With the proliferation of mobile devices, there’s a need for businesses to provide syncing of personal data (e.g., email, contacts, calendar and files) and the ability to remotely manage devices to enforce security policies and offer anti-theft protection.
There are many solutions out there from the mobile OS platforms, wireless carriers and third-party software vendors. Although some solutions have been around for many years, most are still evolving due to the wide range of today’s mobile devices.
Here are some open source solutions that stand out for their ability to provide data synchronization and device management functionality.
Funambol provides a server for data syncing and device management, supporting the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) DM 1.2 and SyncML standards.
The server enables data synchronization (contacts, calendars, tasks and notes, media, files) between mobile devices, PCs, the cloud, back-end data sources, and clients like Outlook, Gmail and Facebook. It also supports push email to client devices. Since the data is synced in the cloud, end users can view and edit their PIM data via an AJAX web portal.
The Device Management (DM) functionality provides device management capabilities for a wide range of devices, specifically supporting 3G- and 4G-capable devices. Supported devices can include smartphones, residential gateways, USB data dongles, and mobile data enabled video cameras and even smart power meters.
This DM functionality enables bootstrap, configuration, control, update and monitoring of any OMA DM supported device. It can collect QoS statistics from devices and provide software provisioning. It also supports upgrading firmware over the air and remote locking and wiping in case of loss or theft.
The Funambol server can be installed on Windows and GNU/Linux platforms and is available in two editions. The open source Community Edition can be downloaded for free, as well as the clients. The Carrier Edition is available commercially and includes enhanced features and functionality, including scalability and high availability.
Zimbra is a traditional email and collaboration groupware solution that also supports mobile device synchronization. Although Zimbra offers a full-featured solution, the open source server has limited features and functionality.
The open source Zimbra server supports POP/IMAP email and CardDAV, iCal and CalDAV for contacts and calendars. It offers a web-based AJAX interface for accessing email, address book, calendar, tasks and files. In addition to a regular web interface, Zimbra features an interface optimized for mobile devices. Mobile syncing and push notifications, however, aren’t supported for mobile devices. Although Zimbra also lacks Outlook support, it includes and supports the Zimbra desktop client for Windows, Mac and Linux.
The open source Zimbra edition is downloadable in binary format for many 32- and 64-bit Unix and Linux platforms: Red Hat Enterprise, Ubuntu, SUSE, Linux Enterprise Server, Debian and Fedora.
Zarafa is another traditional email and collaboration groupware solution that supports mobile device synchronization. ActiveSync-compatible devices are supported via Z-Push and BlackBerry devices on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).
Z-Push is an open-source ActiveSync implementation that provides email, contacts, calendar and tasks syncing in Zarafa. All devices using the ActiveSync standard are compatible, including iOS, Android, Windows Mobile and Palm. Zarafa provides syncing over-the-air and is compatible with the native email client of devices. It supports message searching and folder management, opening and viewing attachments, and managing calendar events (accept/decline meetings).
BlackBerry device support is provided in the Professional and Enterprise editions of Zarafa and requires the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) or the free BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express (BES Express). It provides synchronization of email, address book and calendar. You can search messages and open and view attachments. You can also create calendar appointments and meetings and accept or decline meeting invitations.
Zarafa also features Outlook sync support, but with the open source edition it’s limited to three users.
In addition to data syncing, the Mobile Device Management (MDM) plugin of Zarafa allows users to remotely wipe their own mobile devices over the Web access.
The Zarafa community version is available in precompiled packages for Unix/Linux platforms (Red Hat Enterprise, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Debian and Ubuntu) or as source code that you can compile yourself.
4. Enterprise iOS Controller
Enterprise iOS Controller is a small, simple open source project created by Haruhiko Nishi. It allows remote security policy enforcement on iOS 4 and 5 devices whose MS Exchange settings are configured to point to the server. Compared to other MDM solutions, like those offered by Apple, it’s very primitive, but again it’s free and open source.
Enterprise iOS Controller uses the ActiveSync technology, particularly the mobile device management commands. It allows remote security policy enforcement (including camera and Safari browser control) and remote wiping. The data synchronization of ActiveSync for Tasks, Calendar and Mail forwarding is not yet supported, but the developer plans to add them later, or you can try developing yourself via the published source code.