Apple,MacTech Conference,OS X October 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm

MacTech Conference 2012: Day 2 Roundup

Today was day two of MacTech Conference 2012. Below is a summary of the IT track events from today along with a few of my thoughts.

Ben Levy, Phil Goodman, and Steve Leebove kicked off the IT track this morning with a presentation on configuration profiles for both iOS and OS X. Their presentation was extremely in-depth and they presented a live demo (the demo gods treated them kindly) of applying a profile to an iOS device and to a Mac. They covered all three of the available Apple tools for creating and managing profiles: iPhone Configuration Utility, Apple Configurator, and Profile Manager 2 in Mt. Lion Server. They also presented us attendees with resources like the Enterprise iOS wiki to compare third party MDM providers.

Nathan Toups gave a presentation on deploying disruptive technology for fun and profit. Nathan has spoke at MacTech every year since its inception. His presentations are always enjoyable and offer a needed break from the other deep-dive technical sessions. Nathan talked about how in the olden days, companies that relied on electricity hired full time electricians because electricity was considered complex and many people didn’t have the know-how to manage and troubleshoot it themselves. Today, most of us just plug in to a power outlet and never think twice about how electricity works, despite it being far more complex now than it was in the past. Nathan proposed that perhaps IT will go in the same direction. As more companies move to cloud services and/or SaaS, the overall role of the traditional IT department shrinks and changes. The opportunity for IT, he suggested, is for companies that are sick of traditional IT and want new ways to solve problems. How can we as IT professionals support their new ways of thinking that allow them to have fun and make a profit?

Before lunch were the labs. I attended the Mac Deployment lab led by Greg Neagle, but there were labs on iOS deployment and Security as well. Despite some overall dissatisfaction amongst us attendees related to Apple’s attitude towards the enterprise, the lab went well. It was full of good discussions about Active Directory integration, software updates, CreateOSXInstall.pkg, InstaDMG, DeployStudio, Munki, and Adobe software deployments. OS X deployment and management is one of my personal specialities, so I really enjoyed hearing the challenges that are facing other companies and institutions and how they’re dealing with those challenges.

Aaron Freimark’s presentation was titled, “If the iPad is DIY, is IT SOL?” and focused on the commoditization of the iPad and iOS devices. There is one iPhone for all different levels of employees in all different industry segments. The CIO’s iPhone is the same iPhone that we all have in our pocket. iCloud integration and backup/restore works almost entirely seamlessly. Next year it’s projected that tablet sales will outsell traditional PCs. The overall role of IT in supporting these devices is shrinking. If these devices break, it’s not IT fixing them, it’s Apple directly. As consultants and IT professionals we need to be sure that we understand that we’re not SOL, but that our roles are definitely changing. This theme was present in Nathan’s presentation and was carried forward into Allister’s presentation.

Allister Banks’s presentation was titled “Everything I need to know about technology I learned from supporting the arts.” He proposed three labels in which Apple’s customers can be filed. There’s the engineer, the creative, and everyone else. The attitudes of the supporter need to shift based on the class of user he or she is supporting. We as IT professionals should be learning and growing along with our customers. Humility is important when supporting customers, especially so when supporting engineers. They express an intense sensitivity for the same things that we as IT professionals should be sensitive about. Allister closed with, “Sharpen your senses like an artist does and look for ways you can learn from and amplify the work of those around you.” I thought that was very pointed and motivational.

Matthew Bookspan gave a presentation on changing one’s perspective on IT support. Relating to users is incredibly important. An IT professional can fix most end user problems quickly, but that most likely doesn’t solve the real problem of the user’s frustration. As IT professionals, enlightening ourselves to the needs and concerns of our users is important. Sometimes deflecting concerns back to users with constructive criticisms and new ideas can be beneficial. Not being afraid to say no, but knowing how to say no, is also important. Matt told an amazing story of a time when he said no to Cisco systems during a business meeting that had a 7 figure sales agreement on the line. Thinking carefully about how to respond to delicate situations and not immediately acting on one’s first emotions is important to maintaining respectful and meaningful partnerships.

Derick Okihara gave a great and humorous presentation on iOS deployment. His institution deployed 1600 iPads into the hands of every student in a 1:1 deployment. They leased the iPads to spread the cost over three years. Derick touched on important points such as insurance for the iPads, AppleCare+ for accidental damage, and application deployment. Derick touched on Apple’s App Store Volume purchasing for education program. He also touched on three different distinct ownership models. In the institutional model, the institution sets up the device, manages the device, and owns the apps deployed to the device. In the layered model, the institutions sets up the device, manages the device, preinstalls apps, and then allows users to use their own Apple ID to install additional Apps. This presents challenges when updating apps, even on iOS 6. The last model is the personal model where the iPad essentially belongs to the user. It is, however, still possible to manage iPads using MDM when using the personal model. Derick made sure to touch on important network considerations when doing such a large deployment. His institution invested over $70K in its network to improve and prepare it for the iPads. His institution uses Meru wireless technology and band selecting helps improve the performance. His institution is using Jamf’s JSS for MDM.

Gabriel Soto gave a presentation on IT for a Media Driven World. He covered the explosive growth of media across all device types and ways to manage growing large data collections. 4K recordings can use as much as 28.67 GB per minute of recording. As resolutions increase, the need for greater storage increases.

To wrap up the day of sessions, Greg Neagle presented on ways to not repeat one’s self. He focused on new ways to deploy machines using tools he’s written such as Munki and CreateOSXInstall.pkg. But more importantly, he focused on how these tools can come together to eliminate all of the remaining reasons that many people still use to justify the building of actual images. Even when using a tool like InstaDMG, if one needs to change something in an image, it’s still necessary to rerun InstaDMG to build a new, modified image. This can still ultimately result in having many images. If we simply use something like CreateOSXInstall.pkg and use a tool like Munki for all software installations, the need for that base image is essentially eliminated. The only benefit remaining to maintaining an actual image to be used in a deployment workflow is speed. I for example maintain an InstaDMG base image for use on my client machines. I can restore this base image to a single client machine in under three minutes, and to 30 or more within about 8 minutes using ASR multicast. Using CreateOSXInstall.pkg, I’d have to wait for OS X to actually install before any of the clients would even begin running Munki to download software. Greg’s proposal that “no imaging” should be the way to handle base operating system deployments moving forward was very compelling (especially if speed is not a critical factor of the deployment(s)).

After Greg’s session ended, the evening began with a delicious buffet style dinner in the Starlight Room on the top floor of the hotel. Following dinner, all of us attendees made our way to Jillian’s by walking through/up Universal’s CityWalk. The night brought many festivities including bowling, gaming, karaoke, and more. Of course drinks and good times were in abundance.

It’s hard to believe that the conference comes to a close tomorrow. There are just two IT track sessions remaining on BSD Auditing and FileVault 2.

(Read day 3′s roundup here.)

About Mike Boylan

Mike Boylan is a recent graduate of Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA where he studied computer information systems. He’s now pursuing a master’s of science in competitive intelligence systems. Mike is a programmer analyst and systems administrator for the University. He is the University’s sole Mac systems administrator. He also engineered and administers the current iteration of the University’s Asterisk based IP-PBX which has taken over one million calls since its go live date. He’s been doing Mac systems administration for over seven years, having worked previously for Fox Chapel Area School District in Pittsburgh, PA. Fox Chapel holds one of the largest Mac deployments in the Pittsburgh area. When not at work or in class, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and exploring new restaurants.

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