Wells Fargo stubbornly clings to IT stagecoach

Financial services company won't allow personal devices to connect to network -- for now

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The question regarding Wells Fargo's refusal to allow employees to connect their smartphones and tablets to the financial services firm's network isn't whether the company will relent, but when.

(Also see: Consumerization, virtualization to force business plan rewrite)

For now, though, the company is playing hardball. Wells Fargo executive vice president and CIO of information services Wayne Mekjian tells Network World's Jon Brodkin, "They can't connect them to our networks. We won't let them in."

We'll see how long this lasts. The mass infiltration of personal devices into enterprise networks began with Apple's release of the iPhone in 2007. The trend has only accelerated since, with more employee-owned iPhones, devices powered by Google's Android mobile OS and, over the past year, iPad tablets (and competitors) tapping into corporate networks.

In other words, the consumerization of IT genie is out of the bottle. Brodkin writes:

Intel, the chipmaker, allows nearly 10,000 personal devices to connect to its network, primarily for e-mail, contacts and calendaring. Ford Motor Co. has a program to support employee use of iPhones and other consumer devices. Moreover, VMware and other virtualization vendors are building a wall between personal and corporate data and applications on smartphones, making it more secure to use a single device for both work and play.

But Wells Fargo isn't having it, even though mobile device management companies like Good Technology actually make it easy for enterprises to separate corporate data from personal data on an employee's mobile device. Good for Enterprise, for example, enables IT administrators to control which applications users can access from their personal iPhones or Droids. And if a device is lost or stolen, the platform allows IT managers to remotely wipe it clean of corporate data.

According to senior vice president John Herrema, Good accomplishes all of this without interfering with the personal features of a worker’s iPhone by deploying a “container” on the device “in which all the business data and access is controlled and managed within that container."

That doesn't sound so scary, does it, Wells Fargo?

One Wells Fargo executive tells Brodkin that its "heterogeneous environment for technology" is a magnet for top IT pros. "If you want to see HP NonStop equipment, we've got that. If you want to see iPads, we've got that. If you want to see big iron, we've got that. If you want to see virtualized servers, we've got that," he says.

I suspect far more of today's IT professionals would rather be able to connect their personal smartphones and tablets to the network than indulge their fetish for "big iron." Wells Fargo will figure this out when it starts having problems attracting IT talent. And that's when the policy will change.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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