Most Mobile Device Management platforms have a two core components that are becoming the foundation of the next generation of Systems Management.
The first component is the creation of generic, extensible, configurations for management of devices. These configurations are usually based on an extensible file format. For example, Apple uses XML as the file format for its configurations. The device platform operation system (OS) can interpret these configuration files and apply all configurable settings to the device. This creates an abstraction layer between the editing of policies or associations between configurations and devices, and the device management system that enforces the configuration settings. This means the platform knows which application programming interfaces (API’s) to call and maintains compatibility between versions. This allows the OS to provide a layer of security between the management layer and the API’s to make the actual device changes.
Apple has taken this general management paradigm and added it to its Mac OS. Beginning with version X Lion, the management layer will be able to apply the same device configurations used with iOS. This adds all of the benefits of the abstraction layer, extensibility, and compatibility to the management of Mac OS.
The second component is a notification service. This gives the ability for a service to notify any application on the device. This is especially important when devices are mobile and are switching between networks. The notification system knows how to contact the device as long as it has Internet connectivity and will queue the message if it doesn’t and wait for the device to reconnect. The notification service also knows how to wake up the device remotely even if it is in sleep mode. Apple has added the ability for its notification service to work with Mac OS X.
There are other advances in mobile device platforms that are not mentioned here. A couple of them are application distribution, patching, and sandboxing. Mobile Device Management is an evolution in System Management. In the future, MDM products will begin to manage Mac and Windows platforms.