Samsung Throws Down The Mobile B2B Gauntlet With New SaaS And Security Announcements

Taher Behbehani, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Mobile B2B Division, Samsung Electronics America
 SAMSUNG

While much of the world grinded to an uneasy standstill over the last several months, Samsung’s Mobile B2B division has been busy behind the scenes. The company has dropped several big announcements since April that may have flown under the radar in the midst of the Covid-19 hubbub. Today I wanted to dive deeper into some of these news items, in case you missed them. The announcements center around Samsung’s Mobile B2B business —specifically its software-as-a-service (SaaS) efforts and its Knox mobile enterprise security solutions. I’ve seen alot of activity from this business unit in particular, which I believe is due in part to the leadership of Taher Behbehani, the unit’s GM in the U.S., and the message he and Samsung are telegraphing to the industry, loud and clear: “We’re open, we’re secure, we partner, we pay attention, and we’re flexible.” Hard to argue with that value prop. Let’s take a closer look at the recent Mobile B2B announcements, and how they fit into this vision.

AppStack

The latest piece of Samsung news is AppStack, the company’s new, cloud-based Software-as-a-Service marketplace. Featuring a curated selection of tools for the purpose of enterprise productivity, collaboration, project management and online operation, Samsung says the offering is designed to “cut through the din” of the overgrown large enterprise software market. Just explore for yourself the myriad of complexity in finding mobile business apps and after a few hours I guarantee your head will be swimming. While AppStack is open to all businesses, this curated selection is meant to cater specifically to the small-to-medium business demographic (SMBs)—who Samsung calls “the lifeblood” of the economy. Small and medium businesses represent the overwhelming amount of GDP so I agree.

While many large enterprises are already well on their way in their digital transformation journeys, SMBs face a particular challenge in adapting to the current largely-remote work environment: many don’t have full-time IT staff, resources, and often, budget necessary to manage the new normal.

Samsung’s new AppStack SaaS marketplace
 SAMSUNG

In addition to culling a smaller selection of trusted, vetted enterprise apps for these SMBs to choose from, AppStack also benefits from Samsung’s very large partner network. Thanks to the company’s relationship with its many enterprise partners, AppStack is able to deliver competitive discounts and savings based on how many apps are bought. Even further savings are possible when customers purchase new Samsung devices to leverage their new software.

I believe another benefit of AppStack is that customers gain access to free application trials, so that they can take them for a test spin before pulling the trigger. Also handy is the store’s centralized and billing support system, which enables customers to manage all app subscriptions from one account, with one set of credentials. Samsung says it will continue to build upon the platform, adding more apps to address many different specific industries.

A “sweet” new security bundle

Back in April, Samsung unveiled its new Knox Suite offering, a bundle of the company’s popular Knox security offerings for the mobile enterprise sector. Samsung touts the suite’s end-to-end security coverage and flexibility, evidenced by the offering’s ability to, in Samsung’s words, “secure, deploy, and manage devices throughout their lifecycle.”

The suite contains four Knox offerings: Knox Platform for Enterprise, Knox Mobile Enrollment, Knox Manage, and Knox E-FOTA. The benefits of having these bundled in a single offering include the need for only one unified license key, one unified SKU (and pricing), and more consolidated market communication. Additionally, users can access all four offerings via Samsung’s Account SSO. Additionally, Samsung says that all of its Knox products will be combined into a single, unified user interface and dashboard for IT administrators, a move that the company says will streamline customer onboarding and allow for more in-depth EMM integrations.

Knox Platform for Enterprise

Let’s walk through the four offerings included in Knox Suite one by one to understand what they bring to the package. First, let’s look at Knox Platform for Enterprise (or KPE for short). Samsung describes KPE as a “defense-grade” solution that enables admins to manage and secure Samsung devices for the enterprise—devices such as Android phones, tablets and Tizen watches, amongst others. It does so by applying advanced mobile security management features to the devices’ underlying Android operating system.

As many would tell you, proper device security begins at the hardware level. This means that KPE’s security protocol actually begin in manufacturing, ensuring all Samsung devices feature a built-in Root of Trust on which the other secure components rely upon. This root contains elements such as irretrievable device-unique hardware keys and one-time programmable fuses. On top of this hardware-backed, trusted environment, KPE utilizes features such as Knox Verified Boot, which monitors for both unauthorized or obsolete bootloaders, making sure the device only boots from legitimate, up-to-date bootloaders. While a device is running, KPE maintains this high level of trust by monitoring and preventing kernel attacks, via its Real-time Kernel Protection feature. Additionally, while the device is in use, IT admins can verify security through Samsung’s Device Health Attestation.

