Everyone knows RIM made the Blackberry. The Blackberry got its start in 1999 as a simple two way communication device, not unlike a pager. It rapidly became the device of choice for enterprise users and became a status symbol for executives and managers alike.
Blackberry’s success wouldn’t have been possible without their Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) technology. A middleware platform that connected a company’s email system to Blackberry devices out in the field. The original BES platform launched in June 1999 and grew from version 1.6 to modern day version 5.x.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of version growth for 14 years but the device software doesn’t undergo significant changes often enough to warrant frequent changes to the BES system.
In January 2013, RIM, now Blackberry, released the Z10. A full touch screen device aimed at competing with Google, Apple and Microsoft. The Z10 touted something brand new – the highly anticipated Blackberry OS 10. BBOS 10 is based upon brand new code acquired from QNX Software Systems. With this release, Blackberry felt it necessary to update their BES system to accommodate all the new functionality of the Z10, the newly released Q10, and future BBOS 10 and above devices.
Alongside the Z10, Blackberry launched Blackberry Enterprise Service 10 (aka BES10). BES10 incorporates Blackberry Fusion along with the redesigned Blackberry Device Service into a new BES platform. The underpinnings of BES10 are very similar to BES5.
However, they were kind enough to say that BES5 platforms could not support BBOS 10 devices, and BES10 would not be backward-compatible with older devices. Furthermore, BES5 CALs cannot be used for BBOS 10 devices and BES10 CALs cannot be used for older devices.
Sounds like an awesome plan to milk corporate customers for more money doesn’t it? It was also viewed as possibly the biggest reason Blackberry wouldn’t succeed at retaking the corporate world.
Sensing this, Blackberry put a program in place until the end of 2013 to ease the transition period for companies. As a company, you can convert BES5 CALs one-for-one to BES10 CALs for free. It sounds wonderful. Now companies don’t have to fork over huge amounts of money to re-license users who want to move to the newer devices. There’s a catch, albeit a reasonable one, though. At the end of this conversion program, all converted BES10 CALs that are unused (that is, unassigned to BBOS 10 devices), will revert back to BES5 CALs. At this point, the company will be responsible for purchasing new CALs, creating duplication in the environment and unnecessarily adding to the expense of running a BES10 platform.
As an IT professional, am I happy about this? Do I enjoy running TWO BES platforms in my environment, adding to the maintenance required and creating another point of failure? No. I expected Blackberry to issue a new version, like Blackberry Enterprise Server 6, that would incorporate support for existing and new devices. I expected much more than what looks like a cash grab to bolster their bottom line. Instead, they’ve made me consider BYOD even further.