A medical research organisation.
What is the most cost effective way to manage a mix of Mac OS and Windows computers within an enterprise? That was the question EACS had to answer when called in by a medical research organisation which needed to replace its client management software. The solution EACS proposed initially seemed counter-intuitive, but after carrying out some research of its own EACS implemented an effective solution using existing software and thus saved the research organisation a considerable amount of money.
The medical research organisation had some 1,500 users, working on a mix of Windows and Mac OS X desktops and laptops. Its Windows estate was managed by LANDesk client management software, but the licence was expiring and a replacement solution was needed. As the large number of Macs in the organisation were unmanaged, the need for a new management solution for Windows provided an opportunity to implement a solution that could manage all user machines, including Macs.
However, all the options the organisation could find were generic – therefore would need a considerable amount of tailoring to meet the organisation’s actual needs – and extremely expensive. The alternative was to purchase multiple solutions, which would also be costly and ultimately unwieldy.
EACS suggested a radical alternative – using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). The customer already had access to SCCM as part of its CoreCAL Microsoft licencing, but had assumed that the software could not manage Macs. EACS explained that, although it is a Microsoft product, SCCM offers a limited level of management and control for Macs. What needed to be explored was whether this was sufficient for the customer’s needs. Although EACS had not previously used SCCM for this purpose, its team used their in-depth knowledge of the software to determine what changes would be required and how much management could be provided.
The key was to set up additional roles on the SCCM servers to enable Macs to be managed. With SCCM, Windows machines joined to the corporate domain are typically seen as trusted endpoints. Macs, however, are viewed as external endpoints and therefore require additional security considerations. This can be addressed by creating an enrolment point on the server and configuring certificates to ensure that the Macs can enrol securely.
Using this set-up provides Mac clients with:
• discovery (both in Active Directory and through network discovery)
• hardware and software inventory and auditing
• settings management to ensure compliance with company policies
• application deployment
• software update management.
The research organisation also wanted to be able to manage the machines of roaming users which were not connected to the corporate network. This meant setting up Internet Based Client Management (IBCM), also part of SCCM, which publishes the SCCM management capabilities to the internet and enables SCCM to manage the machines wherever they are in the world, provided that they have an internet connection.
Pilot scheme and implementation
EACS developed a design which was fully scalable, allowing the addition of extra management and distribution points if the client estate grew in the future. The next stage was to set up a pilot project with a small number of Macs to show the research organisation exactly what could and could not be managed using SCCM. This was done within a week and after reviewing the results the customer was happy that the level of control which could be achieved met its requirements.
EACS then rolled out the solution across the organisation’s entire user estate over a four-week period. This phase also included setting up a new method of operation systems deployment, eliminating the need to maintain multiple images. This would help the organisation take advantage of SCCM to carry out a Windows update and refresh applications across all users. In addition, EACS created a Software Library for Windows and Macs, a software and hardware inventory using the Asset Intelligence feature and Software Metering.
The Benefits - A Radical, Cost-saving Solution to Managing a Mixed Windows and Mac OS estate
The implementation has brought both financial and practical benefits to the research organisation, while being completely seamless to its users. The cost of the implementation has been more than offset by the saving in licence fees for a new management solution and the organisation can also take advantage of SCCM’s features to provide improved functionality to its users. This includes a centralised application catalogue for the Windows clients which enables users to install additional permitted applications, making them feel empowered and saving time for the IT department.
“This was the first time we’ve been asked for a management solution that encompasses both Windows PCs and Macs,” explained Jason Bass, Technical Director, EACS. “We knew that in theory it could be done, but we had to dig into the fine details of SCCM and use all our experience to put it into practice.
“The result has been extremely successful – it does everything our customer needs and by using their existing licences it’s given them a significant cost saving. I would always advise customers to look closely at their licencing agreements as they may include products which they are not currently using and will benefit their organisation.”