Macs in Enterprise: Management Headaches Linger

Even as the number of Macs in the enterprise rises, some management challenges remain. Will a cross-vendor developer alliance help? For some customers, desktop virtualization provides a shortcut to a mixed environment.

Mon, March 01, 2010

CIO — Are you bringing Macs to your corporate environment? Many folks in corner offices want them. Other staffers envy creative co-workers' Macs and want them too. Each year, more Macs make their way into organizations and industries.

Bringing Macs to the enterprise, though, isn't easy.

The road to Mac-PC nirvana has sharp turns and pitfalls, say Mac engineers. Few sign posts point the way to success for those integrating Macs in the enterprise. For instance, most enterprise Windows software vendors continue to pay Macs lip service while dragging their heels. And don't expect a lot of help from Apple (AAPL), Mac engineers add.

[ Mac engineers face three nightmares when managing Macs, reports. | More Macs are poised to enter the enterprise, survey says. ]

Yet there have been some encouraging developments lately for Macs in the enterprise. Desktop virtualization, which can eliminate some of the hassles around desktop operating systems, has started to take hold. Also, IBM just joined the Enterprise Desktop Alliance, a group of software developers who've banded together to deploy and manage Macs in the enterprise.

Two out of three IT administrators at large organizations with Macs and PCs said they expect to see an increase in the number of Macs this year, according to results of a survey of 322 IT administrators released last week by the Enterprise Desktop Alliance. As Macs drive deeper into companies, the pressure is on IT folks to support them.

The Enterprise Desktop Alliance survey points to big Mac integration issues plaguing IT staffs today. Chief among them are: security and file sharing between operating systems, client management, backup and data recovery of Mac files, Active Directory integration, application compatibility, configuration consistency, cross-platform help desk and knowledge base support, and standard management utilities for both Macs and PCs.

A Decade of Challenges

Ben Hanes, senior systems administrator at Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute, has been dealing with these issues for years. His three-person team supports some 400 people from 30 different labs using 500 machines that are equally split between Macs and PCs.

"It's always been a challenge because we have Windows file servers," Hanes says. "Microsoft (MSFT) has not been a friend [in supporting Macs]. For many years, Macs have been a second-class citizen."

Hanes and other Mac engineers complain that problems with the 2003 transition to Mac OS X still rankle some users and even today, Apple doesn't give them a roadmap for products. They need this sort of heads up to test upcoming Apple products and make sure they work flawlessly in their environments before users demand them. "We would really love to see Apple take a stand, but that's not happening," Hanes says.

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