On Tuesday, Symantec announced it will acquire Nukona – an application management solution. Haven’t heard of them?

I don’t blame you. And here’s why: The scope of mobile management is confusing and expansive, including things like mobile device management (MDM), persona separation technology, enterprise application stores, application management and a slew of other tools. Some vendors focus purely on one mobile management category, like device management, while plenty of others tackle two or three different enterprise challenges. At the same time, this market is evolving so fast that any assessment of the technologies and their vendors is out of date within 2-3 months.

But before I explain why Symantec’s acquisition is so important, let me give some more context. Mobile management has three main components which I&O professionals are thinking about, the device, the apps, and the data. Today, most first firms follow a very similar path: devices first – get an MDM solution to provide some control over the environment, set a mobile policy for employees, and start trying to figure out what to do about applications and data. Realistically, MDM only solves your challenge around device control – probably the least important of the three. That’s the path that many vendors are following today. As the MDM market becomes more commoditized, most vendors are turning their engineers towards data protection and sharing tools and application management technology. Had a conversation about Dropbox or Box.net lately? That’s a conversation about both apps and the data.

What makes the application and data management piece so tricky at this point is the incredible diversity of enterprise application portfolios moving forward. Apps developed in-house or purchased from an enterprise application provider are one thing, but what’s really concerning is the influx of consumer applications – especially those which sync with cloud services. Nukona is one of a handful of vendors addressing this problem with app wrapping technology to allow firms to control policy and access around individual applications.

At the end of the day, navigating the change and choices is a huge challenge for IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals or any mobile professional tasked with creating their organization’s mobile and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy. Having the technology to address specific mobile challenges is all well and good but most firms don’t really have the time, budget, or energy to evaluate 50 solutions in each individual mobile technology space. I&O managers struggling with mobile should take notice and remember that your mobile strategy isn’t complete with MDM alone. Applications and data will ultimately be where you need to spend most of your resources because it’s where your employees, clients, and partners are spending their time.

And this is what makes Symantec’s acquisition of Nukona (as well as Odyssey Software a month prior) so valuable to I&O professionals developing and managing mobile strategies. This is a major signal that the mobile management space is growing up since there is finally a single solution to address what I&O professionals care about today: devices, apps, and data. Sure, we have a ways to go. There are plenty of issues around managing and securing access which will need to be addressed. and we’ve got plenty of product evolution (and confusion) to go in the market – but we’re moving in the right direction.