MacIT Conference December 18, 2012 at 7:00 am

The 2013 Mac IT Conference: What’s Up?

If you’re even peripherally involved in administering Macs in any sort of numbers, you’ve heard about Macworld/iWorld, nee Macworld Conference and Expo. You probably even know about the Mac IT track, right?
Well, no, there isn’t one. MacIT has been it’s own show for…well, 2012 was the first, so the 2013 MacIT Conference will be, were I to be pedantic, (and I am after all, a sysadmin), the first anniversary/first annual one. (You can’t say something is annual until there are two. We have two. Done and done.) But in all seriousness, this is a good thing. Drastically loosening the coupling between Macworld and MacIT allows MacIT to be more of an IT-focused conference than it ever could be as part of Macworld/iWorld. There’s no more worries about content for non-IT. We have our own floor on the Moscone west, (Third floor), and we even have our own exhibit area, that is IT-focused, and with vendors who can actually show you products that will help you solve real problems. No more searching for the island of misfit sysadmins in a sea of consumer products. This is our floor, we do what we want.

A bit of history. A few years ago, Paul Kent and the rest of the advisory board realized we had to do more with MacIT. This was something that the MacIT board had wanted to do for a while, so there wasn’t a lot of resistance. The first thing was, make MacIT a show of its own. It could still be held at the same time as Macworld/iWorld, even in the same building. But it had to be its own show. This was important for two reasons. First, content. As I hinted at earlier, when you’re part of a consumer computer show, and that is what Macworld/iWorld unashamedly is, that affects track content. For example, for years, I and a few friends would do a two day networking workshop. While not consistent, we did get complaints/comment that talked about how this kind of IT stuff wasn’t what people went to Macworld for. That’s a fair statement. A show track, even a technical one, should still, at the end of the day, reflect the show. MacIT was always an odd duck, albeit a welcome one for many. By decoupling, or drastically loosening the coupling between Macworld/iWorld and MacIT, we gained flexibility in what we could consider. It allowed us to look at the overall IT field, its needs, and how we could best fill them across the board.

The second advantage this separation gave us was making it easier for IT folks to attend. When you’re a sysadmin, especially in tight economic conditions, it’s hard to justify going anywhere, much less a show that caters to a crowd not known for a lot of IT love. The MacIT track has always had good, useful content, but when it’s part of Macworld/iWorld, then it can still be taken as “yeah, right, you go go one session and drink for a week.” By having MacIT as its own show, with its own exhibitors and sponsors, we’re an IT show for IT folks. The money you’re spending isn’t for “a couple of sessions”, it’s for three days (four with the workshops) of actual IT – focused content.

So now, I’ve talked a bit about how MacIT is IT-focused, but given the bag of cats that is IT, what’s that even mean? Well, we’re focusing on Macs and iOS in the higher end of the SMB market and the Enterprise. Apple may not make enterprise-quality server hardware (not that they ever did), and they may target their server hardware and server OS at the low-to-middle part of the SMB market and K-12, but, that is not the same as Macs and iOS gear not having a place in the enterprise. Heck, Apple doesn’t even make a “server” OS anymore. Everything you need ships standard, all Server.app does is give you a GUI for some of it. The truth is, the days of needing a Mac to manage a Mac are gone, and to be blunt, good riddance. If you compare the Mac/iOS management toolkit of 2012/2013 to that of a decade earlier, (obviously, iOS doesn’t go back that far), it’s no contest. By not having the option of assuming Apple will do all of it, the management options for Apple hardware and software are far better than ever. So Apple may not be in the enterprise server closet, but they are definitely, definitely in the enterprise.

This also means that the stratification of “Mac Admins” is ending as well. Ten or more years ago, a Mac administrator might be able to get through their day/month/year and never have to touch a windows or linux box. These days, that is the exception, not the rule. I’m not a “Mac Sysadmin”, I’m a sysadmin who works on a network where the primary desktop platform is OS X, but the server closet is a heterogenous mix of Windows, OS X and Linux, running directly on hardware or virtualized. So there’s a lot of things a MacIT attendee is dealing with, and the object of MacIT is to help them with that as much as possible. This meant some changes in how we approach things. First, we had to be more welcoming to speakers who work for IT vendors. That’s not to say we are allowing blatant marketing pitches, (well, at least not twice.) But, IT, especially in business and the enterprise, has to work with vendors. In fact, in some areas, IT relies heavily on vendors to do the work we don’t have time or staff to do. So we have people like Dr. Nicko Van Someren talking about iOS and mobile device management, because while he is the CTO for Good Technology, a long-time player in the Mobile Device Management field, he’s also done some real, serious work in the area of security, and security on mobile devices. His talk at the 2012 MacIT conference was extremely well-received, and we’d have been stupid to have rejected him then, or this year because he worked for a vendor. So we have Dr. Van Someren talking about iOS security in a BYOD world. We have Nickolas Tong, a technical architect for Cisco talking about Public Key Cryptography, a field that few understand well, but one that any IT administrator can benefit from knowing more about. Jody Rogers and the Adobe installer team are back for their annual talk in the lion’s den. You want to talk to the folks at Adobe about your installation and deployment issues, they’ll be there. On Jan. 31st at 4:45pm.

Moving to our own show also allowed us to think about the people at the top of the IT food chain, the CTOs, the CIOs, the VPs. What could we do for them, to make this show more interesting for the people at their level. Well, this year, we have some talks that deal with those kinds of issues. For example, my boss, Mike McHargue, is going to talk about what he ran into going from the head of IT for an independent ad agency with a few hundred people to being part of the largest marketing holding company in the world. The IT issues in that change were legion, and most of them were non-technical. (SOX? But I don’t care about baseball…) We’ve quite a few sessions that deal with BYOD well above the nuts and bolts level, so that people who need to make large-scale decisions have the information they need to make those decisions wisely, and sessions on how IT is changing from gatekeeper to service provider.

We’ve also been able to expand what “IT” is. Like it or not, a lot of IT deals with programming. Internal utilities, web sites for clients, there are a lot of Mac IT folks writing a lot of code. This year, we have a day-long workshop on Xcode for IT folks. We’ve got Dori Smith, one of the smartest JavaScript people around, talking about creating web sites for iOS and mobile that aren’t dumbed-down “mobile” versions of the “real” site, but rather take advantage of existing standards and some extensions to those standards that help ensure mobile users get the same quality they’d get on a laptop.

Finally, this change also allowed us to have sessions that deal with real issues for IT, but don’t have “Mac” or “Apple”. Andrea Longo returns to us with her excellent talks about logs and how to get the most out of them, (this one was absolutely packed last year.) We have in-depth looks at FileVault 2, VPN on Demand, DNS, and SSL.

If you’re managing Macs in business or the enterprise, including education, MacIT is for you. If you’re running IT departments with Macs and mobile devices, and need better information to make the decisions you need to make, MacIT is for you. That’s what this show is for: you, and every year, we try to make it a little better. Come out and see for yourself.

About John Welch

John C. Welch is the head of IT for the/zimmerman/agency, one-third of Angry Mac Bastards, the mind behind bynkii.com, a regular contributor to Macworld Magazine, part of the Mac IT Conference Advisory Committee, and a regular speaker at MacWorld Expo since 1999. He has been dealing with all things Macintosh since the Lisa, and has been involved with networking and the Mac in IT for almost twenty years It is rumored that he has non-computer parts of his life as well, such as his son, Alex, his amazingly talented wife, Melissa, his guitar, and a long involvement with Korean Martial Arts.

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