Apple throws out its enterprise playbook (and cancels some products)
Over the past few years, Apple subtly shifted its enterprise focus away from its own solutions. While still updating and supporting OS X Server and the Xserve, the company began building enterprise integration as a hallmark of OS X and iOS, offering features like Active Directory, Exchange and, more recently, Windows distributed file system support.
This support at the client and device level allowed enterprise customers to integrate Apple's desktop and mobile products without the need for an investment in back-end Apple solutions. At the same time, a growing market of third-party enterprise integration and management tools began to mature, offering added features and options when it came to supporting hardware like MacBooks and iPhones.
The event that first heralded Apple's move out of the server closet or data center, even though it wasn't initially noticed, was the release of iOS 4 in 2010. Launched with the iPhone 4, iOS 4 included a range of mobile device management and security tools that allowed companies to enforce a broad range of device policies, automate the processes of device provisioning and enrollment, and monitor iOS devices in the field.
This was big news for those looking to use iPhones and iPads as business devices. But what made it unique was that the company didn't offer its own management server or console. Instead, it let third-party vendors provide scalable products that made use of the built-in features, often providing important options such as support for managing other smartphone and device platforms.
A few months after the release of iOS 4, Apple stunned longtime enterprise customers by canceling its Xserve line of 1U rack mount servers (the company had previously discontinued its Xserve RAID and shifted its Xsan file system for use on third-party hardware).
Last summer, when Apple released Lion Server, it became clear that the company was transitioning away from providing enterprise solutions to support its products. Although Lion Server includes the enterprise functionality of its predecessor, the management interface clearly shows that Apple sees it as a solution for the small- and midsize business (SMB) market, in combination with the Mac mini server.
At the same time, Lion became the first version of OS X to ship with built-in support for Microsoft's Distributed file system, a feature of Active Directory and Windows Server that allows administrators to make shared resources available to users based on a logical rather than physical network file structure. The company then added more enterprise-oriented features to iOS 5, which was released last fall.
These events illustrate a new enterprise strategy: Apple wants to make its products enterprise-ready and easy to integrate with existing systems out of the box. By and large, that integration is possible without the need for in-depth training, though Apple still provides a range of training classes and Mac-specific certifications.
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