Apple’s acquisition this week of Fleetsmith, a provider of IT service management (ITSM) tools for Apple devices, is reigniting a fierce debate over how best to manage endpoints in heterogeneous IT environments.
Fleetsmith, along with rivals including Jamf Software and IBM, provides ITSM tools that only manage Apple devices. The company argues that the IT teams managing Apple devices prefer to use tools that feel like MacOs or iOS applications. However, both enterprise environments typically have both Apple and Windows devices. As such, many IT teams have adopted ITSM tools that allow them to centrally manage both platforms.
Until now, Apple has been relatively neutral in terms of how best to manage its devices. The acquisition of Fleetsmith signals the company is about to focus more on ITSM at a time when many organizations need to revamp their approach to managing endpoints in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more individuals likely to be spending more time working from home, the management of highly distributed endpoints becomes even more challenging. Apple has yet to outline its plans for Fleetsmith or say whether it will continue to support Fleetsmith customers. The assumption is the company will incorporate the Fleetsmith ITSM tools into its portfolio.
Mac and Windows: Can’t We All Get Along?
In the meantime, providers of platforms capable of managing heterogeneous endpoints are pressing their cases for increased centralization. Many IT organizations have adopted separate tools for managing Windows and Apple devices; centralizing the management of endpoints presents those organizations with an opportunity to reduce costs.
“IT teams don’t want to hop around infrastructure, said Greg Keller, CTO for JumpCloud, a provider of ITSM tools. “Centralization creates this single-pane-of-glass efficiency.”
The need to centralize endpoint management will become even more pronounced as desktop computing moves into the cloud, added Pradyut Roy, a product manager for ManageEngine, a provider of ITSM tools that also span multiple types of endpoints.
“There is going to be a huge drive to centralize the control plane,” said Roy.
A survey of 519 IT professionals published this week by ManageEngine finds 47% of organizations are planning to provide more mobile-capable assets to employees. As those endpoints are rolled out, IT teams will need ITSM platforms accessible from anywhere that enable them to manage devices regardless of what network they are connected to at any given time.
Apple doesn’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to appreciating ITSM requirements in the enterprise. For example, it often changes application programming interfaces (APIs) in ways that are not backward-compatible, so providers of ITSM tools often must make significant updates to their tools. That API issue is likely to become even more significant as organizations that have adopted best DevOps practices look to extend them to applications running on Apple devices.
ITSM is clearly in a state of flux. Most IT organizations rely on legacy ITIL-based processes to manage IT infrastructure consistently. As businesses begin to require more flexibility, many of those ITIL-based processes will need to be revisited. The opportunity—and the challenge—now is finding a way to converge ITIL and DevOps practices across as many different types of endpoints as possible.