posted by Aaron Vegh on Mon 17th May 2004 09:34 UTC
IconApple has found its best success in the consumer marketplace. But with a stable of enterprise-ready products, how can it penetrate this tough market?

Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of

My employer, a globe-spanning technology company with hundreds of thousands of employees, spent the last two weeks in fire-fighting mode, trying to stamp out traces of problems caused by the Sasser worm. Our networks were barely usable, internal servers were inoperable, and even as I write this some critical services are still on the blink.

I am currently participating in a project costing the company over $1 million (trust me, that's not as impressive as that sounds), and with the short timeline that's been imposed, the last two weeks' outages have been a disaster; there's now no way we'll make deadline, and that's going to cost the company money.

This isn't the first time that those widely-publicized Windows security issues have bitten this company. When you think of both man-hours trying to fix the problem, and the combined loss of productivity in a company this size, the cost must be amazing. So the question must be asked: how can this company -- indeed, any large corporation -- rationally choose to support a Windows infrastructure?

The answer is complicated, and has as much to do with inertia, ignorance and comfort level as it does with dollars and cents.

But the issue got me thinking about Apple, and their enterprise offerings. With the introduction of the XServe, XServe RAID, XGrid and OS X Server, why hasn't Apple penetrated the enterprise market?

That answer is complicated too, but I'm going to try to explain it. There might even be a solution.

Problem 1: Enterprise IT hates surprises
The big players in the enterprise IT market (Microsoft, Intel, IBM, etc.) have roadmaps that CIOs use to plan their infrastructure: when to upgrade, when to stay put, are decisions made up to a year in advance thanks to roadmaps. If you're planning a budget, having that view of the future can determine whether or not you go with a particular vendor.

Sadly, Apple does not offer a roadmap for its product lines, either on the OS X Server front, or the hardware front.

Problem 2: Apple needs a dedicated enterprise sales force
According to Think Secret, Apple may already have one, but it's clearly too small to be effective. These are the folks that beat the street, getting into the offices of CIOs to explain, in person, the benefits of the platform. They're the folks doing the unsolicited proposals that win surprise business, giving away a few XServes to test internal company deployments, opening regional corporate testing centers where companies can freely test their solution before going all the way. There needs to be real investment in developing the sales tools necessary to build those large accounts.

According to the report, Apple's enterprise sales force consists of 16 people. I'm sure they're doing good work, but it clearly won't be enough to make a real dent in the enterprise market.

Problem 3: Solutions, solutions, solutions
Enterprise computing is a tricky business. There are an infinite number of permutations of software and hardware that a company may be required to support, and the best players in this market -- Microsoft, IBM, HP, heck, even Red Hat -- have developed partnerships to ensure interoperability. Large corporations want to buy products from different companies, and they want those products to play well together. That means the companies have to play well together, even if they compete in different areas.

Apple does have a partnership with Oracle, but there are no plans to run, say, Novell on OS X. There are dozens of other applications that Apple should support on OS X Server, but won't or can't because of politics.

Table of contents
  1. "Apple and the Enterprise, Page 1/2"
  2. "Apple and the Enterprise, Page 2/2"
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