Enterprises consider PC to Mac switch

Although it has traditionally found little success in mainstream corporate computing environments, the new version of Apple Computer Inc.’s Unix-based flagship operating system – Macintosh OS X 10.2 – could mark Apple’s way into the enterprise, say experts.

Willie Powell, manager of strategic development at Apple Canada in Toronto, said because the root of the new operating system is based on open source, vendors that would never have considered Apple before are now paying attention.

“This is a real fundamental change for Apple. Any IT department that would consider using Solaris or Linux or AIX could now also consider the Mac. It would fit in very cleanly into a department,” Powell said.

The Mac OS X 10.2 supports many of the same applications and command-line tools that IT managers use to configure, install and manage Windows, Linux and Unix machines. This is possible because OS X is built on FreeBSD, an open source operating system for Intel, Alpha and PowerPC-based servers that is based on BSD Unix, an implementation of Unix developed at the University of California, Berkeley.

David Bratt, technology architect for H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., said that the deployment of Mac OS X is the primary reason that his organization has even considered implementing Macs.

“The researchers with Unix workstations like it because it is basically FreeBSD with a [Windows-like graphical] interface. Now that we have the quasi-Unix look and feel with Mac OS X, we have several options for managing Macs.”

Out of the assortment of 900 client workstations within the Center, more than 100 are now Macs.

According to Powell, the Mac’s reputation for stability and ease of use are also drawing cards for IT managers.

“We’ve married the power of Unix with the Mac’s ease of use, and to an IT department, that’s pretty cool. Employees can troubleshoot on their own, and do more work in less time,” he said.

Casey Riddell, a network systems administrator for Anchor Group, an apparel manufacturer in Sacramento, Calif., said that even though he has not always been a fan of Macs in his network, he is softening with the advent of Mac OS X.

“Recently with Apple’s OS X, I have completely changed my stance and I am seriously considering the new XServe servers for a few minor Web projects,” he said. Riddell has used Macs, Windows and Solaris workstations with business-critical applications for the last six months.

While Apple’s ads for PC users making the switch to Mac are aimed at the consumer level, Powell said that the concept of migrating is starting to make sense on the enterprise level.

“Clearly there are all sorts of opportunities for us. We’re being considered all over the place, and in places we were never considered before,” he said.

Traditionally, Mac has been a common choice for creative professionals, as well as those in the sciences and education.

-With files from IDG News Service