Erik Eckel makes a case for the enterprise-worthiness of Mac OS X. He cites Snow Leopard advantages in security, integration, and performance that should make it a serious consideration for the IT organization.
Windows administrators, some understandably threatened by lack of knowledge, experience, and expertise with the Mac OS X platform, have dismissed Apple's operating system, claiming it lacks enterprise capacity. Such administrators need now be more careful, as Mac OS X Snow Leopard includes important features that significantly boost the ease with which Macs join and function within enterprise environments.
Native Microsoft Exchange integration
Macs have long been able to run Windows and Microsoft Office and share files securely with Windows servers and desktops. So incompatibility issues were eliminated a long time ago. But with Snow Leopard, now it's even easier to connect a Mac client to a Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 than it is to connect to a Windows system, as Snow Leopard includes out-of-the-box support and can tap Exchange's Autodiscovery feature. Administrators need not purchase and install Microsoft Outlook, as Snow Leopard includes Exchange 2007-compatible email, calendaring and address book functionality that's simple to configure and which leverages Active Directory for authentication.
True 64-bit architecture
Unlike many 64-bit Windows systems that run many legacy applications in 32-bit mode, because that's the way those applications were programmed, Snow Leopard leverages 64-bit architecture to optimize performance. Nearly all Snow Leopard system applications, such as Finder, Mail, Safari, iCal, and iChat (the Mac's main tools for integrated search, email, Web browsing, calendaring and instant messaging, respectively), enjoy true 64-bit performance. Further, 64-bit applications run on new Mac systems can address (theoretically) 16 exabytes of RAM, as opposed to the 4GB at-a-time limitation 32-bit platforms encounter.
Snow Leopard boasts complex, multilayered security protections. The OS utilizes a sandbox strategy to prohibit applications from performing unauthorized operations on inappropriate processes, files or programs. Unlike on Windows systems, where enterprise administrators sometimes find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time combating widespread malicious infections, Snow Leopard's Library Randomization architecture precludes potential Mac infections from locating their necessary, intended target files.
Execute Disable, meanwhile, protects a Mac's RAM from malicious attack. Snow Leopard also utilizes digital signature confirmations to protect against installing programs and applications that have been altered by a third party, further protecting the OS from malicious infection, and automatic updates received in part due to Apple's close relationships with the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams, the FreeBSD Security Team, and CERT help ensure Snow Leopard remains safe and secure.
Enterprise administrators deploying Snow Leopard Server will find significant performance gains. Apple's May 2009 testing revealed mail server performance to be 1.7 times faster than when using Sun Java Messaging Server. SMB file server performance on Snow Leopard v10.6 proved to be 2.3 times faster than on v10.5 Leopard, while NFS file server performance is two times faster. Java server performance, meanwhile, is 1.3 times faster on Snow Leopard Server compared to Leopard.
Grand Central Dispatch (GCD), Apple's name for Snow Leopard's technology (on both client and server computers) that enables maximizing multiple core performance, ensures Snow Leopard systems maximize trends toward multicore computing. With GCD, the operating system assumes responsibility for managing process threats. Since the OS manages demand, as opposed to having individual applications assume the task, the OS can distribute GCD-enabled application threads across a system's multiple cores as capacities permit, thereby optimizing performance. Increasingly, application optimization on multicore systems is becoming an important issue in enterprise environments, so such fine-tuned performance improvements can have huge impact across distributed organizations.
Apple's Mac resurgence, since OS X debuted, is well earned. The operating system's performance, security, and reliability are well documented. With the release of Snow Leopard, the platform's sixth iteration, Apple engineers have included numerous new features that provide important enterprise results.
Rhetoric, of course, is always part of any OS release. However, the fact Snow Leopard delivers remarkably and measurably faster performance than its already speedy predecessor is an important consideration for enterprise administrators. Consider the ease with which Snow Leopard connects users to Exchange servers, and you have new functionality that makes an immediate difference in the daily lives of enterprise IT department staffs and their users.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.