updated 04:10 pm EDT, Wed April 18, 2007
Enterprise looks to Macs
The CIO of Tacoma Washington-based Auto Warehousing is fed up with Windows systems, and has decided to begin testing Mac systems for a potential enterprise-wide switch to Apple technology. The company receives, accessorizes, and ships 5.5 million cars to dealers each year, making it the largest automobile processing company in North America, according to SearchCIO. "We use a proprietary application to run our business," said Auto Warehousing CIO Dale N. Frantz. The executive said he is tired of the rising price of Windows licenses and hardware costs associated with OS upgrades, but the company relies heavily on Microsoft's SQL server technology for its proprietary ERP system. "The application was built in-house. It's extremely dependent on Microsoft. The question is can we re-code the front end on neutral technology that can run on Linux or Mac."
Frantz has already reported some success on a proof-of-concept project designed to test the feasibility of switching to Macs, but admits that such a test environment doesn't guarantee the system will work at an enterprise-wide level.
"Can we truly come up with a front-end application that will perform enough of our business functions so that it can meet our operational needs?" the executive questioned. "Right now I've seen a proof of concept, but it's a pretty big leap from proof of concept to actual production."
Nevertheless, Frantz noted that would need to replace every computer on his shop floor in order to upgrade to Windows Vista, and cited Microsoft's ever-increasing licensing fees as the Redmond-based company churns out further iterations of its desktop OS.
"[Microsoft] seems to feel that each subsequent operating system is worth a greater amount of money than the previous one," Frantz said. "Do I continue to throw money toward Microsoft or begin to look to something else?"
A bitter experience
Last year Microsoft notified Frantz that he may have some improperly licensed software within the confines of his company, and requested that analysts be allowed to search the company for license violations. Frantz kept detailed records of purchases and licenses, but conducted an internal audit anyway to appease Microsoft. Despite the audit, Microsoft wasn't satisfied, so Frantz turned to his lawyer who notified the CIO that the accusations were probably some sort of sales tactic, according to the report.
"We considered ourselves a good and loyal customer," Frantz said. "That left a bad taste in our mouth."
Switch to pose challenges
The executive admitted that there are major technical challenges involved with switching to Macs, but believes the option is worth investigating.
"We see some things we could gain by moving iMac equipment onto the shop floors," Frantz said. "The ability to do some videoconferencing, with cameras and microphones built in. We see some other technologies emerging that might be able to offset the cost of hardware, plus we have to buy new equipment to upgrade to Vista anyway."
Frantz explained that his staff members are enthusiastic about Macs, but that they're also anxious about whether the switch would make them obsolete. Management is concerned about training and support, while network administrators worry about potential interpretability issues. Additionally, developers don't know how to develop software for Mac systems.
"People are a little bit nervous," Frantz said. "I try my best to reassure them and tell them I'll bring anyone along for the ride that wants to come along for that ride."