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Enterprise CIO considers Win-to-Mac switch

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."




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. libraryguy

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Apple better be listening

    I sure hope Apple is paying attention! They need to get some reps there and offer any assistance they can to get these guys to switch.

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Isn't Tacoma near Seattle

    If I know my US geography right, this is right in MS's own backyard, so to speak!

    It is going to be very interesting to see how a MS-centric IT shop converts its operations to Apple/Open Source solutions and saves money in the process. The experiences will be worth their weight in gold!

  1. Tdassel

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Very interesting !!

    This would actually a landslide experience. AFAIK there is no enterprise anywhere on the world that has done this switch so far. If this is really going to happen, then there would a least be something like a reference project and I guess many more companies will at least start considering to migrate to Macs. Apple has no big record of being a company that embraces solutions for enterprises, lets see if this changes. Keep us in the loop how this develops, even if they decide not to switch.

    Thomas

  1. debohun

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Scary...

    This is probably scaring Apple out of its wits. If a company undertook something like this before Apple was ready to support it, and it went bad, it could destroy Apple's chances at the enterprise for the foreseeable future. Yes, it's an exciting opportunity, but it may not be one they are ready for yet.

  1. petsounds

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    seems like a pipedream

    Until Apple changes its attitude towards enterprise customers, I don't foresee any big sea change happening. Except for their Xserves, they don't even offer onsite support or consulting. I know personally of a circumstance with a large educational institution who was open-minded about switching their IT group, and Apple's corporate reps basically came in, unwilling to compromise in order to seal the deal. I think from Apple's point-of-view, this would be great publicity, but they're not interested in refocusing their company to support enterprise customers. They are primarily a consumer computer and device company, moreso now than ever. However, I do think they could make some serious inroads with smaller companies who have the flexibility to migrate from MS solutions.

  1. cvbcvb

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    CIO

    This guy deserves a medal just for considering a Mac solution. As the saying goes - No CIO was ever fired for choosing Windows...

    CVB

  1. LouZer

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Better choice

    In their situation, he'd be better off switching their program to a web application, and converting all their PCs to use Linux. If you go web, it don't matter what you're running on an OS, and then you don't have to buy all new computers (esp. for what apple charges for their computers and support).

    And maybe he should do some research, because lots of PC laptops also have microphones and cameras built-in. They even have better systems, where you can rotate the camera to see the other side of the computer.

    And you can get them without them too, what a concept, buying a computer that has just what you need in it, not all these features just to hike the price).

  1. dynsight

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    MySQL, Post Gres, Oracle

    Although I do like SQL Server (one of the few MS products I like), you have many options here. I have been running MYSQL 5.0 on Linux and OS X for a year, with no problems.

    Web apps are fine, but maintaining session state and reposts are annoying (AJAX helps a bit, but not for all issues).

    IF this company was considering updating all its windows apps to web apps ANYWAY, OSX is viable. Depending on the complexity of the application, PHP, JSP or cold fusion works equally well on Linux or OSX.

    Ultimately the client machines can be anything with a browser. MACS are much easier to use and diagnose. Linux is still difficult.

    You can limit this and manage it on a few servers, but when there are obtuse issues on the client computers....that is troubling.

    Wish this guy luck. Maybe the best model would be Linux Servers with OSX clients (the model that we use)

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