Apple’s growing enterprise presence is an international affair, spawning a host of supporting companies and technology integrators and a growing community of Apple-focused enterprise technology pros. I spoke to three key Mac solutions providers for enterprise IT to get a sense of where things stand.
Apple Silicon, pandemic drive growth
Apple has shown over and over that macOS and Macs are fit for purpose in the enterprise, and this is spawning rapid expansion of the Apple enterprise tech sector. This expansion is also reflected in the growing global community of Apple-focused admins.
Now in its fifth year, MacAD (the Mac Administrator and Developer Conference) is a unique UK event focused on Apple professionals working in that space. It is aimed at Apple administrators who are deploying Apple’s kit in their industries, or thinking of doing so. The conference is backed by Amsys and runs March 29-30 in Brighton.
Amsys is the leading Apple Authorized Training Organization in Europe. CEO Alex Hawes explained why it launched MacAD. “(It) was conceived by two of our technical consultants…who wanted to ramp things up and run a conference in the style of other international events, drawing in speakers from around the world from major players in the community,” he said.
The main topics this year reflect the challenges most enterprises have faced over the last couple of years, Hawes confirmed. That means speakers will discuss device management, endpoint security and identity management, and the challenge of supporting new working practices.
Conference sponsors include JumpCloud, DataJAR, and many other familiar names from the expanding world of the Apple enterprise, including Jamf, Addigy, and others.
The impact of Apple Silicon
JumpCloud provides a cloud directory platform used by 150,000 organizations to navigate the multi-cloud world. It’s like Microsoft Active Directory for the rest of us (including Windows). Tom Bridge, principal product manager for JumpCloud, says there’s “no question” the Mac admin community is growing.
“Apple continues to make the Mac an attractive platform for organizations to use and embrace, no matter what industry you’re in. It’s never been a better time to be a Mac Admin,” he said.
The move to Apple Silicon has helped. Bridge calls this the “single most important hardware development Apple has made for Mac admins,” and notes the transition has been a “very good experience,” particularly as the Rosetta 2 framework is excellent at running non-native Mac code.
James Ridsdale is founder and director of services of DataJAR, a business/education-focused Apple device management solutions provider. He calls the move to Apple Silicon “great news” for enterprises who deploy the new Macs. “The arrival of the M1 Max and Pro at the end of last year…, running at up to four or two times the speed of the original M1, means there is a Mac for every employee’s needs,” he said.
“Apple is making in-roads in so many different organizations in different industries with different needs,” he said.
This is prompting increased deployment of the company’s products across the enterprise, while the impact of employee choice schemes continues to be felt. “I have seen a bigger range of devices in businesses, both a mix of different Windows machines from different vendors, and more Macs,” he said. “This helps individuals feel more productive, but it does add more of a management headache if you are not prepared for it.”
Jamf CEO Dean Hager last week told me: “Today, virtually every Fortune 500 company, most of them Jamf customers, deploys Macs somewhere within their business. In some industries, Mac has already become the standard — like technology, where many Silicon Valley companies deploy Mac, as opposed to Windows, as their standard platform for employees.”
How the pandemic changed everything
The pandemic impacted businesses everywhere. JumpCloud’s Bridge saw many clients spending on security and support tools to manage the change to hybrid work. The move also exposed problems around tracking system updates across a company’s fleet, forcing remote tech support teams to find new ways to encourage users to upgrade.
Large MDM vendors such as Jamf have solutions to help with this, but not all solutions are equal. Apple Business Essentials, for example, is excellent at handling many tasks, but less effective at handling Managed Apple IDs due to its lack of connectivity to non-Azure IDPs or a bulk Apple ID import tool, Bridge notes.
Hybrid workplace will prevail, he believes. “That can only be good for admins, as their role to help make work happen easily is essential,” Bridge said.
Demand for remote business support will continue and become more sophisticated over time as companies continue to develop their approach to new remote/hybrid working practice.
“We saw companies struggle to keep up and support large scale remote working programs because they found it difficult to enforce security policies or manage identities at the start. Those demands have not gone away, but it is now easier to deliver those projects and keep them running smoothly,” Bridge said.
Does your business have cash to burn?
For years, each time you spoke with an IT pro from any enterprise, you’d hear them repeat the claim that Macs are too expensive, or more expensive to run. This has proved to be ahighly change-resistant myth, but does finally seem to be shifting, in part as awareness around total cost of ownership evolves.
“IT professionals must consider costs over the lifespan and replacement cycle of hardware. Macs outlast their PC equivalents and changes made by Microsoft have shone a stark light on how long it expects PC hardware to endure,” said Ridsdale.
He pointed out that long-term support from Microsoft is now down to five years. He also noted the “sheer administrative headache of dealing with the many, many flaws in Windows.”
A move to Macs means happier users, less overhead and “no sudden changes that could render your estate obsolete overnight,” he said. “It is not a question of whether Macs are expensive – they are not. It is a question of how much longer you can keep burning cash on the alternative,” he said.