Spotlight: Enterprise Mobility

Enterprise mobility 2024: Welcome, genAI

Many of the buzziest IT trends — low-code automation, digital employee experience, and yes, even generative AI — are making their way into the major mobility management platforms. Here’s what to look for in 2024 and beyond.

uem vendors 2022 cw primary
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Generative artificial intelligence (genAI) has become a focal point for many organizations over the past year, so it should come as no surprise that the technology is moving into the enterprise mobility space, including unified endpoint management (UEM).

“Generative AI is the latest trend to impact the UEM space,” says Andrew Hewitt, principal analyst, Forrester. “This has been the main topic of interest in the last year. We see generative AI having impacts in multiple areas, such as script creation, knowledge-based article creation, NLP [natural language processing]-based querying of endpoint data, and help desk chatbots. All of these are considerations for inclusion within the UEM stack.”

There is “tremendous potential” for genAI to augment digital workplace operations, but there’s been limited adoption within UEM tool vendors so far, says Tom Cipolla, senior director analyst at research firm Gartner.

“We expect this [to] rapidly change as vendors realize the additional revenue opportunity associated with genAI-augmented tools and customers fully embrace genAI as a force multiplier,” Cipolla says.

[ Free download: UEM vendor comparison chart 2024 ]

GenAI makes its UEM debut

In December 2023, VMware announced it was making genAI-powered scripting capabilities available in its Workspace ONE UEM platform for US customers on a tech preview (pre-beta) basis. This is the first feature enabled by genAI for the platform.

The new feature allows users to generate scripts automatically based on a prompt provided by the product’s administrator. The scripts use best practices, but the admin has the opportunity to review and modify the output, according to VMware.

The genAI engine supports multiple scripting languages such as PowerShell, Bash, and Python, supporting users who switch between different languages within Workspace ONE for both Windows and macOS platforms.

Microsoft in November 2023 announced that its Security Copilot, a genAI-assisted cybersecurity tool, can be integrated with its cloud-based UEM offering, Intune. This allows organizations to use endpoint data to inform the health and security of their digital estate, according to the company.

Microsoft, which made the new capability available as a private preview for select customers of the Security Copilot Early Access Program, says it gives security teams “unprecedented visibility” across security data with full device context, real-time guidance when creating policies in Intune, and the ability to discover and remediate the root cause of device issues faster.

Consolidation rules

Over the past year there has been an increasing push toward consolidation in device and user management, Hewitt says, not just in terms of moving management of all operating systems under one roof but also bringing third-party tools such as patch, digital employee experience (DEX), and remote control into the UEM platform stack as well.

“While the convergence of UEM with endpoint security has not materialized, we do see increasing interest in bringing vulnerability management data into the patch management stack,” Hewitt says. “Overall, IT admins are facing significant pressures to reduce cost, and consolidation is one of the key ways to do that.”

For example, analytics tools are emerging as new features in UEM products, says Phil Hochmuth, program vice president, enterprise mobility, at IDC. These include DEX tools that help IT teams figure out how users work with their devices and what areas of frustration can be fixed, he says. They can help teams analyze telemetry data gathered from UEM platforms. “Also, automation and AI-based features around patching anomaly detection and remediation are emerging,” he says.

Another key trend underway is the use of low-code automation with systems. “Low-code is something frequently offered within the UEM platform as a way to orchestrate policy,” Hewitt says. “Ivanti and VMware both support this today.”

State of play

While there have not been major changes in the UEM market over the past year, the industry is watching to see what happens with VMware now that Workspace ONE will be spun out from Broadcom in the wake of Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware, Hewitt says. “This could have a significant impact on the UEM market, helping VMware to double down on the market but also giving other competitors a significant opportunity to gain market share,” he says.

And while there haven't been any new UEM entrants this year, “we have seen increasing interest in client management tools that focus on Windows, Linux, and macOS primarily, without a focus on mobile,” Hewitt says. “Tanium, NinjaOne, Automox, and Datto are examples of vendors that have come up frequently.”

Organizations remain focused on increasing patch velocity and effectiveness, “which has driven the majority to migrate from on-premises solutions to cloud-hosted UEM platforms over the last three years,” Cipolla says. “New vendor entrants to this market face challenges gaining market share, due to vendor lock-in, the technical and logistic complexity of migration to a new product, and fear of patching process disruption.”

The UEM market “is highly mature, with relatively consistent major feature capabilities displayed among the vendors,” Cipolla says. “Differentiation in the UEM tools market is exhibited primarily within the breadth and depth of the vendor’s [operating system] support, as well as their capabilities to accelerate and automate routine operations such as patching and configuration management.”

Pricing of platforms is on the rise, Cipolla says. “With most vendors, we have seen price increases to keep pace with inflation and rising costs,” he says. “Perpetual licensing continues to be phased out in favor of subscription-based licensing as well.”

Pricing models are still similar to a few years ago, “but we are seeing more bundling of UEM with other products from vendors with larger software portfolios,” says IDC’s Hochmuth. Among the products UEM is being bundled with are cybersecurity, IT service management, and patch management, he says.

Looking ahead

“We will likely see greater convergence between endpoint management and DEX tools this year,” Hewitt says. “The value of data is increasing within the UEM space, as it is an important driver of automation within the toolsets.”

Among the emerging UEM features and trends Cipolla is seeing are integration with threat intelligence services to provide additional context, integration with real-time vulnerability scanning, and third-party application package repositories to provide pre-packaged apps for rapid deployment. 

The future of the market is autonomous endpoint management (AEM), Cipolla says. AEM combines device patching and management capabilities from UEM tools, threat intelligence data to determine priorities for remediation, and endpoint performance and stability data from DEX tools to provide insights and remediation for impacts related to patching.

“Currently, AEM is mainly an approach made possible through using multiple tools,” Cipolla says. “However, some UEM vendors are in the process of adding native features as well as integrations with other tools to complete this vision.”

Over the next two to four years, Gartner anticipates that the inability of enterprise IT leaders and managed service providers to scale staffing levels and skill sets to meet ever-increasing business and cybersecurity demands will rapidly fuel the demand for AEM.

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This story was originally published in June 2015 and most recently updated in February 2024. Click through to subsequent pages to see how mobility management has evolved over the years.

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