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Windows-centric IBM changes its tune on Mac deployments

Ann Bednarz | Oct. 19, 2015
Four months into new program, IBM dispels cost assumptions about Macs, raves about ease of support

On the mobile device front, preference is also shifting to Apple.

“Over time we see more iOS, we see less Android, and we see BlackBerry really kind of disappearing – now it’s down to an almost statistically irrelevant number, less than 1%,” Previn said. He expects to see continued growth in iOS, which will account for an estimated 75% of mobile devices under management at IBM within the next year.

How to make the business case

Previn and his colleagues heard all the usual arguments against moving to Macs: They’re more expensive. They’re going to be difficult to support. IT doesn’t have the skills to manage Macs in a way that makes people feel comfortable about security. The whole application portfolio will need to be refactored. The help desk will need to be retrained.

So IT set out to quantify the expected costs and find ways to make the deployment cost-neutral to the company. Previn and team measured dozens of factors, including: number of calls to the help desk, number of virus infections, number of warranty claims, and number of battery replacements. They also measured the cost avoidance associated with tasks IT doesn’t have to do on the Mac, such as disk encryption and software imaging.

I can confidently say every Mac that we buy is making and saving IBM money.

In the end, IT came up with a mix of hard and soft benefits, but Previn said the department has tried to focus the Mac@IBM business case on the hard benefits, simply because the soft benefits are more difficult to justify in a conversation about finances.

For starters, IBM found the workstation cost per user isn’t as lopsided as one might think. While the upfront investment in a Mac is more than a Windows PC, the Mac has a higher residual value. In IBM’s environment, moving from buying a PC every four years to leasing a Mac “worked out to be cost-neutral for us,” Previn said.

Not needing an image, thanks to provisioning automation, “is a huge part of the business case for us,” Previn said. IBM can avoid many of the tasks required of a typical Windows imaging environment. “On the traditional PC side, [imaging involves] a lot of people, it creates complexity in the supply chain -- you have to buy the laptops, bring them somewhere and image them, then store them until somebody needs them. All of that is stuff that we don’t have to do because of the thin-imaging technology with Casper.”

Additional benefits include a reduction in hard-drive encryption costs (IBM can rely on Apple’s native FileVault full-disk encryption) and lower antivirus expenses.

On the staffing front, the ratio of support staff to supported employees is dramatically improved. “We need a lot fewer people to support those machines.”


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