Demystifying SAP Afaria and managing mobile devices

8 May 2014

Brenton O'Callaghan

Brenton O'Callaghan

Global Head of SAP Innovation

Every day we hear about the release of new amazing technologies covering areas from wearable technology to concepts like remote surgery. There has never been a more exciting time in the tech world probably since the invention of the modern computer itself. But with these fast changing technologies comes a natural inability to keep abreast of everything that is out there.

Over the last few weeks at least three customers have asked me about SAP Afaria – simply, what is it? I will give SAP / Sybase this, it’s a great name for a product but it’s not immediately obvious what it is. So what is it?

What is SAP Afaria?

SAP Afaria is one of the core components of SAP's Mobile offering specifically for managing your mobile device estate. Acquired by SAP as part of the acquisition of Sybase, it aims to allow for the management of corporate as well as personally owned mobile (and non-mobile) devices. The feature highlights of Afaria include:

  • Support for most modern mobile platforms (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows and more)
  • Complete mobile device management
  • Remote management (wipe, notifications, locking and policy enforcement)
    • Ability to push down apps
  • Self-service elements that facilitate user-driven requests and personal management
    • Corporate app store
    • Self-service device functions (lost devices, etc.)
  • Highly scalable to facilitate large and growing organisations

In a nutshell – SAP Afaria provides the ability to monitor, administer, secure and deploy mobile devices in your organisation.

What about security?

With any mobile scenario you have to consider security. SAP Afaria brings a number of elements to the table on this front. As with any good MDM (mobile device management) solution, Afaria enables you to enforce policies including encryption, passcodes, certificate-based authentication, proxy use, Network settings, and so on. The list is really endless.

The platform itself runs on Microsoft Windows Server and so has the ability to take advantage of industry standard mechanisms like SSL (secure socket layer) for communications and advanced authentication mechanisms.

On top of this, for iOS and Android, SAP Afaria provides a set of functions (libraries), which can be embedded into any custom application to facilitate even greater security such as client certificates and in-app settings.

How do you keep control of corporate apps on-device?

We've covered security, but a large part of security concerns usually involves the data / IP that resides on a user's device in the form of the apps or data itself. Afaria has the ability to retain full control over any app installation on device including:

  • Allowing users to opt to install apps through an app catalogue
  • Force down specific apps to a user's device based on dynamic policies
  • Automatically remove apps from users devices without any user interaction
  • Even prevent corporate data from being backed up when users backup their personal devices

Why choose SAP Afaria?

There are a huge number of mobile device management solutions available on the market today and quite a few are excellent in their own right. Where I have found that Afaria is the leader is in the area of integration. Each SAP Afaria implementation I have gone through has benefitted most from the tight integration we managed to achieve with the client’s own systems such as identity management systems (Active Directory etc.) and crucially the client’s PKI or Public Key Infrastructure for secure certificate deployment.

As I mentioned, SAP Afaria provides a set of functions or libraries that can be integrated into any corporate iOS or Android application to allow for in-app management and security provisioning. This end-to-end integrated solution brings amazing benefits when managing your mobile estate not least that it helps to standardise the way you approach security in your corporate apps.

Finally, SAP Afaria is not a new product, far from it with the current version number being 7. What this does means is that an SAP Afaria implementation benefits from quite a number of years of experience in this space over a wide range of industries and as a result, has the features that any large-scale deployment would need to be successful.

How do you get started?

If security and control are a concern for your organisation then an evaluation of SAP Afaria is a no-brainer. Although I do think Afaria is a great product, the only way to truly understand if it will fit your organisation is to try it out. For this there are a number of options:

  1. Install the trial and see what it can do
  2. Give the cloud hosted trial a whirl

Both options are fairly straightforward to get up and running and will give a greater understanding of where Afaria sits in relation to your requirements.

My rule of thumb when it comes to evaluating any solution is to try it out on a temporary basis (PoC) first and see if you can get 80% of what you want out of it– the other 20% will come with a full implementation. These “fire and forget” proof of concept systems should be everyday activities in your team. After being involved in a number of these proof of concept teams over the last few years and I can honestly say it is the best way to evaluate new products.

Final words

As a CIO or CTO the word "control" is always a good thing and this is what SAP Afaria brings - granular control and the ability to be secure in the knowledge that no aspect of your BYOD or corporate device management is given to chance.

I’ll end this by reminding you that SAP Afaria is but one piece of the SAP Mobility puzzle. Afaria provides device management but don't forget to look at the rest of the components to get the full picture:

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About the author

Brenton O'Callaghan

Global Head of SAP Innovation

Enterprise technology strategist and emerging technology evangelist

I'm a globally experienced SAP expert based in Ireland and I’m currently responsible for creating and bringing our SAP Innovation & Leonardo practice to market. My day job involves helping our customers to solve actual business problems in a rapid fashion using tools such as design thinking, SAP Leonardo and much more. I'm also responsible for exploring how emerging technologies and concepts can be applied within our customer base such as Machine Learning, Blockchain, DevOps and AI.
I've a background in computer science and have spent the last 9+ years in the SAP space across a wide range of industries across EMEA and North America. I'm a big believer that the best consultants have a mix of technical knowledge, industry experience and empathy and that is what I bring with my team to my customers. It's all about bringing about positive and relevant business change with the best possible technology.
Outside of work you can find me supporting the Irish Rugby team and the Boston Red Sox as well as my new found hobby - golf!


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