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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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How To Truly Support Mac OS X Lion

Posted July 25, 2011    Peter McCalister

Supporting Mac OS X 10.7 Lion means more than just checking a box on a list of supported platforms. It means that you’ve engineered your product to take full advantage of the features of Lion, and deliver a seamless end-to-end experience for users and administrators.

Delivering Lion-supported builds to users days in advance of OS X Lion’s release requires strong developer relationships with Apple. This allows customers to test the software in their labs in advance of the launch and deliver Day One support to their actual users.

Apple is a leader in desktop computing, and with the addition of PowerBroker Identity Services (acquired last month from Likewise Software), BeyondTrust is now the leader in the Active Directory Bridge and Privileged Access Management markets on the Mac platform. It’s a market position we don’t take lightly, and never intend to surrender. With thousands of customers using PBIS Open (formerly Likewise Open). Many of our biggest customers employ PBIS Enterprise (formerly Likewise Enterprise) in large corporate Mac deployments, where users are now able to utilize AD login credentials while administrators benefit by managing granular group policy settings throughout their corporate Mac environments.

So what’s new for PBIS customers with the release of OS X Lion?

In Lion, Apple has made many changes to the directory services utilities. These changes have allowed BeyondTrust to integrate directly into utilities needed to adapt the way we perform the domain join and extend policy. For this reason it’s necessary for customers to upgrade their PBIS (or old Likewise) version before upgrading to OS X Lion if they do not want to have perform the domain join again. It will work either way, but upgrading PBIS first provides a more seamless experience.

What differentiates PBIS support for OS X Lion from the support of competing products?

PBIS is the only solution with full support for Apple’s Workgroup Manager. Administrators wishing to extend policy can manages literally any system setting on Macs in their network can do so from a central location thanks to the PBIS Enterprise integration. Administrators need only download the latest version of Workgroup Manager (part of the free Server Tools package) and choose settings to push out to various users and groups in WGM. All of the new settings in OS X Lion are automatically supported in this way with PBIS Enterprise.

This is a dramatic difference from competing products. One competitor selects a bunch of Mac system settings they wish to support in their product and pre-packages those as “Group Policies” for Mac–managed by Windows Group Policy. Another competitor re-created a Mac policy management console that mimics the look of Workgroup Manager–but contains only a small subset of WGM’s supported policies. To add more policies, you have to export .plist files for given settings, convert it to Windows policies, and import them into AD. It’s an incredibly cumbersome process.

What’s more, when new operating system upgrades for OS X Lion are released, or new applications are offered by Apple, customers using these competing products have to wait for the vendor to update their supported policies–rather than simply downloading the new version of WGM and pushing them out. This creates a huge security loophole for Mac administrators–one that dramatically increases risk and nullifies compliance with security standards.

If you’re currently in the market for a solution to integrate your Macs with Active Directory, ask your vendor:
“Do you support ALL of the system settings in Workgroup Manager?”
and “Do you offer support of Mac OS X Lion without making AD schema changes or replacing system binaries?”
At BeyondTrust, we’re happy to say “yes” to both questions. We treat Mac users like first-class citizens, no matter what OS X version they are running.

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