Mac OS infused with tools of the corporate IT trade

Mac OS infused with tools of the corporate IT trade

Mac has started to seep into IT's consciousness, but there is still a lot of prejudice out there

Parallels is a company that develops virtualization software for the Mac that lets Windows, open source and Mac operating systems run simultaneously.

That's the type of innovation that is moving the Mac up the enterprise ladder.

"These capabilities help form a migration strategy," says Paul Suh, president of ps Enable, a consulting firm that specializes in systems integration and security for the Mac operating system and Mac OS X Server.

"There are lots of enterprise apps written to talk to massive databases or transaction-processing systems that would take years to rewrite. OK, so when you need to talk to those systems, you fire up the virtual machines and use it," Suh says.

However, Suh, who spent eight years at Apple beginning in the late '90s, admits it is not a perfect system, given the added support load over a single operating system environment.

The desktop, however, isn't the only place Apple has features enticing to corporations.

Mac OS X Server provides file and print, cross-platform management, security, and collaboration features, as well as support for POP and IMAP mail, FTP, DNS, and DHCP.

Apple's Xsan and Xgrid add storage-area networking and clustering options, and the server comes with an unlimited client license for no additional cost.

Apple also has added such open source packages as Apache, Samba, Kerberos, Postfix, Jabber, SpamAssassin and OpenLDAP; and has integrated them in a unified management interface.

OpenLDAP lets the Mac OS X Server plug into Microsoft's Active Directory and Novell's eDirectory. The server's Kerberos infrastructure supports single sign-on, and the platform integrates with NT Domain services, so the server can function as a Primary Domain Controller or Backup Domain Controller in a Windows environment. That configuration lets Windows users authenticate against Mac OS X Server directly from their PC logon.

In Leopard, Apple will add a new iCal server, wiki server, content-searching features and podcast producer as proof that Apple is not playing catch-up but is out in front of the curve on providing social-networking tools.

Despite all those features, there are still some worms at Apple's core.

The company has no formal support infrastructure that rivals its famous, consumer-support Apple Store Genius Bar; and its selling focus is decidedly in the consumer market.

"To be successful with businesses, they would have to build up an enterprise selling organization if they wanted to gain greater growth in corporate environments," says Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

Others say Apple would need to rely on partnerships to open enterprise doors.

"Intel has a good-sized global sales organization; could Apple do a partnership with Intel? Sure, that is always a possibility," says Gartner's Baker.

In the end, some suggest, the big corporate milestone for Apple comes down to getting Mac into the heads and hands of the right people and letting the platform woo converts.

"I guess I still don't see Mac having crossed the awareness gap," says ps Enable's Suh. "It has started to seep into IT consciousness, but there is still a lot of prejudice out there, with some saying Mac is not ready for prime time. Until that awareness gap is closed, then everything else is secondary."

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