Despite Apple's bad rap in the enterprise, Hanes says the company has made strides in enterprise support in recent years. "From a pure support standpoint, whenever we have issues, Apple is there for us," he says.
Active Directory: An ongoing battle
Late last year, Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute began migrating to Active Directory to better manage network resources. Despite Hanes' pleas for Macs to tie into it, outside IT consultants that they hired to do the migration left Macs out of their project scope. So Hanes spent a couple of months working with Apple technicians to bring Macs into Active Directory.
Together, Hanes says, they leveraged Apple's Active Directory plug-in to handle 90 percent of the Mac cases. Yet, at times, some people still couldn't log in. "It gets a little flaky," Hanes says. And so Hanes is planning to bring in Centrify, a software company that provides Active Directory-based authentication and access control for Macs, this year for tighter Active Directory integration.
Although many enterprise software vendors claim they support both Macs and PCs, in reality that's not always the case.
Case in point: The IT staff at Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute worked with multiple help desk systems, often spending their days jotting down notes about problems and then putting them into their proper system.
Last year, Hanes brought in Absolute Software for asset management and Web Help Desk. The two packages are nicely integrated, Hanes says. Now he can see every piece of software on a PC or Mac, push out packages, control the computer's power, remote into any system from any system and track help-desk problems.
"We're pretty close at giving Mac users everything the PCs users have," Hanes says.
Is virtualization a smart alternative?
Yet many CIOs might cringe at Hanes' years-long march to bring Macs and PCs together. Some hope desktop virtualization can be a short cut for integrating Macs in the enterprise.
Two years ago, lawyers at a Silicon Valley law firm that runs solely on Windows wanted freedom of choice over their computers. "Thirty percent of them were vocally upset about it," says the CIO, who did not wish to be identified.
And so the CIO turned to MokaFive, a desktop virtualization vendor, to allow lawyers to pick between a Lenovo or Mac with a Windows virtual machine. Half of the lawyers chose a Mac.
Yet even Macs in a desktop virtualization scenario face challenges. "When you do a change like this, there are some 'gotchas' that you have to work through," the CIO says.
On the upside, the CIO says his new desktop virtualization environment allows for bit updates rather than whole image updates, making updates practically transparent to the end user. "In our environment, we recommend to run a Mac," says the CIO. "It seems to work a little bit better."
Despite the integration challenges, Apple products are aimed at the consumer, says the CIO, and "we're doing everything we can to embrace consumer technologies. We have to get there because, if not, they are going to drag us there and we are going to lose."