Apple Macintosh users like to believe that they use the best computers around. And maybe they do. But from an IT-management perspective, Macs in mixed environments have often been treated as red-headed step-children. The next versions of KACE's KBOX Systems Management Appliance aims to level the playing field with Mac-management tools on par with its Windows offerings.Until recently, Mac management issues haven't been much of a problem. Mac market penetration was a paltry 5%, and many companies had so few Macs that they could easily manage them manually.
But Lubos Parobek, KACE's vice president of product management, says the company's midmarket customers have seen a surprising surge in the demand for Macs." KACE product manager Sendhil Jayachandran adds that 20% of KACE customers have Macs in their environments, accounting for 5% - 10% of toatl systems. Jayachandran cites an Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) survey showing that 68% of organizations are now willing to let users deploy Macs, up from ust 34% last year. According to the survey, problems with Vista and increased Mac compatibility with Windows tools such as Exchange could push Apple's corporate market share above 10% by 2011. Many of those new Macs will end up in mixed shops, co-existing with Windows machines.
But what about the argument from Mac loyalists that Apple products may need less management than PCs. But Lubos Parobek, KACE's vice president of product management, says that while there are definitely things that the Mac makes easier -- software distribution and virus protection, for instance -- as the installed base grows Macs begin to face "very similar" management issues to what PCs encounter. Even midsize shops can find themselves in an environment where they just can't handle things in a manual sneakernet environment.
According to Jayachandran, existing Mac management suites do a good job with Macs (though they often require Apple's $3,000 XServe), but can't handle mixed environments. And general management tools typically offer different levels of support for Macs than for PCs -- thus the second-class status.
The next release of KBOX, due to ship in August, will include several new Mac capabilities:
Pricing remains at $9,900 for the KBOX Systems Management Appliance and $4,900 for the KBOX Systems Deployment Appliance and existing KACE users will get free upgrades. Don't Miss: KACE Kontainers Use Virtualization To Help Distribute And Manage Applications
Look at it this way, the need for management of large fleets of Macs in mixed environments is a good problem for Apple -- and Mac users -- to have. It's a sign of increasing acceptance and may make it easier for Mac lovers to get their employers to support their platform of choice. From the IT perspective, the hassle of supporting multiple platforms will never completely go away. But the easier and less expensive it is, the more likely they'll be able to support business users in the way they want to work. And bMighty believes that kind of flexibility is yet another way for small and midsize companies to gain competitive advantages against hidebound enterprises.