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Snow Leopard offers important advantages to enterprise administrators

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.

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.

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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.

Improved security

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.

Performance improvements

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.

Summary

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.

About

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 o...

3 comments
eldergabriel
eldergabriel

The second sentence of the second paragraph in the second-to-last section entitled "Performance improvements" reads as follows: "With GCD, the operating system assumes responsibility for managing process threats." (emphasis added). Given the context of the surrounding information, did you intend for the word "threats" to be "threads"? Good article, otherwise.

SMparky
SMparky

To me enterprise capability includes active directory/group policy/enterprise management capability (or the Mac equivalent). As I understand it Macs still lack this and don't even take advantage of the Unix roots in that respect (I'd guess it's because enterprise admin in Unix isn't exactly user friendly or obvious). Using Macs within a Unix environment is often as frustrating as using them in a Windows environment. We tried a Mac server once and tried to like it but it was still old school. If someone quits can I remotely disable their account? Can I use groups to set security? Win is the king so if Macs want in an enterprise they have to support all Windows admin functions in order to fit in. A nice desktop is only part of the picture. Okay, you have Exchange 2007 integration. Yep, so does Windows. Oh, and Windows supports earlier and newer versions. No need to run a Mac for that so why bother. I can't see anyone telling their boss they need to get a Mac because they want to access the company MS Exchange server. At best your boss will laugh at you. 64 bit architecture. So? 64 bit doesn't mean better performance. An 8 bit processor can blow away a 64 bit depending on the application. Just because a few Mac apps are 64-bit doesn't negate that there are many more 64-bit Windows apps out there. Improved security? How well does it integrate with Windows security mechanisms? Again, Windows is king in most shops so you have to support what's already in place if you want to someday take over. AD implementations from Apple have been hacky and several generations behind in my experience. Performance improvements don't mean a whole lot when comparing it older versions of the Mac OS. The Mac needs to blow away Windows 7 performance in order to matter. I haven't heard any such thing from the few Mac users in our site. As you point out, Macs can run Windows and most of my Mac users do so. None of my Windows users run Macs. Makes you wonder doesn't it. I would love it if Macs were enterprise ready. I don't care about Windows/MacOS/Linux/BSD/Unix or whatever. (actually I think Netware was the best of the bunch and it had features the others still lack). Windows is simplest to use in an enterprise. If you want to convince an enterprise admin why a Mac is enterprise ready you'll need to describe some examples as to why. 64-bit, supports Exchange etc don't make it easy to administer. Discuss remote access, enterprise administration (setting password rules, creating enterprise login accounts, using admin consoles, etc) if you want to convince us. I can do this with every OS but the Mac. At least as far as I know. Tell me more about Mac's in an enterprise. I love to learn.

maclovin
maclovin

...to do my system-wide upgrade in January/February! All XServes and clients (mainly Intel iMacs) will be upgraded! And, yes we are currently running Macs as our main clients/servers. Also, we did not choose to upgrade to Leopard directly because of AFP-protocol file sharing issues.

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