Monday, July 11, 2005

MacWorld Expo Boston


Sat in the Mac OS X Advanced Topics program for much of the morning and part of the afternoon. I keep wanting (desperately) to believe OS X can and should replace many of the servers in the datacenter today. They seem to have most of the required functions needed, but just can't seem to pull it together. It may be the need for more decision-maker OS X training, or it may just be the fact that most admins are well over the Windows learning curve, but as it stands, OS X just isn't making it to prime time enterprise.

Why would I say such a thing? Those of you who know me know I've been a Mac user for many years, and infact am writing this blog on my trusty old 15" G3 Powerbook. The problem is, as I look around the room and have conversations with the admins there, most of the users are small to medium sized enterprises, and the one medium size enterprise admin I talked to didn't have very much to say about OS X's ability to scale to true enterprise requirements. Although the servers have the ability to do all of the networking, functions, and do role based access quite well, there's still a delta in the remote management functionality.

Two sysadmins were used as examples -one operates a medium sized publishing company, with 1000 servers located across the country. The other is a small advertising agency with fifty users.

The first admin in the medium sized company offered two speedbumps, that in my security mind, would make the hair on my neck stand up screaming. First, all backups are local, to local RAID. OK, I'll buy that. How then do you do business contuity planning with local data stored locally? Answer? They don't. Second, with over 1000 servers in his network, he states they have no centralized management of all 1000! I know there's something wrong here. I asked about this because I was curious about how they handle things like updating antivirus signatures, firewall rules, and typically associated Mac functionality. The only centralized control is in the Mac networking capability, but security features are handled locally... ouch.

Interestingly enough the instructor was talking about remove managegment of config files. He recommended keeping text files on a local (client) firewire drive, and pushing them out to the servers are needed. His answer to remote administration was to simply keep one configuration, and modify the computer name and IP address as needed. Ouch again. This would be fine in a network with five servers, but what about the enterprise with 5000?

The second admin told me that he has fifty users, mostly running OS 9, and one OS X server, where he maintains 3Tb of storage for the images his users generate for clients. After a period of time, the images are moved from the 3Tb storage system to a DVD, and distributed back to the users.

I asked him 'What keeps you from moving to OS X enterprise wide?'..his answer, not surprisingly was the lack of ability to manage everything (including his 50 OS 9 users) remotely.

OK Apple. Two doesn't make a sample, but when I hear from two different admins that the speedbump in their path to enterprise-wide deployment is the ability to easily manage users and servers centrally and remotely, it makes me believe we're missing something.

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