Macs in the Enterprise: An Integration Challenge

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Macs in the enterprise are still something of a novelty item, but that might not be the case for very long. With new backing from third-party suppliers and increasing user demand, Macs stand a very good chance of becoming as ubiquitous as the PC in the near future.


Last week I told you about the Enterprise Desktop Alliance, a group of software companies led by Parallels with the aim of easing integration of the Mac into PC environments. That announcement came on the heels of a Yankee Group study that said the portion of businesses with Macs installed nearly doubled over the past year to about 80 percent. Apple's total enterprise market share is now at 8 to 10 percent, up from barely 2 percent a few years ago.


And while it is still very rare, there are cases of wholesale enterprise conversion to the Mac. European newspaper firm Axel Springer has said it intends to convert its 10,000-employee enterprise to the Mac by 2014. XP and Vista will still be part of the mix, but will run on a variety of MacBooks, Mac Pros and iMacs.


All of this activity is likely to shift the debate in corporate circles from whether they should integrate Macs to how the integration is to proceed. Already, a number of solutions are springing up to make Mac-to-PC conversion easier.


Microsoft, for one, has seen the value of a growing Mac presence in the enterprise and is bent on ensuring its software has a home there. The company recently released Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2, which allows Mac users to access files, applications and even devices and network resources, from Windows environments. The system runs natively on Intel-based Macs and even provides a user interface similar to the Mac OS, particularly in the area of keyboard commands.


Networking issues are also likely to crop up in mixed Mac/PC environments. Studio Network Solutions has introduced a new Ellipse Enterprise Fibre Channel HBA that bridges the gap between the Mac OS X and the IBM System Storage DS4000. The device allows both the XServe server and Mac workstations to tap into IBM's fault tolerance, multipath I/O and failover/failback technologies. The device is available in single-, dual- and four-port configurations with either PCIe or PCI-X.


The most unusual aspect of this growing trend is that it has received only the barest support from Apple itself. The company has an enterprise development team, but the vast majority of company resources goes toward consumer items like the iPhone and iPod. Perhaps the very fact that those devices have proven adept at so many business-related functions will end up forcing a lot of hands -- in the enterprise to finally embrace Macs after all these years, and at Apple to lend growing support to the movement.