Apple in the Enterprise, Part 1: Apple a Day at Hartford Hospital
"Apple has very competitive pricing on equipment and has extremely competitive pricing on RAID storage. ... The Xserve RAID has performed flawlessly, and cost thousands of dollars less than the competitors' quotes," said Gary Spiegel, a director at the Hartford Hospital Stroke Center.
Apple's overwhelming focus on building products for individual consumers has meant that its strategy to penetrate the enterprise IT market has appeared to be a relatively benign one at best. Nonetheless, though the company's overall enterprise market share is practically miniscule, it is growing.
The company's Xserve server, RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Drives) and Xsan storage area network products are making inroads in the corporate sector while its consumer-oriented PC line continues to draw raves for their design, reliability and performance.
Leopard, the latest version of Apple's OS X series network operating system, is its best-selling and most robust yet. It comes with 300 new features that make it a more attractive and viable option in the corporate data center, according to analysts. Also, Apple's long-awaited switch to using Intel processors and ongoing improvements in Windows compatibility continue to pave the way for Mac uptake in the corporate world.
Perhaps the biggest push for Apple in the enterprise has to do with what's been termed the "consumerization" of IT. What works for individual consumers is increasingly what's being adopted in the office. The narrowing of the perceptual -- and any actual gap -- between what an individual home user and his or her corporate counterpart needs in terms of computing power and performance may be the biggest spur to Apple's bottom-up, consumer-centric approach to the market.
An Apple a Day at the Hartford Hospital Stroke Center
Neurologists, neurosurgeons and interventional neurologists are among those at the 850-bed Hartford Hospital Stroke Center in Hartford, Conn., relying on Apple technology for their IT needs. The center runs three main eight-core Mac Pro workstations with 16 GB of RAM.
"OsiriX and VMWare are installed on all of the eight-core Mac Pros we utilize," Gary Spiegel, the center's director of neurointervention and comedical director, told MacNewsWorld. OsiriX is an open source software system for processing, viewing and archiving 3-D medical images.
"Each is connected to Xserve RAIDs over Fibre Channel to provide access to all of our data at the highest speed. When we see patients in our clinic, we will display images on a large screen, discuss amongst ourselves, and then bring the patient in the room and discuss treatment options, if needed," Spiegel said.
The stroke center also employs redundant display-archive systems in its angiography lab connected by Myricom 10 gigabit Ethernet and standard Ethernet. Hence, "two people can access imaging simultaneously and we can connect to the clinic computer -- 300 meters and four floors up -- via Apple Remote Desktop, in real-time," Spiegel added.
There are three reasons Apple technology is at the core of the Hartford Hospital Stroke Center's IT environment, Spiegel explained.
"The OsiriX application that we use is very powerful, open-source to allow customization, and fully supports Digital Subtraction Angiography, which most commercial systems do not. OsiriX was built using Apple's Cocoa development technology, and thus is only available for Mac OS X," he added.
Managing a data and real-time 3-D visualization-intensive operation such as the Stroke Center's means storage performance, stability and scalability are key aspects of the IT environment.
"Apple has very competitive pricing on equipment and has extremely competitive pricing on RAID storage. ... The Xserve RAID has performed flawlessly, and cost thousands of dollars less than the competitors' quotes," Spiegel said.
The Stroke Center's radiology department was making use of a multimillion-dollar Philips-Sectra Picture Archive and Communication System (PACS), but the sheer volume of data was overwhelming the Sectra server. That led to calling in radiologist, imaging and Mac specialist Roger Katen with the Katen Consulting Group, and the development of an Apple-based neuroarchiving solution that met all the center's needs at very low hardware cost.
In the center's angiography suite, images are routed from a Siemens Leonardo workstation through a gigabit Ethernet connection to a dual quad-core Mac Pro and a 10.5 terabyte Xserve RAID. A 30-inch Apple Cinema Display resides next to monitors for the Leonardo, as well as a Siemens AXIOM Artis BA biplane neuroangiographic system.
Third, the stability of the Mac OS, as well as that of OsiriX, and the simplicity of its user interface translate into the center being able to concentrate its resources providing healthcare rather than dealing with system crashes and long tutorials, Spiegel continued.
"Fast Intel processors, beautifully designed Macs and a stable, secure OS, as well as great productivity software such as iWork '08 and iChat, are some of the many compelling reasons businesses are switching to the Mac," maintained Apple spokesperson Anuj Nayar.
Limited interoperability has been an issue of contention when it comes to the suitability of Apple's products in the corporate data center. The switch to Intel processors is going a long way toward addressing the issue but the company is also tackling it on other fronts, virtualization and open source software compatibility among them.
"As the first major computer company to make open source development a key part of its ongoing software strategy, Apple remains committed to the open source development model," Nayar told MacNewsWorld.
"Major components of Mac OS X, including the Unix-based core, are made available under Apple's open source license, allowing developers and students to view source code, learn from it and submit suggestions and modifications. In addition, Apple uses software created by the open source community, such as the HTML rendering engine for Safari, and returns its enhancements to the community," he added.
At Work in the Data Center
Companies are increasingly turning to virtualization to increase server and end user productivity in their data centers, as well as reduce costs and their space and carbon footprint. Third-party OS virtualization companies such as SWsoft's Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMWare's network virtualization software are at the leading edge of running Apple's proprietary operating systems a and applications alongside others in a virtualized environment.
Asked what he thought about the suitability of Apple's latest generation technology in the more mainstream corporate data center, Spiegel said, "I think stability, performance, and the ability to run our required software, plus Windows software if necessary makes Macs unique. ... I think they would be very applicable in the corporate setting, because they are easy to manage and offer both worlds to the user. They have made our medical practice more efficient, so I would expect that the same to occur in a large-scale corporate enterprise setting."
What would he like to see from Apple in the future? "Updates to the Xserve/Xserve RAID would be welcomed. Other than that, we have been very happy and enjoy our relationship with Apple," Spiegel concluded.