It's time for Apple to make its Bonjour and AirPlay technologies enterprise friendly. That's the contention of a group of college and university IT managers who are finalizing a petition that urges Apple to adapt both for enterprise networks.
The proposed changes, they say, would make it easier for IT to provision, manage and secure Bonjour-enabled networking of Apple products. But the changes also would make more Apple's networking more useable for iPad and iPhone owners. On campus, or at the office, they want the same kind ease of access and use they have at home. They want to connect easily over enterprise networks with resources such as printers running Apple's AirPrint protocol, or use Apple's AirPlay wireless multimedia streaming, and to marry iOS devices with flat-panel displays or high-def speakers via Apple TV, or with projectors. And today, they often can't do that because of how enterprise networks are designed.
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Not everyone agrees about what should be changed. And some network professionals argue that the petition, in effect, asks Apple to scrap Bonjour and craft an entirely new and more complex discovery mechanism, which few seem to think is likely.
The petition drive began earlier this month, at the WLAN listserv group at Educause, a non-profit group that focuses on higher education IT. A draft of the final text, completed over the past weekend is available on a Facebook group. But dissatisfaction with Bonjour and AirPlay has been simmering for a long time.
Apple had not yet responded to a request for comment as this story was posted.
Bonjour, originally called Rendezvous when introduced in the early 2000's, is Apple's latest implementation of "zero configuration networking" or Zeroconf, which is a group of open protocols to automatically and quickly set up an IP network, without having to set up services such as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol or DNS. More background is online, at a page maintained by Stuart Cheshire, Zeroconf's pioneer who was later hired by Apple.
Zeroconf and its Bonjour iteration are intended to let computers attach to a network, find each other and communicate usefully "without needing a man in a white lab coat to set it all up for you," as Cheshire says. He identifies four main requirements for Zeroconf, and the services used to meet these requirements in implementations like Bonjour: