Thursday, November 6, 2008

There's nothing easy about letting Apple into the enterprise

Mac veterans say Apple doesn't always act like other technology partners. Today, half of Serena's workers opt for the MacBook over a Lenovo laptop according to their senior manager of worldwide IT operations. Not only have support calls declined, but users are also grateful for the choice.

In terms of enterprise penetration, Forrester Research says that Mac OS use rose from 3.6% in October 2007 to 4.5% in June 2008, based on more than 50,000 clients connecting to Forrester's Web site. And according to in Steve Jobs in his keynote address at the Apple World Wide Developer's Conference in June, 35% of the Fortune 500 are testing the iPhone's new enterprise features, including Walt Disney, Oracle, Genentech and Kraft Foods. Jobs also claimed that more than 250,000 developers have downloaded the iPhone SDK.

Outside of Apple's own efforts, five software companies formed an alliance in June to promote the use of the Mac in the corporate environment, including Atempo, Centrify, Group Logic , LANrev and Parallels.

The group, dubbed the Enterprise Desktop Alliance, says its products enable IT organizations to deploy, integrate and manage Macs, using the same standard tools used for Windows. It claims that enterprises can achieve the same level of control, security, policy compliance and services that they currently have with their Windows platforms.

Meanwhile, some users contend that the perception that Macintoshes don't play well in the enterprise is largely exaggerated. Ben Hanes, senior systems analyst at Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), in Oakland, Calif., has been supporting Macintoshes for more than five years. Half of the research organization's 600 computers are Macs, with about two dozen running Parallels virtualization software.

Hanes' data center is a mix of Apple and Windows servers, with Windows running on the database and file servers, and Apple Xserves running applications that touch the Web, including a mail server, a Web server and an iChat server. "I definitely stick to the philosophy that whatever is on the perimeter is Apple technology because it's proven to be secure," Hanes says.

According to Hanes, the Macintosh desktops plug into the network "just like a PC," thanks to products like ExtremeZ-IP from Group Logic, which enable file and printer sharing between Mac desktops and the Windows server. Hanes says he has successfully integrated Macintosh desktops with Active Directory, using the "golden triangle" strategy, in which Mac clients authenticate with Active Directory while getting managed group settings from a Mac OS X server.

Hanes believes his team has been successful deploying Apple technology in part because they conduct a lot of research, apply a lot of scrutiny before making final decisions, and keep an open mind about what they use, including open-source technology. For instance, he says it took a year to establish that the team would use Communigate Pro from Communigate Systems for its e-mail server. And for its antivirus platform, CHORI selected Sophos because it enables both Macs and PCs to be viewed on one console.

Hanes does use Apple's Xserve RAID technology but says the company's move away from storage doesn't concern him. "They've certified EMC software to work with Apple," he says, "so switching will be a trivial thing."

As for service, Hanes says he has certified CHORI as a self-service shop, which means it gets the same rights as a Macintosh repair consultant, such as next-day parts delivery. You need to have 150 Macintoshes to qualify, he says. Hanes also participates in Apple beta programs and NDAs.
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