Thursday Jun 07, 2012

Getting a handle on mobile data

written by Ashok Joshi

The proliferation of mobile devices in the corporate world is both a blessing as well as a challenge.  Mobile devices improve productivity and the velocity of business for the end users; on the other hand, IT departments need to manage the corporate data and applications that run on these devices.

Oracle Database Mobile Server (DMS for short) provides a simple and effective way to deal with the management challenge.  DMS supports data synchronization between a central Oracle database server and data on mobile devices.  It also provides authentication, encryption and application and device management.  Finally, DMS is a highly scalable solution that can be used to manage hundreds of thousands of devices.  

Here’s a simplified outline of how such a solution might work. Each device runs local sync and mgmt agents that handle bidirectional data flow with an Oracle enterprise backend, run remote commands, and provide status to the management console. For example, mobile admins could monitor multiple networks of mobile devices, upgrade their software remotely, and even destroy the local database on a compromised device. DMS supports either Oracle Berkeley DB or SQLite for device-local storage, and runs on a wide variety of mobile platforms. The schema for the device-local database is pretty simple – it contains the name of the application that’s installed on the device as well as details such as product name, version number, time of last access etc.

Each mobile user has an account on the monitoring system.  DMS supports authentication via the Oracle database authentication mechanisms or alternately, via an external authentication server such as Oracle Identity Management. DMS also provides the option of encrypting the data on disk as well as while it is being synchronized.

Whenever a device connects with DMS, it sends the list of all local application changes to the server; the server updates the central repository with this information.  Synchronization can be triggered on-demand, whenever there’s a change on the device (e.g. new application installed or an existing application removed) or via a rule-based schedule (e.g. every Saturday). Synchronization is very fast and efficient, since only the changes are propagated.  This includes resume capability; should synchronization be interrupted for any reason, the next synchronization will resume where the previous synchronization was interrupted.

If the device should be lost or stolen, DMS has the capability to remove the applications and/or data from the device. This ability to control access to sensitive data and applications is critical in the corporate environment.

The central repository also allows the IT manager to track the kinds of applications that mobile users use and recommend patches and upgrades, while still allowing the mobile user full control over what applications s/he downloads and uses on the device.  This is useful since most devices are used for corporate as well as personal information.

In certain restricted use scenarios, the IT manager can also control whether a certain application can be installed on a mobile device.  Should an unapproved application be installed, it can easily be removed the next time the device connects with the central server.

Oracle Database mobile server provides a simple, effective and highly secure and scalable solution for managing the data and applications for the mobile workforce.

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Eric Jensen

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