The state of enterprise features in Snow Leopard
Current version of Mac OSX Snow Leopard has come with some very important features that make that operating system to be closer to enterprise environment. Earlier version also had been armed with some enhancements and features that are actually essential for enterprise. What features and enhancements? Well, imagine that you would like to integrate your Mac OSX laptop in your office environment, but not only to be able to use the office suit, but also together with all goods that you usually have working in the corporate network. Few years ago it was pretty hard to do it.
So, what has changed today. First of all, Apple added the Microsoft Exchange support right out of the box inside the guts of Mac OSX Snow Leopard. That is pretty significant, because even Windows does not have that integrated with the system. Windows 7 is going to be released even without Mail application – did you know that? That Exchange support give you ability to integrate you corporate LDAP address book, email, messaging and calendar with you Mac OSX without using any Microsoft applications. That’s huge in my humble opinion!
Second feature is, for so called Road Warriors. People working remotely from their home or on the road who need secure connection with the corporate network. In this area, the standard is de facto Cisco VPN client. Now, it has been built in Mac OSX too – for free! What it means? It means, that you can set up your laptop to connect through Internet to your corporate network over the secure tunnel. Pretty neat, isn’t it?
Using this two functions together you will be almost able to use you Mac in not so Mac friendly environment smoothly. Why almost? Well, of course that’s a beginning and some of this features does not have all functionalities yet. You are able to set up your iCal with all events and TODO and sync them back to Exchange server and vice versa, you will see who is busy using the Availability Panel and search in your corporate Address Book like you used to do in your local Address Book, but there are still some limitations and inconsistency. I hope that Apple is going to eliminate them in the future releases.
What has not been implemented or unified so far in Snow Leopard? Here you go:
- Cisco VPN connection in Snow Leopard is limited to TCP. If your office VPN concentrator has been configured to use UDP instead of TCP, you have to use a client from Cisco, not that built in Snowy.
- Snow Leopard VPN client does not support pre-configuration files, which means that you have to configure your connection manually. It might be a problem with provisioning in the large enterprise environment.
- Microsoft Exchange support has been prepared to be compatible only with Exchange 2007, so if your company is still using 2003, you might push your IT to upgrade. (There are comments on the Internet, that the client works fine with 2003). Maybe Microsoft licensing the client also would like to sell more 2007, I don’t know.
- You are able to delegate your calendar to other person in iCal, but you cannot do the same with the Mail account. It’s weird and inconsistent and I hope that Apple will fix it in the future.
- It’s not possible using Mail.app to set up Away Message inside the application. Entourage has that feature, Mail.app not yet. Instead of using Mail.app to do it, you have to log in to your corporate Exchange server and do it over the web interface via WebDAV.
Overall, Apple definitively has moved their OS to the enterprise much closer. Some of the functionalities might have been quite difficult to easily integrate with Mac OSX, because Microsoft might consequently prevent Apple from moving further, advertising that if you wanna have the best integration you have to use their products. We will see what is going to happen and how Apple and Microsoft are willing to operate together to make consumers happy.
BTW, if some of the above mentioned limitations bother you, please drop a line to Apple at: http://www.apple.com/feedback/macosx.html