I have covered Apple Configurator in a couple of different articles already. But one question I’ve gotten a number of times is how to do automated enrollment of iOS devices into an MDM solution, such as Profile Manager. Each device that gets enrolled into Profile Manager will require a Trust Profile (installed under the Profiles tab of the MyDevices portal) and an Enrollment Profile (installed under the Devices tab of the MyDevices portal). The Trust Profile requires about 3 or 4 taps to install and the Enrollment Profile requires about the same. The best way I’ve seen for doing automated enrollment is actually to do semi-automated enrollment. Basically, each device gets the Trust Profile deployed in a profile, likely alongside an SSID that the wireless network users will use for actual enrollment. I usually advocate a temporary network according to how complicated the standard wireless network is (e.g. if you use certificates with 802.1x then during enrollment your device won’t necessarily be a supplicant). Apple Configurator can very easily provide a Trust Profile and the SSID. Should take about 3 minutes worth of work if you have an existing Profile Manager deployment (if you don’t, see this article). Chances are, many will want their devices tied to a user account. For example, if you use Payload Variables at all, then you’ll need a user associated with a device at enrollment time in order to expand the Payload Variables into short names, email addresses, etc. Therefore, I would recommend deploying a web clip for the enrollment site, along with a Trust Profile and the SSID access to the enrollment network. This makes enrollment 4 taps, a username and a password. This will give users a customized ActiveSync environment, password policies, restrictions, VPN, web clips, as many SSIDs as you care to deploy, etc. To setup an enrollment environment for users, we’ll first need to download the Trust Profile. To do so, I usually just log into the MyDevices portal of Profile Manager from the computer running Apple Configurator, by first visiting the https://<nameofserver>/MyDevices URL. Here, click on the Profiles tab. Click on the Install button for the Trust Profile entry, which pulls the mobileconfig file from https://mdm.pretendco.com/devicemanagement/api/profile/get_ssl_cert_profile if the URL were mdm.pretendco.com. This URL redirects to an administrative page. When the download is complete, Apple Configurator will open automatically as installing Apple Configurator changes the default application for .mobileconfig files from System Preferences to Apple Configurator. Once downloaded, close and then reopen Apple Configurator. Once re-opened, double-click on the Trust Profile that was just installed. The General screen shows information about the profile. This profile can easily act as a Trust profile. But we also need the device enrolled in a wireless network that can be used to access the Profile Manager server. Click on WiFi, click Configure and add the settings for your network. We’re also going to add a link to enroll the devices using the MyDevices portal. Click on Web Clips and then enter the name that you want the user to see in the Label field and the link to the MyDevices portal in the URL field. Finally, we don’t want users prompted with petty SSL errors. This server doesn’t have a publicly signed certificate. Click on Credentials and note that the Trust is already added. We will also grab the certificate for the server from Keychain and click the plus sign to add another certificate. Import the one exported from the Keychain. Then click on Save and you’ll have a good Trust Profile. Next, we’ll need to export the Enrollment Profile as well. To do so, go to the Profile Manager portal again and click on the Enrollment Profile entry in the sidebar. Uncheck the box to restrict devices (unless you’ve imported all the devices for your environment into Profile Manager) and then click on Download and the Enrollment profile is downloaded to the client. Quit and re-open Apple Configurator. The Enrollment Profile is now listed in the Profiles field. Next, click on the checkbox for the Trust profile and then click on Prepare. On the iOS device you’ll then see the the enrollment process. Tap on the Install buttons until the profile is enrolled. One would think that the device would then be able to be enrolled automatically. You can Enroll manually by logging into the My Devices portal (using the Web Clip) and clicking on the Enroll button and following the default buttons presented to users. You can also email Enrollment Profiles, text them or install them via iPhone Configuration Utility. To also install the enrollment profile and complete the entire enrollment process, just click that other checkbox in Apple Configurator. Now, the concern in doing so would again be that you don’t know which user is associated with which device, taking Payload Variables out of the equation. Leaving the fields that you might otherwise place those into blank simply allows for user input when that part of the MDM profile is run.