Data protection is another area where KPE shines, encrypting data at rest both when the device is powered on and when it is powered off. Secure application and data containers are also available to enable data isolation (which IT admins can apply separate security policies to). KPE also features multiple different VPN options to protect data in transit, in accordance to enterprises’ various needs. All of this results in an impressively granular degree of device management all the way down to the system level, wherein admins can implement “hundreds of differentiated security policies.”

Lastly, in terms of monitoring, KPE provides network analysis tools for mobile software and network use, misconfiguration, and network-based threats.  Additionally, admins have  real-time access to the device to quickly and remotely troubleshoot issues, without the need for third-party solutions. 

Knox Mobile Enrollment

The next one of the big four is Knox Mobile Enrollment, which gives admins the ability to deploy thousands of Samsung devices for their enterprise, all in one fell swoop—no need to do each one manually. Employees simply power on their new devices (pre-registered to the service by IT), connect to the network, and are then automatically added to the company MDM/EMM provider. Gone is the necessity of IMEI management and verification. Once devices have been enrolled, even if they end up being factory reset, they will automatically reinstall the MDM/EMM and re-enroll the user. This is zero-touch deployment at its best, and it should be a great boon to large enterprises with many employees and many, many devices.

Knox Manage

Speaking of MDM/EMM, that brings us to the next component of the Knox Suite: Knox Manage. This offering provides a cloud-based MDM/EMM solution that enables admins to remotely perform device management and configuration, sans the need for system integration. Together with Knox Mobile Enrollment, explained above, Knox Manage claims to significantly reduce the effort and time needed to set up an enterprise environment.

Knox Manage provides a smorgasbord of policies it can apply to corporate devices, such as approved and unapproved certain websites or applications, or pushing certain required apps and files to the user’s device. Admins can implement policies such as restricting the device to specific work applications or applying different event-based policy sets depending on time and other factors. With user permission, Knox Manage can even be used to track the device’s GPS location.

Crucial to Knox Manage is that it features Multi-OS support. In addition to supporting all Samsung devices on Android, it supports other devices running on Android, iOS, and Windows 10

Knox E-FOTA

The last of the four Knox Suite offerings is Knox E-FOTA, or Knox Enterprise Firmware-Over-The-Air. Knox E-FOTA allows admins to remotely manage their fleet of devices’ firmware versions, making sure all devices are up-to-date with the latest patches. Administrators have the ability to test updates before they push them out to users, which enables them to check compatibility with their custom, in-house apps. Additionally, the offering can be leveraged to selectively update OS versions to guarantee compatibility with these in-house apps. Otherwise, the updates would either be blocked outright, or only allowed when upgrading to the latest iteration of the operating system.

A key part of this offering, like the other three, is that they do not necessitate end-user interaction. Admins can force all devices on their network to update their OS, which promises to make management more consistent and efficient. Additionally, Knox E-FOTA allows admins to set OS updates for a scheduled day and time to avoid any potential business interruptions. End users are not interrupted when admins update their operating systems, and unattended devices may also be kept up to date. In the event of an unexpected security issue during an update, the most recent security patches will kick into action.

Selectively update operating systems with Knox E-FOTA.
 SAMSUNG

Wrapping up

Samsung’s Mobile B2B unit has never looked better, in my opinion. Its platform is increasingly well-developed, open, flexible and secure and the new products and services are coming at a dizzying pace. The bundling of Samsung’s Knox offerings into Knox Suite stands to streamline the deployment of end-to-end enterprise security, which, with the dramatic influx of remote workers, has never be more important to achieve quickly and efficiently.

When I asked Taher Behbehani about his elevator value proposition pitch on a recent call, he cited the platform’s best-in-class devices, security software and apps, and the crucial ability for businesses and developers to essentially design Samsung’s B2B mobile platform to suit their specific needs. Complimenting this, of course, are the various 3rd party software and cloud applications from Samsung’s extensive partner network, available in the new AppStack SaaS marketplace. I would also add that the Samsung brand carries a lot of weight—it’s a trusted company with a long and impressive track record. Just the sort of company SMBs and others need to be looking to for guidance and help on their digital transformation journeys. Whether you’re a SMB, a large enterprise, a developer, a 3rd party vendor, Samsung’s platform is open for business, and likely has a value proposition well-suited to your specific needs. Color me impressed.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.