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In The Trenches

Volume Number: 21 (2005)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Programming

In The Trenches

Talking With One Man on the Front Lines of Mac IT

by Michael R. Harvey

First in a New Monthly Series!

Ever been to Macworld, WWDC, MacRetreats, or an Apple Certified Training course. If the answer is yes, then chances are you have met Schoun Regan. Author of the Mac OS X Server Visual Quick Pro guide from Peachpit Press, editor for most of the Apple Pro Training series books focusing on Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server, Schoun is one of the most powerful forces behind technical training and Mac OS X in the industry today. The list of people he calls his colleagues is a veritable who's who of the Mac OS X high end consulting community. His ideas about the merging of training and consulting surrounding Mac OS X have been accepted by many who listen to him speak, hire his company to develop courseware, or have them consult on deployments of Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server. Arguably, he has been associated with training and Apple operating system software for about as long as the Macintosh has been around. We recently had the chance to sit down with Schoun and get his take on the current state, and future direction, of Macintosh in the enterprise.

MacTech: Where did you get your start in the IT business, and how long have you been at it?

Schoun Regan: I started out at Goodyear Research, where they were testing the strength and elasticity of tire materials. We were able to play with all sorts of dangerous equipment, data collection cards, IBM-XTs, Token Ring networks, AppleTalk, and Novell. It was a blast. After ten years supporting scientists, chemists, and engineers there, I moved on, earned one of the first ACT certifications, and established The Mac Trainers, and later ITInstruction.com. I have taught, and supported Mac OS X/Server installations all over the country, and speak at many Macintosh related events throughout the year.

MT: Apple has been making serious inroads into the enterprise computing space over the last few years. How do you think they got to where they are now?

SR: Hard work and innovation. The engineers started understanding the importance of integration with other platforms. They are starting to listen more, and great things are happening because of that. Take Access Control Lists in Tiger, for example. The big things get the headlines, but it's the little things that administrators deal with every day that change their minds. Take a look at http://www.apple.com/server/documentation. Over 1200 pages of detailed documentation on Mac OS X Server, FREE. The Mac OS X Server team is headed up by some very forward thinking people, and it shows. Apple Certified Training courses also help to spread the news that Apple is a player in this market.

MT: What were some of the challenges they had to overcome to get where they are today?

SR: Myopic mindsets with regard to Mac OS X Server had to go, and it did very quickly. Another issue they had to change was customer impressions. For a Fortune 500 company administrator to say, "We'll never have Macs in our company", is indicative of the larger problem of insular thinking. Apple's sales force is working diligently to alter that perception. It's a tough road with plenty of closed doors displaying "No Solicitors" signs. But those at Apple persevere. I recently spoke to a person who left Sun computing and they remarked his Apple SE seemed genuinely happy to go above and beyond the call of duty. There are not so much technical challenges as personnel challenges. The team heading up Sales, especially for Enterprise, is outstanding. I would attribute a significant change in customer mentality towards Mac OS X to these people.

MT: So how do companies make the switch, on an Enterprise level, so to speak?

SR: It's not a simple process. Getting the buy-in of the department manager or CIO is a great start. You have a section of the administrative world that still sees Macs plus AppleTalk multiplied by messy networks equals "we don't understand them". I once told the CIO of a company, when speaking about Apple entering the larger business markets, "Apple does not deserve my loyalty, but they have earned my respect." Someone needs to be in front of these administrators and let them know that Mac OS X Server is here to stay. It's interesting to see their response when shown what Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server can do. The market is ripe for a change, and Apple knows this. You have to more hardware and more staff ensures job security. Mac OS X Servers are a great start. Laptops and Mac OS X desktops can come later. Selling the hardware is only part of the solution. For someone to change over, a long-term plan must be in place meeting the criteria I spoke of earlier.

MT: What do you see as the bumps on the road to getting there?

SR: I would guess that the percentage of sales of Xserve and Xserve RAIDs cannot come close to iPod sales. However, you have the opportunity to grow other aspects of the business off sales of Mac OS X Server related products; training, repair kits, extended warranties, solutions, etc. When servers go in, Mac OS X soon follows. Ergo, listening to customers about issues surrounding Mac OS X Server should be taken seriously. Security is an enormous factor. Apple has fantastic security architecture. Do we see that in Apple's marketing literature or on the web site? Apple has an Active Directory plug-in allowing Mac OS X to integrate seamlessly with an Active Directory domain. Why this is not promoted better in Windows based PC magazines and web sites is beyond me.

MT: So, let's say you are king of the world; what would you have Apple do to improve their position in large scale IT departments?

SR: Fully support the extended schema by both offering phone support and training to allow easier integration of Windows clients. Packet signing and other similar services that Active Directory offers to its clients. Spend the money and purchase Thursby Software outright. I know that's a Microsoftee thing to do, but they have exactly what Apple needs, and they'll gain some talent found nowhere else in the industry. Develop WWTC, a World Wide Technical Conference. This can encompass WWDC, the World Wide Developer Conference and WWIT, a World Wide Information Technology Conference. I'd love to head that up. With the move to Intel, both aspects of this transition should be explored. This conference would take the IT world by storm.

MT:What is your perception of Apples move to the Intel processor? Good move or bad?

SR: Heh. Buy Apple stock.

MT: Thanks for taking the time do talk with us.

SR: My pleasure. I think this type of forum is productive. There are many Macintosh IT professionals out there, and I know many of them. You should hear some of the things they have to say.

MT: Cool. Want a job?

SR: (laughs)

Editor's note: Shortly after this interview, we actually did offer Schoun the job. Beginning with the December issue of MacTech, each month Schoun will be interviewing a Mac IT manager, and sharing with you their strategies for dealing with their most pressing issues. Be looking for "In The Trenches" each month in MacTech!!


"Honest to God, no s#@&, there I was." Thus begins the story of Reviews Editor Michael R. Harvey, a man who only wishes he could have slept his way to the top. From his humble beginnings as a helicopter crew chief in the U.S. Army, serving in both the Panama invasion and the first Gulf War, to UC Santa Barbara, earning a B.S. in Aquatic Biology, he gained his Mac experience in various places. From his early super hero days as the computer go to geek in freshman dorm, on to several positions in the undergrad labs on campus and with various consulting firms, to his current secret identity as the Senior Systems Technician at the Ventura County Star newspaper. Add to that other early jobs as a pizza delivery boy, and bouncer, and Michael was perfectly poised to take the Reviews Editor job in July 2002, wrangling both writers and vendors into line to be able to bring to you reviews of cool, and yes, even useful, products (even penning a few choice pieces himself). You're welcome. Contact him at reviews@mactech.com

 
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