My traditional interpretation of Apple’s vision on how iOS devices are used is that everyone has an AppleID. That AppleID enables them to access their apps from any iOS device they own or Mac that they own. That AppleID enables them to access mail, contacts, calendars and even files through iCloud. That AppleID also allows users to remotely wipe their device through Find iPhone and track their friends iOS devices (as in social networking via breadcrumb tracking) through Find Friends. All of this “Just Works” in a consumer sense. And it even allows for a little sharing of content across devices you own. However, larger organizations need more. They need centralized management, content distribution and most other things you find that you rely on traditional desktop computers for. Over the years, Apple has added tools for centralized control of devices. This started with ActiveSync compatibility and early forms of Mobile Device Management and has grown into a pretty robust, albeit disconnected, set of tools. Of these, Apple Configurator is the latest. Apple Configurator was released about a week ago and since, I’ve been trying to figure where it fits into the solutions architecture that surrounds iOS integrations. There are a number of other tools already available that can aid in the deployment and management of iOS devices, and Configurator is a great addition. To me, there are 3 classes of management tools for iOS. These were roughly broken up into Over the Air (OTA), cradled (USB) and content management. Apple Configurator ends up fitting into all of these scenarios in some way. Let’s start by looking at the traditional uses of these three and then look at how they are impacted by Apple Configurator. Mobile Device Management Over the Air tools, such as Profile Manager, allow for Mobile Device Management (MDM) without cradling, or syncing a devices. These tools allow you to configure policies via profiles. There is also a bit of App pushing built into most MDM solutions. Apple’s Profile Manager can push applications written in-house, but no content from the App Store. 3rd party solutions, such as JAMF’s Casper Suite, Absolute Manage MDM, AirWatch and about 15 others are able to push apps from the App Store as well, leveraging the Volume Purchasing Program (VPP) to issue apps to devices. However, when an app is pushed through one of these tools, the app becomes associated with the AppleID for the user who owns the device. Note: While we use the term push, the user has to accept all App installations on the device. For large environments, MDM is a must as it allows for centralized command and control. Pushing apps is one aspect of such control. Policies enforceable through MDM include disabling cameras, configuring passcode policies on devices (not pushing passcodes), disabling YouTube, silencing Siri, unstreaming photos, disabling iCloud Backup, forcing encrypted backups, disabling location services, controlling certificates, blocking pop-ups, controlling cookies, disabling access to the iTunes and App Stores, and controlling what kind of media can be accessed on devices. Additionally, MDM can be used to push SSIDs for wireless networks (and their passwords/802.1x configuration information), setup mail, setup Exchange ActiveSync, configure VPN connections, configure access shared calendars (iCal shared files, CalDAV and Exchange), configure access to shared contacts (LDAP, CardDAV, Exchange and Exchange Global Address Lists), deploy Web Clips and manage certificates (either with cert files or via SCEP). In short, whether you’re using the practically free Profile Manager from Apple, Mobile Iron, Casper, AirWatch, FileWave or one of the many other tools, there are a lot of things that MDM can configure on devices. Reporting can also play a major role in how MDM tools are used. iOS Apps are owned by AppleIDs, not devices. MDM does not manage AppleIDs, but you can trigger fields in MDM databases to report back unauthorized AppleIDs being used. Reporting can also identify when devices join non-approved wireless networks (which cannot be blocked through MDM), identify devices that have been jailbroken (a major security concern for many organizations) and report on device use. Because devices can fall outside of our control, MDM also plays an important role in being able to wipe and lock devices. While some of these types of features are available via Exchange, not all people use ActiveSync. Users and administrators alike can wipe, lock and de-enroll devices at will, potentially crippling what any device with an Enrollment Profile can do. There are really 3 kinds of MDM tools: those that can push apps, those that can’t and Apple’s Profile Manager. The reason I put Profile Manager into its own class, is that it can push some kinds of apps, it’s cheap ($49.99 one time as opposed to per device per month or per device per year billing) and it’s great for some things. But Profile Manager should be used in very specific environments unless the price is the only decision making factor behind a tool. In larger environments, choosing a MDM