Macs as desktops and servers are increasing their penetration in business, even in enterprises. Power users like Mac OS X's interface, bundled apps, and desktop and notebook hardware build quality. Application developers, marketers, and engineers appreciate the tool sets. Datacenter managers approve of Apple's Xserve reliability and versatility as a virtualization platform. But it's not all roses. IT managers, who ultimately must serve these communities' legitimate needs, are faced with some Mac-specific challenges.
The key to successful Mac management in the enterprise is recognition of its unique capabilities and knowing when not to treat it as just another Windows box.
Fortunately, as the Mac has doubled its enterprise presence over the last two years, it's added new management options as well. Much of that growth occurred with Apple's Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard OS, but a good deal of the credit goes to third-party tool vendors.
Your management perspective informs your Mac management strategy
Your best bet for handling Macs depends on your enterprise management perspective. Most organizations fall into one of three: strictly controlling, flexible based on user capability, and application-centric rather than platform-centric. There's a Mac management strategy for each option.
A Windows-centric management philosophy often aims to control every desktop and server at a very fine-grained level, using Windows Group Policy Objects and unified management console. The Mac can play in this arena, but only with third-party tools.
Windows' strict management posture comes from the need to tightly enforce patch management and security policies to prevent virus and other intrusions, for which Windows has a famously large attack surface. The scope of vulnerability for Macs is demonstrably much smaller, and thus Macs don't necessarily require the same detailed control. (However, the Mac does have its own security issues that you should understand.) Many organizations can take a looser approach to management for their Macs.