Apple continues to mostly ignore the enterprise

Despite being roundly ignored, corporate America seems to be perking up its collective ears a bit to some of Apple's newer wares

For consumers, the Macintosh's hip quotient is being hammered home with one of the largest and most memorable advertising campaigns in Apple history. But the enterprise isn't getting any of that attention.

Despite being roundly ignored, corporate America seems to be perking up its collective ears a bit to some of Apple's newer wares. The company's switch to x86 processors, though way too long in coming by some accounts, has opened doors to some enterprise accounts that otherwise would have remained shut. Businesses that make the switch to Apple generally begin by using Mac desktops and laptops, but many ultimately graduate to the Xserve server platform.

When it comes to Apple's hardware and software, corporate customers report being happy campers indeed. But support and service are another story entirely.

"I definitely say Apple's enterprise support is lacking compared to someone like Sun, which is very good," said Andrew Oliver, director of operations at LiveWorld, a provider of Web conferencing services for companies including Intel, BEA Systems, Campbell Soup and eBay. LiveWorld has an Apple data center deployment of about 120 Xserve dual-processor systems.

"Their baseline support is too weak and is frustrating," Oliver said. "Once we upgraded to their enterprise support program, that improved, but anytime you want to step out of the box, they almost want to wash their hands of you. They do need to sharpen up there."

That frustration with support, however, hasn't stopped LiveWorld from making a major commitment to building its infrastructure around Apple equipment during the past few years. A primarily Sun Microsystems and Solaris house, the company in 2003 found that it could get more capacity and performance with an Xserve server and Xserve RAID system at a lower cost than it was getting through its traditional network appliance vendor.

LiveWorld decided to test one Apple system and was so pleased with the performance that the company is now primarily a Apple house, with the vast majority of its servers, storage and PC deployments now Mac-based.

"Most of the people I talk to in the industry are a little surprised when they find out about our infrastructure," Oliver said. "Our servers are hosted in a commercial data centre. Two years ago, we were the only Apples in there. Now, when I walk around the floor, I see at least a dozen other companies that are using Apple to some level. We are still a little oddball, but I think lots of other businesses are beginning to see value in Apple, although for most, taking the plunge to change their whole architecture is something they aren't going to do."

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Darrell Dunn

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