solution is one of the most important aspects of managing mobile devices and the iOS platform is no different in that manner than other mobile platforms. MDM has some limitations, though. A good MDM solution can manage the infrastructure side of device configuration. However, content requires a completely separate tool. Additonally, MDM is a completely opt-in experience. If a user wants, they can remove their device from the MDM solution at any time. Rather than a limitation, think about the opt-in experience this way: if a user removes themselves from MDM then all content that was given to them via MDM is then taken away, except that which they have moved to the local device. Therefore, if an administrator pushes an Exchange configuration then all content from that Exchange profile is forbidden fruit, removed alongside the de-enrollment. MDM also works with Lion. Policies, centralized management, etc can be integrated with Lion. You can’t do app distribution per se, but you can push out a policy to change where the dock is on the screen, add a printer to a Mac and configure a login hook through a Profile Manager-based policy. Many of the MDM providers have begun adding functionality to their tools to allow for Mac management as well as iOS and I would expect that to become the standard in years to come. iOS is a single-user device and OS X is a multi-user device, which completes that paradigm, but Apple has made it no secret that policy-based management for Mac OS X is moving to the realm MDM (even if that is enforced through a traditional lens of directory services based policy-based management). Content Management One of the unique aspects of the iOS platform is that it doesn’t have a file system that is exposed to users. There’s no /Volumes, no C: drive and no home folders. The devices don’t log into a server, because there’s no way to interpret a server connection. The file system that is exposed to iOS devices is through the lens of each application. Sandbox is a technology that limits each application’s access in terms of memory, hard drive, etc. Each application can only communicate with resources outside of itself if there is an API to do so, APIs mostly reserved for Apple (e.g. photos, contacts, etc). Therefore, when you discuss content management from the perspective of building a large iOS solution, you’re talking about apps. The apps used for content management come in a few flavors. There are those that allow you to edit content and then there are those that allow you to read content. One way to look at this is through Safari. Sharepoint, WebDAV and various document management portals allow users to access data through the Safari browser on an iOS device. Safari will let you view various file types. But to edit the data, you would need to send it to an app, or copy it to the clipboard and access it in an app. Pages is an example of an app that can browse a file tree via WebDAV and edit content. However, planning how each type of file is accessed and what type of editing can be done on each file type or what type of resources need to be accessible can be difficult (e.g. there are a number of transitions in Keynote presentations that do not work in iOS). Cradling Devices Then there’s iTunes. iTunes allows you to backup and restore devices, update devices, etc. iTunes allows you to drop content into each application. If you look into the ~/Library/Mobile Documents, you can drop content, edit default documents and other tasks that can be done through a command line, then perform a cradled sync to an app. If networking is built into an app then you don’t have to plug a device into a computer. If an app can leverage iCloud, SMB or AFP then you can access data over the air. If you are trying to replace computers with iOS devices (a la post-PC) then you would need to plan each business task that needs to be performed and make sure not only that there is an app for that (or an app you build for that) but also make sure that you can round trip data from a shared repository and back to the network storage that the data resides on. You can also access many of the benefits of MDM without having an OTA element. This can be done with iPhone Configuration Utility. iPhone Configuration Utility can configure the same policies available through Profile Manager but relies on either a cradled or email/web server/manual way of getting policies onto devices and updating. MDM automates this, but iPhone Configuration Utility is free and can be used as well. Additionally, profiles can be exported from Profile Manager and installed in the email/web server/manual way that iPhone Configuration Utility profiles are installed. This is all probably starting to seem terribly complicated. Let’s simplify it:
- OTA policies and custom app deployment: MDM
- OTA content distribution: Apps
- Cradled policies and custom app deployment: iPhone Configuration Utility (free)
- Cradled content and app distribution: iTunes (free)
- OTA App distribution: AppleID/iCloud
- Backup and restore: iCloud or iTunes
- Update iOS devices to the latest version of iOS.
