Strong Mac Tradition
With its strong Macintosh tradition, RAND hired O'Donnell in 2002 because of his Mac expertise. Previously, O'Donnell worked at NBC as a Mac specialist, but found himself out of a job when the broadcasting giant decreed an end to Mac usage even in its production department.
At RAND, employees choosing the Macintosh platform may select from several types of systems depending on their role in the corporation: Researchers get a MacBook Pro; administrative assistants get an iMac; employees in the company's creative department get either a MacBook Pro or a Mac Pro tower; and a corporate executive or a high-level researcher can choose a MacBook Air.
In addition to the software that Apple includes with those systems, users get Microsoft Office for Macintosh and Microsoft Remote Desktop. For a browser, most Mac-equipped employees use Apple's Safari, although Mozilla Firefox is also supported.
To integrate Macs in its corporate environment, RAND is using Centrify Direct Control to authenticate Macintosh and Linux systems with Windows Active Directory. Although Apple offers its own tool for authenticating Macs on Active Directory, O'Donnell said Centrify's software works better and he is planning to use Centrify software to integrate Solaris, as well.
One technology that is aiding multiplatform deployments as well as the Mac resurgence in the enterprise is desktop virtualization. RAND is using VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop for Mac so that users can run Linux and Windows in virtual machines on Mac OS X systems. Doing so lets them move back and forth among Windows, Linux and Macintosh applications as they please.
In addition to fostering end-user satisfaction, RAND is reaping other benefits from its strategy, not the least of which is enhanced security. "We get attacked and hit by viruses just like anybody else, but it's always for Windows," said O'Donnell.
And although the cost of a Mac remains somewhat higher than the cost of a Windows PC, O'Donnell reports that Macintosh hardware quality is high and the software has fewer problems. "We have less support needs for the Mac," he said.