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Today's iOS 7 downloads an unprecedented challenge for IT

John Cox | Sept. 19, 2013
Updating Apple's OS and apps, managing bandwidth, app glitches all on menu.

Apple iOS devices are not alone in inflating these bandwidth demands. Spain points out that the Google Chromebook laptops automatically check for a firmware update every time they boot up. For a school or university deploying Chromebooks, that amounts to hundreds or even thousands of megabytes.

JAMF itself will be using Apple's own caching service via OS X, Apple's desktop and server operating system. The pending OS X Mavericks server release, version 10.9 will offer expanded use of Caching Server. Previously, only Mac App Store updates could be mirrored. Mavericks extends this to iOS 7 devices. Computerworld columnist Ryan Faas, in his detailed walk-through of the Mavericks release, says Apple apparently also will support hosting apps as well as updates. "That will be a powerful addition to any app management system that Apple offers," he says.

But the potential challenges are not only to the network. Unlike with past corporate standards like BlackBerry phones and Microsoft Windows laptops, corporate IT lacks the power to control or even defer iOS downloads. Users receive an alert on their iPhone or iPad that the new OS is available and can choose to download it right then. And the same goes with apps.

Cisco, other WLAN vendors, as well as MDM vendors are adding applications to give IT groups much greater visibility into these traffic patterns, down to the application level.

"We have seen in the past that within three days of availability, more than 50 percent of the [enterprise] users have upgraded," says Thomas Lippert, senior product manager for mobile, at Sophos, a mobile device management (MDM) vendor. "Enterprise IT needs to live with that and prepare itself."

In a separate study, app management vendor Crittercism found that 80 percent of all iOS users upgrade within three months.

Radically redesigned, iOS 7 is the biggest change to the iPhone and iPad user interface since the firmware was introduced in mid-2007 on the first iPhone.

"From the testing we have done with iOS pre-release software, most enterprise-related IOS functions should continue to work," says Matt Vlasach, director of mobile products, Unwired Revolution. "Core iOS enterprise capabilities, such as Mail, Contacts, and Calendars via Exchange Active Sync, appear to be stable. But as we have seen with previous iOS releases, even minor ones, there may be hidden bugs in the code or environmental-specific issues that may impact service availability to end-users."

There's been a realization that more testing in advance of the release is increasingly important. Many IT groups have joined Apple's developer program to gain access to the iOS 7 beta releases since June, when it was unveiled at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. They've been testing the OS and apps on existing hardware, sometimes taking advantage of Apple's "golden master" release to run a complete final test.


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