- Rename devices using a numbered scheme (e.g. iPad 1, iPad 2, etc).
- Erase (wipe) iOS devices.
- Backup and Restore iOS devices.
- Deploy profiles/policies (e.g. no Siri for you, disable cameras, setup wireless, etc) to iOS devices.
- Export profiles.
- Activate devices (after all a restore of a freshly activated device is an activation).
- Push any kind of app to devices.
- Track Volume Purchase Program (VPP) codes used on devices.
- Revoke VPP codes used on “Supervised” devices (more on supervision later).
- Assign users from directory services to devices.
- Load non-DRM’d content to apps on devices.
- Can work with up to 30 devices simultaneously (think big USB hubs or carts on wheels here).
- Paid apps need to use VPP codes to DRM apps. These VPP codes are purchased through a centralized program for an entire organization. To enter the VPP, you need to be a business with a DUNS number or an educational institution. You also basically need to be in the United States.
- Free apps can be deployed but the AppleID is in the IPA, meaning that to do an OTA update through App Store requires entering the password for the Apple ID the app was purchased with.
- In order to push apps through Apple Configurator, the system running Configurator needs access to Apple’s servers and Apple Configurator needs an AppleID associated with it that is not the VPP facilitator if you are leveraging any paid apps.
- You can use Apple Configurator “off-line” or without an AppleID to Prepare devices with Profiles, just not to
- If you push Trust and Enrollment profiles to automatically join Profile Manager (or another MDM vendor) the device isn’t associated with a user unless the MDM has been prepped to designate each UDID or Serial Number to a given user.
- Apple Configurator doesn’t work with Video or Music due to different DRM limitations.
- If you accidentally plug in your iPhone to a machine you’re using Apple Configurator on it and you’ve chosen to Erase in the application, then it will wipe your phone along with the 30 iPads you’re wiping. It’s awesome and scary like that (yes, I’ve accidentally wiped my phone).
- Company and education labs: manage devices end-to-end (no MDM, iTunes iPhone Configuration Utility or other tools needed), managed by the lab manager.
- One-to-One environments (schools): Manage the distribution of infrastructure settings (mail, wireless networks, etc) for devices as well as Trust Profiles to make it faster to enroll in MDM environments and Web Clips to manage the links for enrollment.
- Device distribution: Pre-load applications (that can’t be updated unless they’re cradled again), renaming, profiles, activation, iOS software updates, etc.
- Backup and Restore only stations where you don’t interfere with later iTunes use.
Once the codes are imported, you’re ready to configure a device.
When you import an application, you are creating a file with a GUID in /Users/admin/Library/Application Support/com.apple.configurator/Resources. These files represent applications that have been prepared for distribution. When importing, it will take as long as it takes to copy from the source to that directory. The entry in that directory is roughly the same size as the app. Therefore, you likely don’t want to copy every app you have in there, just the ones you plan to distribute.
Now for the dangerous part. Make sure you don’t have any devices plugged into the computer. I love to start with a device at the activation screen. That thing requires so many taps I jump at any 0 touch deploy type of options I can get my hands on to skip it (not that you’re going to get 0 touch if you have profiles). The reason we want to make sure there aren’t any devices plugged in is that they’ll be wiped if they are… Provided there aren’t any, click on the Prepare button and any devices plugged in wills tart configuring immediately. The application count will go down for VPP apps as each device is configured. It can do 30 in parallel.
