory talk to MobileIron software. Just three weeks after the CEO's announcement, MobileIron was up and running. Shortly after, KLA-Tencor employees began receiving their iPads.

MobileIron's directions sent employees to a portal where they could register their iPads and receive a certificate on the device. Then they could connect to the company network; the certificate authenticates the device and gives KLA-Tencor the ability to wipe the device remotely. So far, 60% of employees have used MobileIron to connect to the company network, whereas other employees chose to keep the iPad a personal device or give it to their children or friends.

Security Concerns

Ballal had a few advantages in his iPad rollout. For starters, the company had been supporting iPhones for years, and thus had already worked through many of the technical hoops of the iOS platform. Mobile policies governing passwords and other requirements, for instance, were already in place. The main IT job was to test KLA-Tencor's Web apps on the iPad.

"We had learned the lessons of the iPhone," Ballal says, "and the iPad is just a big iPhone."

While this may be technically true, though, employees use the iPad differently than their iPhones -- and this will surely impact other core IT areas such as security. Case in point: KLA-Tencor's employees in sales and marketing wanted to do more work on their iPads, which meant more data might find its way on the device.

But KLA-Tencor had another solution that would keep iPad data safely locked away: desktop virtualization, whereby all critical data resides on a server. Ballal simply put a Citrix-based virtual desktop on the iPad for employees that needed it, which numbered some 5% of the total workforce.

Desktop virtualization is still very new, and many CIOS rolling out iPads probably don't have a solution deployed yet. "You don't need virtual desktops for iPads," Ballal says, "but if you want to take iPad security to the next level, then you need to get to the virtual desktop."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com.

This story, "When the CEO gives iPads to all: One CIO's story" was originally published by CIO.

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