How capable are PC-centric shops in managing Macs? A grade of Needs-Improvement might be generous, according to the responses generated by a recent contest at the Spiceworks IT community site and sponsored by cross-platform computing developer Parallels. The results were highlighted Wednesday by Jack Zubarev, president of Parallels' Cross Platform Solutions division, during a MacIT Conference session here at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco.
Zubarev hosted the How to Control and Manage Macs with Existing Infrastructure and Leverage Your Windows Stack Investment session, which covered a range of cross-platform issues:
• The recent results of Parallels' sponsored research of IT managers showing that a majority believed that Macs were easier to support than PCs, and offering Mac support can be important a company's effort to attract talented new hires.
• The lack of Mac expertise in PC-centric IT shops and the antipathy among the techs and managers towards Macs.
•The real-world cross-platform experience by IT directors from Loyola University and digital camera maker Lytro.
• A demonstration of new features in Parallels Mac Management plug-in for Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) infrastructure.
Most of the responses in the Spiceworks community site were negative towards supporting Macs and the posts said their sites either used no tools whatsoever to support Macs or flatly refused to support the Apple platform.
One PolarBear-1 said: “I currently use "MAC address blocking" to manage the Mac(s) in my network. ... none shall pass. ..."
Others, such as from Chamele0n, were less hostile.
Why so much hate for Macs? Maybe try it out exclusively for a while, it might change your mind at how much better it works than Windows (this coming from a Windows Server admin, haha). My current employer gave me a Mac as my sole computer for company use and I have used it for a year now, and am surprised how much I like it.
Steve9603 voiced a common response that there weren't many Macs in his company, and often the demand for Mac support came from way up the management ladder, often from the CEO or another C-level manager. In other words, there was no way for IT to say "no."
Because I despise things that are incompatible with what we currently do and make the IT Staff spend inordinate amounts of time for what amounts to a one-off user with delusions that Macs in a Wintel environment are a good thing. They are roughly equal in functionality and much greater in both purchasing and ongoing service costs for us, especially labor.
In a conversation before the session, Zubarev pointed to the antipathy towards the Mac revealed in the Spiceworks contest. He said the problem was multifaceted. There were two primary reasons for lack of Mac support in a "traditional IT organization:" Lack of a management system and expertise with Macs, he said.
According to Zubarev, some of the outrage over Macs from PC-centric techs and IT managers stems from sites with minimal or no experience with Macs. This lack of experience leads them to reject the platform. "It's all a way to avoid complexity," he said.
However, it's a different story with sites with some Macs. In the survey sites with even modest Mac support reported they found the Apple platform easy to manage. Sites with Mac experience were more likely to hire IT managers with Mac experience, leading to better support and even better experience.
"When you talk about support, it's about updating [application and system] software, making sure the machines are secure and running the latest versions. Of course, you can't do this manually if you have a few hundred Macs, or even if you have dozens. It's too painful. [Still], they don't have a system to support Macs. There's a lack of a management system."
For this issue, Parallels pitches its Windows console to manage Macs, its Parallels Mac Management plug-in for Microsoft SCCM.
At the session, Parallels demonstrated some previously unannounced features for the upcoming revision of Parallels Mac Management plug-in for Microsoft SCCM, including console support for warranty information and OS X's FileVault 2 personal keys, as well as a self-service Application Portal that will allow users to install software packages without complications of application licenses and settings. The update is due in the summer, the company said.