Think OS X Server doesn’t have equivalents to Active Directory and Exchange? Think again.
Last week, I compared the costs of Mountain Lion Server with the licensing for Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition. Both products are pretty clearly for the small business market. One of the big questions or concerns from readers centered around Microsoft’s Active Directory and Exchange. The assumption being that Apple didn’t provide anything similar.
That assumption, however, isn’t accurate. To clear up confusion, let’s take a look at what the core services and features in OS X Server actually offers and the audience that can best benefit from Mountain Lion Server – small businesses looking to set up a handful of services for a relatively small number of users.
Microsoft’s small business server will go up against Mountain Lion Server at 10X the cost and with artificial limits on it.
Now that Microsoft has unveiled the pricing and licensing models for Windows Server 2012, it’s easy to see why Apple’s focus on the small business market has been a genius move. Apple has been positioning its server platform as a small business solution for a while and Mountain Lion Server is the premier example of this focus.
Mountain Lion Server provides all the core needs for a small or mid-size firm – file sharing, email and messaging, shared contacts and calendars, and collaborative tools – for both Mac and Windows users. It also provides Mac deployment and update services as well as Mac and iOS device management capabilities. All of that is insanely affordable at just $31.98 ($19.99 to buy Mountain Lion, if needed, and then $19.99 for Mountain Lion Server).
By contrast, Microsoft’s so-called streamlining licensing for Windows Server 2012 lists a Windows Server Essentials Edition, which is the new equivalent of Windows Small Business Server, as starting at $425 with serious limitations.
Apple’s pricing for Mountain Lion Server is a great bargain for small businesses.
OS X Server has always been something of a bargain compared to the various flavors of Windows Server. Unlike Microsoft, Apple never focused on a client access licensing model in which organizations must pay for the server software itself plus additional licenses for users or devices that connect to it. Apple also doesn’t break OS X Server down into multiple variations each with its own features, licensing needs, and upgrade limitations.
When you buy OS X Server, Apple gives you everything from file sharing to Internet and collaborative services like wikis and internal messaging through Mac and iOS device management. If you start as a small business with a single basic server and eventually grow to the point where you need to support and manage dozens or hundreds of Macs, PCs, and mobile devices, there are no limits imposed on licensing or data migration.
Microsoft’s Active Directory is a core component in virtually every enterprise network. When I looked at Centrify’s DirectControl for Mobile, I singled out its deep integration with Active Directory as a major feature and a leg up over some of the other mobile device management (MDM) suites on the market. That’s because Active Directory is an essential piece of technology infrastructure in the vast majority of businesses.
Despite being a Microsoft solution (and a feature of Windows Server), Active Directory is a technology that all Apple IT professionals should understand and have some skills in using. With the Xserve gone and OS X Server headed to more limited uses since the release of Lion last summer, Active Directory is becoming a de facto standard for Macs and iOS devices as much as it is for Windows PCs.
Earlier this week, Centrify launched an open beta of the company’s DirectControl for Mobile service. The service, which supports managing iPhones, iPads, and Android devices in business and enterprise settings, currently includes a subset of the features typical in other mobile device management (MDM) systems. Centrify, which is known for providing enterprise integration technologies for OS X as well as various Unix and Linux distributions, plans to maintain the current selection of controls as a free solution when the product emerges from beta while adding further management capabilities to a commercially licensed version.
Most MDM solutions are of the bolted-on variety – they run on a dedicated server or cloud offering that can pull information from enterprise systems like Microsoft’s Active Directory but use a separate management interface and data store for management profiles and other information. Centrify’s DirectControl does offer a cloud management system, but it uses Active Directory itself as the primary interface and data store, an approach that has several advantages including a very minimal learning curve for experienced systems administrators.
Some arguments about Apple never seem die despite the fact that reality has moved on. Arguments like the Mac not being compatible with Windows file sharing or disk formats and that all Apple products being inherently more expensive than any competitors. This morning, Computerworld’s Preston Gralla pulled several of these outdated arguments together to support his opinion that Apple would never unseat Microsoft in the enterprise.
Virtually every argument in this piece is easy to debunk with facts. What’s more important than responding to these outdated myths, however, is realizing that Apple doesn’t want to unseat Microsoft from its current place in the enterprise. Microsoft is actually doing a lot of enterprise heavy lifting for Apple.