Potentially more troublesome
than integrating OS X clients into a Windows-centric identity infrastructure is
ensuring that key Windows applications may be run from OS X machines. Many
major applications do ship in Mac-compatible flavors, particularly in Apple's
traditional home court of content creation applications, but there are times
when native Mac software won't fit the bill-even when a Mac flavor of the
application is available.
For instance, while
Microsoft sells Office 2008-a Mac-native version of the company's popular
productivity suite-the version of Excel that ships with Office 2008 lacks
support macros based on Visual Basic for Applications.
Fortunately, Apple's move to
the x86 architecture for its hardware has broadened the range of Windows
application compatibility options to which administrators may turn. In
particular, the fact that Windows and OS X now share an instruction set has
paved the way for a set of desktop virtualization applications that enable OS X
users to run Windows applications from a virtual instance of the Microsoft
operating system running on their Apple hardware.
I have tested OS X-specific
virtualization applications from VMware-VMware Fusion-and from Parallels, which
sells Parallels Desktop for Mac.
To a much greater extent
than with virtualization software products aimed at Linux and Windows desktops,
OS X virtualization products tend to be focused on providing users with a
relatively seamless Windows-to-OS X experience. To that end, both vendors'
products boast a feature-called Coherence on the Parallels product and Unity on
the VMware offering-that makes applications running in the virtualized Windows
environment appear as though native to OS X.
Using a virtualization
product to provide Windows application access to OS X clients ensures fairly
broad compatibility, since the software in question has a bona fide Windows
instance on which to run. What's more, unlike delivering Windows applications
via Citrix Systems XenApp or Microsoft's Terminal Services, your Mac users will
have access to their applications in both online and offline scenarios.
Of course, virtual or not,
those additional instances of Windows require their own licenses and
administrative care and feeding, which mean added overhead. On that note, your
Mac clients must have enough spare RAM and processor resources to
account for the system overhead of the virtual Windows instances they might
Simpler, perhaps, than
running virtual Windows instances within your OS X system is the route to
Windows application accessibility offered by Apple's Boot Camp, a
well-implemented utility for turning a Mac computer into a dual boot OS
Boot Camp works well and can
deliver increased performance compared with one of the virtualization-based
options, particularly when the Mac system in question is low on RAM. However, the issues of
paying for and maintaining a separate operating system instance remain, and
while a user is booted into Windows, Mac applications are inaccessible.