Apple's Enterprise Success Not Limited by the Technology

Apple has continued to make steady inroads into Enterprise markets, especially those that have technically astute IT managers. However, the Apple infrastructure, the products of the past, and general customer perception have kept the growth modest according to Network World on Wednesday.

Apple has made steady progress in improving their enterprise offerings. Theyive moved to the Intel architecture, theyive added directory services and hooks to Windows storage, added clustering and storage technology with Xserve RAID and Xsan, and added a myriad of open source software to their flagship Mac OS X server. However, John Fontana reports, it still hasnit been enough to generate substantial growth in that market.

"Despite these goodies, however, Apple isn?t pushing into corporations with a defined desktop strategy. The company still does not have a formal division focused on developing software for the enterprise or supporting it," Mr. Fontana wrote.

Van Baker, an analyst with Gartner agreed. "?Because of the switch to Intel, success of the Mac OS X, the stability and elegance of the platform, the Mac is a very viable alternative, but it would require a dramatic shift in the company?s resource allocation to go after the enterprise," he said.

In some cases the cost of migrating to Vista and supporting software has led to the idea that the migration to Apple would be no more difficult. Tom Gonzales, a network administrator with the Colorado State Employees Credit Union in Denver said that the thought of moving to Apple is not as scary as it once was.

In fact, Apple has worked hard and steadily expanded the scope and capability of their enterprise software. Mr. Fontana pointed out that "OpenLDAP lets the Mac OS X Server plug into Microsoft?s Active Directory and Novell?s eDirectory. The server?s Kerberos infrastructure supports single sign-on, and the platform integrates with NT Domain services, so the server can function as a Primary Domain Controller or Backup Domain Controller in a Windows environment. That configuration lets Windows users authenticate against Mac OS X Server directly from their PC logon."

In addition, the new Apple iCal server [which will be in Leopard Server], when combined with other open source servers, aims to provide many of the capabilities of Microsoftis Exchange server.

The conclusion was that the only thing holding Apple back in the Enterprise is Apple. "To be successful with businesses, they would have to build up an enterprise selling organization if they wanted to gain greater growth in corporate environments,? said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

Barring that, it seems to come down to getting Apple products into the hands of the right people and letting the platform woo converts. The passage of time may also lessen the biases of the old-time network managers who still think of Macs as hard to network or that they still use AppleTalk.

Apple has come a long way since those days.