BES 10

On Tuesday Research In Motion published a blog post talking about how enterprise messaging is handled on the PlayBook and BlackBerry 10. The article RIM posted was clearly in response to a story from BGR earlier that day.

The BES and BlackBerry 10 story can be a confusing one to follow, but it's one that has been unraveling throughout 2012. While the BGR story didn't deliver any new news, it prompted us to want to clear up some of the confusion that's out there.

These are the key points regarding the roll out of BlackBerry 10 devices in enterprise...

  • For enterprise mobile device management, BlackBerry 10 devices will require the new BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 (BES 10). 
  • BES 10 is not backwards compatible with existing BlackBerry phones, so companies transitioning to BlackBerry 10 will have to run legacy BES 5 and BES 10 servers in parallel during the changeover.
  • To simplify this setup for administrators, BES 10 will feature a unified console that can manage existing BES 5 servers. 
  • BES 5 is a mature product - while new feature development will cease beyond version 5.04, support for BES 5 in enterprise will continue for years to come.
  • BES 10, which is an extension of RIM's existing Mobile Fusion solution, can also manage Android and iOS devices allowing administrators to manage all of an enterprise's mobile devices within one dashboard.
  • For individuals and "bring your own device" users, Blackberry 10 can sync directly using ActiveSync (Exchange, Gmail), for email, calendar, and contacts, without the need for BES 10. 

If that's too clear, keep reading and we'll add some more color on what it all means.

Why is BlackBerry 10 not compatible with the existing BES 5 Servers?

RIM moved full-force behind the ActiveSync protocol with the transition to a QNX-based operating system. This protocol replaces the proprietary implementation of the older protocol, which RIM uses on BES 5 for connection to current BlackBerry 7 (and older) smartphones.

The move to ActiveSync is not news - we first learned about this switch to ActiveSync back at CES in January, when native email on the PlayBook was introduced. Even in 2011 we heard from many of our BES admin friends that RIM was notifying enterprises of this switch and its ramifications in regards to future server requirements. At BlackBerry World 2012 in May, there was much discussion on this very topic.

BES during the transition

Enterprises that use BES 5 will need to add BES 10 to support BlackBerry 10 devices. To simplify the management of mobile devices, BES 10's unified console can manage older BlackBerry Smarpthones on existing BES 5 servers, and in addition can also manage iOS and Android devices.

Since users will migrate from BB7 to BB10 over time, a multi-server deployment at a large enterprise will just shift from being 100% legacy BES, to eventually being 100% BES 10. While this happens, BES 10 makes the management of devices simple for IT, managing both the older and newer hardware via one console.

We spoke to several BES Admins at BlackBerry World about this. While all agreed that they would have rather seen the ability for existing BES servers to be able to run BlackBerry 10 devices, none that we talked to saw this requirement as a showstopper.

Running multiple servers is the norm. While managing the server transition as older BlackBerry OS handsets are replaced with BlackBerry 10 devices is a nuisance when it needs to be done, the ability to manage everything via one console day to day will make the enterprise transition to BlackBerry 10 relatively smooth.

The future of BES 5

So, is RIM stopping development on the BES 5? Yes, most likely that's exactly what they are doing. BES is a mature product that hasn't really seen much feature development over the last 5 years.

However a shift in R&D resources does not mean there will be less customer support. Obviously RIM will continue to support the legacy BES for years to come. A company that buys 1,000 BlackBerry 7 Smartphones today will still be able to run them five years from now just as effectively.

ActiveSync means non-BlackBerry shops can easily support BlackBerry 10

Historically, to run a BlackBerry phone in the enterprise environment the need for a BES server was a requirement due to RIM's proprietary implementation. The shift to ActiveSync puts BlackBerry 10 into the same playing field as iOS and Android.

In a BYOD environment this means that BlackBerry 10 devices can now be connected without the need of any additional BlackBerry server or management products, which was not the case in the past.

This means within a Microsoft Exchange/Google Apps environment, you could simply flip on the ActiveSync switch and connect a BlackBerry 10 device and it will work. This is the exactly the same as how BYOD iPad and iPhone owners connect to their enterprise networks, in many cases. Yes, you'll be missing the additional security and control that managing a BlackBerry via BES 10 provides, but it will work.

The bottom line is BlackBerry 10 gives IT more choice

With the shift to Bring Your Own Device in enterprise, the BES 10 / Mobile Fusion offering brings multi-vendor device management and offers the security and control that has always been a part of the BlackBerry DNA.

Still have questions? Drop them in the comments... we'll work on getting the answers and put it into an upcoming FAQ on this topic.