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SAP Afaria is a mobile device management software product. It helps large organizations connect mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers to the company network, and to simplify the information technology (IT) tasks associated with buying, deploying, securing and maintaining such devices.
XcelleNet originally developed the product that would eventually become Afaria, releasing the first version, called SessionXpress, in 1997. It was the first product of the company’s Net-Essentials product suite, and allowed system administrators to remotely manage client systems, including disks, files and sessions. XcelleNet renamed the product to RemoteWare Express later that same year (1997), to CONNECT:Manage in 1999, and finally to Afaria in 2000.
Sterling Commerce acquired XcelleNet in 1998, renaming the software CONNECT:Manage (and the group Sterling Commerce Managed Systems Division), but then divested itself a year later. XcelleNet, Inc. became an independent, privately held company in February 2000, and released version 3.5 of the product in May 2000, as Afaria for Handhelds, and version 4.0 in June 2000 as Afaria.
Market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC) first recognized Afaria as the leader in mobile device management in June 2001, and has continued to do so every year since, through 2011. In 2011, Gartner identified Afaria as one of the top mobile device management platforms in the first Gartner Magic Quadrant report on the mobile device management market.
SAP Afaria uses a session-based approach when it communicates with mobile devices in the field. This allows it to circumvent issues related to intermittent connections caused by roaming devices that might lose their network connectivity during a data transmission in progress.
SAP Afaria organizes its tasks into worklists and sendlists. These are called channels. When a device, or "client," connects to the server (called a transmitter), the channels execute their tasks. Administrators manipulate the tasks in the channels using a graphical interface with a tree structure.
To download the device component of the software (called provisioning), an organization’s IT department sends an SMS or SMTP email to each device with a link to the Afaria server. End users (or IT) can click the link to start the download. Or users download the client from an online distribution platform and enter a short code that enrolls the device and applies policies.
Companies commonly use SAP Afaria to manage a large number of company-owned or employee-owned mobile devices that employees use for work. Due to the increasing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices in the general population, many people now bring their own devices (BYOD) to work. Companies are finding that they must support the use of employees' personal mobile devices in conjunction with corporate email and other applications. An organization that does so benefits from the increased engagement and productivity of its workforce, as employees are able to more easily respond to work tasks when they’re away from the office.
Mobile network operators and service providers are two other types of companies that frequently employ mobile device management software such as SAP Afaria.