On the Road: Fear and Loathing at MacWorld

I’ve only been attending MacWorld since a few years ago when I gave that talk on Mac OS X Server security. Before then I had no clue that there was this whole community of people out there that were going through the same issues that I was in regard to the more network and server side of things. I can’t help but think back to how much richer and more fulfilled all of this has made my career. This ecosystem has continued to grow and change, and through all of it, the last few years I am happy to have been able to contribute to it. To some extent the community can thank the people at MacWorld Expo for a good part of it. This starts with the paid staff of course, for making sure the conference is well organized and well staffed and keeping the quality of content as high as it is. But, as great a job as they do, there are also a number of people who are involved in a volunteer capacity to help select speakers and fill in the gaps. Every single person who I’ve had the joy of working with, both paid and unpaid, has done an exceptional job. The community can also thank the people from MacEnterprise, Xsanity and AFP548. While these are only three of the many sites out there, they have helped to bring cohesion to the group by allowing everyone to keep in touch throughout the year. Without that, how would we know who we need to know… Helping to figure out problems and publishing articles to help people push the envelope is a great thing, but keeping us all in touch with one is the real value. And of course, there are the people that you hang out with, year to year at the show. Some might be coworkers who you get to form a more cohesive bond with. Others might be potential coworkers or clients. And still others might just be people who you have no reason to hang out with other than the fact that you’ve grown to know and like them. Whatever the case may be it is great to know that the server, SAN and network guru’s on the Mac side of the fence are amongst the best people I’ve gotten the chance to work with. The one company that is barely involved is Apple. Before I got to MacWorld I had a number of people ask me if this was going to be the last MacWorld. Of course Apple is a huge supporter of the conference but they aren’t the only one. Nor are they the primary source of speakers/instructors for the show. There are hundreds of vendors and barely any Apple staff (if any) participate in more than an ancillary fashion. So I don’t think this will be the last MacWorld.  I don’t think the wave is ready to be rolled back.
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back. -Hunter S. Thompson

Advanced Camp

Advanced Camp was the ACN and PSP training event held by Apple in Lake Tahoe this year.  Advanced Camp was well organized and had what seemed to me to be the highest caliber of training that I’ve seen from Apple in one event thus far.  The team who organized the event was probably the best put together to be able to deliver the training and even the worse of the events had plenty of great technical information.   Additionally, the attendees were some of the friendliest, most professional Apple gurus I’ve had a chance to hang with in a long time.  Congrats to everyone involved for holding such a well organized and extremely informative event.  I am sad to see it draw to a close!

Mac in the Cloud

A few days ago I noticed a post in Tim O’Reilly’s twitter feed asking whether or not it would matter whether people ran a Mac or a PC once everyone had migrated to a cloud.  Well, there are a few things about Mac OS X that make it fairly difficult to run in a cloud environment:
  • EFI – Mac OS X doesn’t use a BIOS like most Operating Systems.  This makes the bootup process fairly difficult in a distributed computing environment where the Guest OS would be OS X and the Host OS would be something else.
  • Lack of Firepower – I love the Xserve.  I always have.  They’re some of the most beautiful rack mount servers you can get.  But even an Octacore is gonna’ choke if you throw too many VMs on it.  If I were architecting a large, distributed computing environment I would want some blades, an IBM Shark, etc.  Having said this, Xgrid could pose an interesting option if VMware or Parallels were to allow distributed processing through it.
  • Licensing – The Mac OS X Server software is the only software licensed for a cloud type of environment, if you read your EULA.  This has only recently been introduced and has left Mac OS X without Xen or other open source alternatives in the virtualization space.
Having said all of this, Mac OS X is a wonderful system.  There is a lot it has to offer and I, as much as anyone would like to see it capable of utilizing services like Amazon S3, but I would be on the lookout for some other strategic moves rather than a full-blown Mac OS X capable of running independently in a cloud environment.  For example:
  • Mac Backups to the Cloud – Time Machine, Bakbone, Atempo, Retrospect, etc.  I cannot imagine that one of them will not be able to back up to Google or Amazon S3 at some point in the near future.  GUI level support needs to be there for it to gain wide-scale adoption with the Mac user base (like using Backup.app to backup to MobileMe but with enough capacity to back up an Xsan and enough bandwidth to do full backups in less than 72 hours).
  • Xgrid – There needs to be some kind of port of Xgrid to Amazon EC2 or support from render farm companies for EC2 or some other cloud/grid computing platform.  
  • Apple – The Pro Apps will need to support SaaS, Software + Services, etc.  Many Apple users are leveraging Google Apps, but once it comes from Apple it will be legitimate.
So look for it.  You’ll notice the companies that are really leveraging trends in IT as they come to market with products that allow the Mac to leverage the cloud.  If Apple makes a push towards this then you’ll see more wide-scale adoption, but don’t expect much and you won’t risk getting too let down. 

318 Kerio Article

I originally posted this at http://www.318.com/TechJournal Article about 318 on Apple.com, focusing on a project we did integrating Kerio to replace Microsoft Exchange, giving our client the ability to centralize all of their server assets into an Open Directory environment while still using MAPI to provide groupware components to their user base, have handheld devices that sync with their Calendar/Mail/Contacts and of course, use the standard Exchange features of mail, etc. Good stuff: http://consultants.apple.com/at_a_glance/318inc/

Apple's Market Share

Originally posted at http://www.318.com/TechJournal According to a report by JupiterMedia Corp, Mac OS X is becoming more and more of a standard in the small to Enterprise business categories. The report states that in organizations with 10,000 or more employees, 21% use Mac OS X on their desktops in the office. In businesses with 250 employees or more, 17% of the employees run Mac OS X on their desktop computers at work. Mac OS X is taking market share aware from traditional Linux and Unix installations. One explanation for this is that Mac OS X is easier to use than Linux and Unix, especially for desktop computers. Another explanation is that the number of software packages available for Mac OS X is growing, with a focus on Enterprise applications such as Oracle. It has also become possible to buy corporate support packages through Apple, something that Enterprise customers typically require before allowing production deployment of software. Companies that were once considering Linux are now more likely to move forward with Mac OS X. Although to a smaller degree, Mac OS X is taking market share away from Windows as well. Microsoft saw a slight decrease in its installation base last year. Although it is difficult to tell exactly why this shift is occurring, it is possible that in the server market this has a lot to do with software licensing costs. Apple’s licensing scheme can, in some cases, save companies tens of thousands of dollars in licensing over traditional Windows servers. Nine percent of companies with 250 employees or more are now using Mac OS X Server. 14 percent of companies with 10,000 employees or more are now running Mac OS X Server. These are strong numbers for a relatively young Network Operating System. With the latest enhancements built into Mac OS X Server 10.4 it is likely that the numbers will grow more in Apple’s favor. The single largest Network Operating System is still Windows NT 4.0 Server. UNIX, Linux, Windows 2003 Server and Mac OS X Server are all seeking to displace NT 4.0, which gained popularity due to its stability and scalability. A strong placement in the Network Operating System market can only help in gaining even more popularity in the desktop market.