02:54 AM

Consumerization Of IT: Intel Allows Staff To Use Their Macs

(It took a while - first pilot program was in 2006 but Intel's IT department has now OK'd the use of Apple computers - Aaron Tersteeg (above) took part in the first pilot program.)

By Intel Free Press

Putting Apple MacBooks to work behind the corporate firewall is something many small Silicon Valley startups may have been doing for years, but it may be less likely inside larger, established companies that rely upon heavily protected enterprise networks to manage email, store documents and dispatch software to employees around the world.

That is about to change inside Intel.

In late May, the company quietly unveiled a new program allowing employees to "Bring Your Own Mac" to work, marking a departure from Intel IT's decades-old focus on company-owned laptops based on Windows. It's also creating new learnings for the company's IT department and ushering in a potential new model of self-support.

Intel's estimated 93,000 employees aren't exactly making a mad dash to swap out their existing IT-issued laptops for a MacBook, but Macs are slowing trickling into the work environment. BusinessWeek reported on this trend with "The Mac in the Grey Flannel Suit" cover story a few years ago, but it may finally be coming to fruition as more and more IT shops test the waters.

"Today there are more than 600 Macs in the enterprise and we're getting about 10 new ones added each week," said Jim Ferguson, a client engineer in Intel's IT department who led the effort to formalize a program that started several years ago with a few pilots.

It hasn't been easy.

"When we first started we brought in Powerbook G4 laptops but they didn't support wireless network protocols," Ferguson said. "One of the biggest drawbacks was lack of compatibility between the Apple OS and Windows environment," he said.

As a result, a number of such enterprise applications as SharePoint and iMeeting didn't work properly. There were considerable security, privacy, and legal issues to work through as well.

Some of the Macs inside Intel today are owned and supported by the IT department, but the new program relies more on a self-support model, with employees handling a lot of the basics using their own machines, including technical support.

Intel's IT department, led by Intel CIO Diane Byrant, has been doing a lot of experimenting and testing of the waters with the shift to consumerization, in which employee-owned devices with multiple operating systems are granted access to the company's secure Internet. Bryant says the goal is to enable as many devices as possible in the IT environment to help make employees as productive as they can be.

In 2009, Intel told employees if they had a smartphone device they purchased on their own, they could bring it into the enterprise. In the first 3 months, some 9,000 employees took advantage of the program. The company has also allowed iPads behind the firewall, but very few have abandoned their laptops as a result.
The shift to allowing Apple laptops in particular is something Apple fans working inside Intel have been waiting for ever since Intel chips began powering Apple computers in 2006.

Aaron Tersteeg, a software developer in Intel's Software and Services Group, loves the BYOMac program. He joined a smaller-scale Mac pilot program in 2006 on the heels of a handful of Macs being used by Team Apple, the sales team that led the initial engagement a year or so before. Since then, Tersteeg says he's moved on to his third MacBook. He says he prefers the Mac experience with its fluid and consistent interaction between applications, and the elegant interface.

"Media creation and management is top notch," Tersteeg said. "I can open almost any file instantly and I'm never hunting for a tool. The OS comes with almost everything I need."

Getting IT to Think (and Do) Different

Ferguson says the program has really forced Intel's IT department to "think different" about how the company manages its fleet of employee-issued laptops, and is driving IT engineers to expand their programming expertise beyond Microsoft to new operating systems and browsers.

"The BYO Mac program has been a catalyst," Ferguson said. "Three years ago, most of the focus was on Windows or Explorer. Now most teams are working on Firefox and Safari instead of just Explorer."

Kevin Beaver, an information security consultant with Principle Logic has said bringing consumer technologies into the enterprise "is creating a more complex environment that was already extremely complex, and complexity is the enemy of security."

Malcolm Harkins, Intel's chief information security officer responsible for keeping Intel's online information safe, has said in earlier interviews that it's best to manage the risk and complexity up front. This is part of the philosophy inside Intel's IT department that has allowed the experimentation to continue.

"Unless you're moving toward the risk, you won't be able to shape it," Harkins said. "It's better to meet the demand rather than have the demand go around you."

Shifting Support Services

One of the biggest challenges Ferguson's team faced was how to integrate self-support into Intel's support structure.

"Self service flies in the face of everything within IT," he said. "But we think long term it is a lower cost option for IT because if we utilize people, we can build tech savvy employees who can manage their stuff over time."

The self-support model doesn't bother employees like Tersteeg.

"During the first year, things were challenging with limited support for Intel's core business tools," he said.

Even knowing there is IT support available today, Tersteeg says he really doesn't use it. Instead, he turns to the Intel Mac User Group site dubbed iMUG, where Mac fans discuss using Apple systems in the Intel environment.

"The iMUG forum is a great place to ask questions, share experience and BKMs (Best Known Methods)," said Tersteeg. "It is so much better than talking to someone by phone and hearing them read from a script. In the forum, the answers get debated and the best solution rises to the top, and there are tons of Mac fan boys and girls working to be the first to answer any question that arises."

So far, about 85 percent of MacBook users at Intel have technical job descriptions, which may help explain why support calls have been much lower than what Ferguson's team had expected.

"Support call volume was so low that our Technical Assistance Center couldn't maintain their skills. So we stopped using the TAC in 2010," said Ferguson. "We now have one contract worker who handles Mac support calls.

But Ferguson believes this is ultimately more than just allowing employees to use MacBooks and the Apple OS inside Intel.

"This program has laid the groundwork for the compute continuum," he says, referring to a vision where people can get a common, seamless Internet experience securely, no matter what device, operating system or browser they use.

With the rumored imminent launch of the newest MacBook Air with Intel's latest Core processors, Thunderbolt I/O technology and Intel graphics, there may be a lot more BYO Mac users inside Intel soon.