UPDATED 11:29 EDT / JANUARY 14 2011

RIM Expanding into Cloud-based BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Plans Support for Other Devices

research-in-motion-building For many years now, RIM has enjoyed a privileged position in the elite financial and corporate communication spheres due to their superior security and other innovations. However, due to changing networks, financial concerns, and personal preferences, even their previous supporters have been looking into permitting other devices in the hands of their employees. In a move that should help them maintain their supremacy, they’re working to become more service based—by decentralizing their enterprise services into the cloud—and have begun to provide interconnection with non-BlackBerry devices.

Details are extremely thin, but according to RIM Vice President Pete Devenyi, quoted at All Things Digital, mentions this will be similar to a previous venture called BlackBerry Connect,

“BlackBerry is and will continue to be dominant in most corporations,” Devenyi said. “It’s not going to be the only device, given the fact that consumers have the choice to bring in their own devices, and IT departments are often letting them in. So there’s a question there. Do those corporations have to manage those devices differently or is there the possibility that RIM might extend capabilities to make it easier for those corporations to manage those devices as well.”

That business would not be entirely new. The company started a program years ago called BlackBerry Connect that allowed businesses to use their BlackBerry servers to manage certain devices when those devices communicated using BlackBerry protocols. However, the new venture, if RIM decided to go ahead, would expand that to managing devices that use their own methods.

“In this case, it would have to be done differently because it would be more native,” he said. “It wouldn’t use BlackBerry protocols to manage those devices, but conceptually yes, we did that with BlackBerry Connect.”

This is possibly a response to companies such as JPMorgan—who have been long time loyalists of RIM—testing the waters of allowing their employees to use devices like iPhone and Android. These sorts of shifts in the market, away from hardware for security towards app-level and service-level security so that employees have a greater range of devices, have become dominant in the community. This sort of thinking works directly into cloud-based services and offerings, because while it doesn’t entirely address at-the-hand hardware security concerns (i.e. proprietary device vs. proprietary chips vs. open) it does address point-to-point security and communication services, which is what much of business telecommunications networks want.

In another announcement by RIM, also sketchy on details, they’re talking about rolling out cloud-based services for BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Further information comes from Pete Devenyi from a ComputerWorld article,

A cloud-based service could help expand the number of companies, both small and large, that take advantage of the security inherent in BES, said analysts at the conference, noting that the offering might appeal to organizations that aren’t interested in provisioning physical BES servers themselves.

"Smaller companies might want to invest in a cloud-based BES, but even large companies can put a portion of their infrastructure in the cloud," Devenyi said in a brief interview.

The expansion of the number of devices and corporations that BlackBerry can provide service for will return to them the leverage which they originally held over the elite corporate institutions. Many financial institutions went to BlackBerry because they had the original proprietary communication network, provided them security and certainty, but with the evolution of the application ecology across numerous devices they’ve been looking for cheaper solutions to do the same thing and see that they can receive similar security from those.

RIM, seeing this shift, has started to embrace this new paradigm and will use it to emerge into this new era where service rules the market.

This shift also leads to other questions even about RIM’s behavior as while cloud-based security does seem enticing, people will need to start looking into point-to-point encryption from their devices that don’t rely entirely on the cloud-based or service-based security. This is because even RIM have been making concessions to other governments about what third-parties can access from their networks and recently even bowed to some requests from India’s government over what their agencies could monitor. This isn’t to say that RIM’s networks are actually insecure, they’re quite secure and built for it, but security happens across a multitude of layers.

We expect details on both the cloud-based BlackBerry Enterprise Service and their shift into providing support for other devices to hook into their cloud and enjoy the same in-transit security as their devices to emerge over the next few months as RIM starts enticing customers back into their fold.

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