Hardware is not dead in the enterprise, but it is fair to say that selling hardware alone is no longer enough to support a viable business model. Virtually all of the top enterprise vendors, from HPE and IBM to Cisco and Oracle, have figured this out, which is why their emerging platforms feature a mix of systems, platforms, services and cloud support.
Apple has been trying to make headway into the enterprise for a number of years now, with varying degrees of success. While it no longer provides services or storage arrays, it practically owns the mobile market and has done a good job of migrating workflows from desktops to handheld devices.
The sticking point, however, seems to be the company’s iCloud. While it provides adequate support for consumers as a way to back up and sync music files and other data, its enterprise capabilities are significantly lacking, and the company is only just now making some tentative moves to correct the situation.
First off, it is important to note that Apple itself does not host its own cloud. The bulk of customer data rests on AWS and the Google Cloud Platform, with perhaps a smattering of services hosted on Azure as well. This is not altogether unusual, as even top platform providers like HPE have opted not to compete in the cloud space, although it is a little odd that Cupertino would choose Google, provider of the rival Android mobile operating system, as one of its hosts. But as CRN’s Kevin McLaughlin and Joseph Tsidulko point out, business is business, and these kinds of “frenemy” relationships are becoming increasingly common as infrastructure, service portfolios and product lines start to converge and overlap.
What is more interesting is the way in which Apple is attempting to utilize, or not, its cloud resources in support of enterprise workloads. Tech journalist Jeff Bertolucci, writing on IBM’s Point B and Beyond site (for which yours truly is also a contributor), notes that Apple is attempting to woo the enterprise with integrated productivity tools that span not just the Mac and iPhone, but the Apple Watch, Apple TV and other client devices as well. At the same time, the company has updated the iCloud OS with automated backup and storage optimization features to improve the Mac’s capacity and performance. Still, by most objective measures, the service is still way behind rivals like Box and Dropbox.
Perhaps a more significant development for Apple fans in the enterprise is the company’s recent decision to support real-time data syncing between iCloud and the iWork office suite. According to IT services provider SINU, the move is intended to bleed users away from Office 365 and Google Docs by fostering the collaborative capabilities that mobile users prefer, while at the same time providing iCloud connectivity for iWork on the PC and bringing in a whole new generation of users through its iWork for iCloud in the Classroom project.
With all of this at stake, then, the last thing Apple needs is security trouble on the iCloud. Too bad hackers are not known for their obliging personalities. According to Silicon Republic, the recent theft of iCloud account information keeps getting larger, with no less than 11,500 phone numbers now believed to have been stolen over the summer and more than 750,000 SMS messages generated. This is more than just a hassle for users because SMS is typically used to contact phones that no long respond to iMessage, and the account is charged for each SMS. So not only are affected users getting spammed, they are paying for the privilege.
Of course, if data breaches were enough to disqualify a cloud from enterprise use, none of the major providers would have a chance in the market. The true test for a cloud provider is not how well they prevent attacks, but how quickly they can recover and how well they minimize the damage.
So far, Apple has not shown itself to be any more or less incapable than anyone else of supporting enterprise workloads on its cloud infrastructure. But it is getting into the game much later than all the other top vendors, and that includes initial cloud skeptics like Oracle.
On the upside, however, Apple has shown a remarkable propensity for re-imagining the way we use technology, so the enterprise cloud could simply be the next platform to get a make-over.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.