You’ll see a green checkmark when each device is done. When you’re ready to stop configuring devices, click on Stop. The only other way to do any in parallel is through Xcode Organizer’s restore feature, but that was never very stable for this type of purpose and this is a much more object oriented approach to device imaging. The caveat for these apps is that the password for the AppleID is needed to update them, so this is not a means to deploy paid apps to BYOD or self-managed types of devices (IMHO). Also, the iOS version for devices is downloaded at this point from Apple. If you notice that the first time each type of device is imaged that it takes awhile, this is why. The second time this step is skipped (another reason we need Internet access on our Apple Configurator computer). These are located in /Users/admin/Library/Application Support/com.apple.configurator/IPSWs and if you need to run a beta version of iOS you can do so by dropping their ipsw versions in here manually, but I haven’t gotten device supervision to work when doing so.Using Apple Configurator to Supervise Devices Now, supervising devices may seem more complicated, but it isn’t. Back at the Prepare screen, we set Supervision to OFF. Change the iOS field to No Change. Now, let’s turn it ON. When you do so, the iOS field automatically switches to Latest. This means that supervision is going to require updates (which is fine in my book as updates have yet to break a single app for me). Get all the same settings the same as they were previously. Once you enable Supervision, click on Prepare in Apple Configurator and connect a device again. The device will then be imaged as with the same settings that you’ve given it from before. However, once it’s done, you’ll be able to click on the Supervise tab and see devices (Note: You supervise devices rather than users). The subsequent Starts and Stops will now allow you to enable and disable profiles and apps on the fly, as well as restore backups, update devices and as you can see in this screen, reclaim those valuable VPP codes! Do a Get Info on a device and you’ll also see a bevy of information about that device. You can also click on Assign, once you’ve enabled Supervision. Assigning devices requires directory services. When you click on Assign, click on the plus sign (“+”) to add the first user. Type the first few letters of the users name and they should appear in the list. Click on them and they’ll be added. You can then use the right panel to assign content to the apps that you assign to that user’s devices. Once added, the user will by default have no device. To assign a device to a user, use the Check Out box at the bottom of the screen and then match the users with the devices you want them to have. The final piece of this application is to assign content to users. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the file system of an iOS device is through the lens of the applications that the device has installed. Therefore, we’ll be associating files to applications. DRMd content is not distributed through Apple Configurator. So iBooks, etc, aren’t applicable. The various third party applications can open and therefore host file types that they support, as with iTunes. From the Assign pane of Apple Configurator, click on a user and then click on the plus sign (“+”) to add documents. At the Choose A Target Application screen, choose the application you’ll be loading content into. When you click Choose, you’ll then be able to select files to use with that application. Then just dock the iOS device, sync and viola you’ve got content distribution over USB all handled. You can also add groups of devices and groups of users and distribute content to groups of users rather than to one at a time. Conclusion Apple Configurator is really a great tool when used in the right scenarios. In learning how it works and interacts I actually learned a lot about both iOS and Mac OS X that I didn’t know before. I hope I did the tool justice with how easy it is to use. This is a fairly long article and it’s probably more complicated than it needs to be in parts, but that’s more my method of trying to figure out what it’s doing than the tool being complicated. It’s not hard to figure out at all. I am sure I could teach any non-technical iOS admin to use it in less than an hour. My wish list includes logs and OTA. You can’t use iPhone Configuration Utility while you’re using Apple Configurator and therefore, you can’s see up-to-the second logs about things like key bags to figure out why this isn’t working or that. This makes it kinda’ difficult to figure out why a profile doesn’t get installed with an image if you’re not using an AppleID with the tool or other weird little things like that. I’d love to see a little more logging. Obviously, if you could run this thing Over the Air then it would be nerd nirvana. I guess the OTA isn’t as much as wish list for this tool, but features that could be imported into Profile Manager and other tools. One of the more important aspects is the impact on AppleID use and app ownership. I started this off by saying “My traditional interpretation of Apple’s vision on how iOS devices are used is that everyone has an AppleID.” Well, when using this tool an AppleID is no longer necessary for app deployment. Overall, we have a new, powerful tool in our arsenal that makes up the iOS administration ecosystem. I hope that I’ve managed to dispel a few rumors with this article and look at some great uses for where this tool should and should not be used. I also hope that no matter what, if you manage iOS devices, that you’ll take a look at it. I expect you’ll find it useful in some part of your management toolkit!