MacIT conference puts enterprise shine on Apple platforms

MacIT conference puts enterprise shine on Apple platforms

Apple's presence has exploded in the enterprise, thanks to fast and wide adoption of iPhones and iPads. The annual Macworld|iWorld show in San Francisco next week for the first time is offering a separate conference, MacIT, dedicated to this unlikely success.

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Over the past decade, Macworld has treated enterprise Apple deployments as one track or theme of presentations in the conference. This year, MacIT will run at the same time and location, the Moscone conference center, but have its own conference sessions, venue and vendor exhibition space.

Macworld itself has been renamed "Macworld," to reflect the rise of Apple's mobile OS and the devices that use it. Both events are run by IDG World Expo, a unit of IDG Communications, the parent of Network World.

"Enterprise professionals can now access MacIT's technical agenda without having to navigate through the more general Mac and iPhone 'how tos' that we offer in the Macworld|iWorld event," says Paul Kent, general manager for the conference.

Over three days, starting Thursday, Jan. 26, MacIt will offer attendees nearly 40 sessions, presented by a mix of IT professionals overseeing Apple deployments, consultants working directly with enterprises on such projects and vendors targeting this market. The conference is expecting 400-500 MacIT attendees, about a 60% increase over 2011.

Sessions include a variety of end user case studies, plus a focus on digital certificates for Apple clients, Apple tools for iOS 5 deployment and management, remote and virtual desktops, deep dives into OS X Lion and Lion Server and tips on large-scale OS X and iOS deployments.

Though Apple has been setting Mac sales records, its real enterprise success in the past few years has been via its iOS mobile platform. And the MacIT conference's main themes this year reflect that, according to Kent, who points out a focus on topics such as mobile device management, mobile security, best practices in device deployment and enterprise mobile app development.

"In my experience, Apple has been experiencing greater penetration into the enterprise, and that penetration has been largely driven by iOS devices, iPhones and iPads primarily," says Benjamin Levy, principal with Solutions Consulting, a Los Angeles-based IT consultancy. "The iPhone and iPad are the best current implementations in their respective markets and it's impossible to tell a C-level executive that she or he can't use the device that gives them the best user experience and works within their existing infrastructure. The traditional arguments about an inability to manage the assets no longer hold water and previous IT department intransigence isn't being tolerated."

Levy is part of a MacIT panel talking about "Putting Business First, Technology Second," which looks at the issues of technology management to meet business needs, focusing on iOS-based mobile deployments.

At the same time, IT groups are discovering that iOS and its frameworks, APIs and tools add up to a stable, mature operating environment for enterprise users and IT.

For iOS, Apple offers the iPhone Configuration Utility, which also works on iPads, and tools built into OS X Lion Server via the Profile Manager, says Randy Saeks, network manager for Northbrook/Glenview School District 30, Northbrook, Ill. "These allow you to manage the device settings but not the content so much," he says. "iPhone Configuration Utility is really a one-time configuration since any changes to settings need to be reapplied via profiles."

Beyond the tools, Apple's APIs energize a healthy third-party software market. "[T]he real benefit is seen through the Mobile Device Management framework Apple has developed," according to Saeks. "This framework allows other companies to develop products with some really neat features that Apple presently does not have in its own products."

"For large enterprises, I know of at least 30 third-party mobile device management solutions from big name companies, so enterprises don't have to roll their own," says Derick Okihara, IT technician for Mid-Pacific Institute, a Honolulu, Hawaii, private coeducational college preparatory school, for preschool through 12th grade. "The biggest challenge might be choosing the right MDM solution for your organization, since there are so many. "

There are a couple of areas that could be improved by Apple, according to Saeks. "The main areas that I see for improvement are for the initial configuration, similar to imaging or deployment, and for pushing out applications," he says.

Saeks is speaking at MacIT on "Apple Tools for iOS 5 Deployment and Management." Okihara is talking on "Mobile Device Management for iOS and OS X."

By contrast to the pervasive presence of iOS, even in Microsoft-based enterprises, Mac OS X has much less penetration, and IT groups often have little idea of what the platform, and its third-party software partners, can actually do, says consultant Levy.

"For the Macintosh, Apple has Mac OS X Server and Apple Remote Desktop, both of which can scale quite large and are very powerful," he says. "Their combined power is excellent, and Mac OS X Server includes Mac OS-specific features like Software Update, NetBoot and NetInstall. There are also a host of third-party tools that can handle granular control over every aspect of the Mac OS X experience from vendors like JAMF and Absolute."

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: Email: Blog RSS feed:

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