Interview: SAP talks about its 100,000+ Apple devices

SAP’s vice president of enterprise mobility, Martin Lang, explains how the company uses Jamf to manage its huge fleet of 17,000+ Macs, 83,000 iOS devices, and 170 Apple TVs.

Apple, iPad, iPhone, Mac, enterprise, Jamf, SAP, JNUC
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Apple is in the enterprise, and there’s ample proof at Jamf's annual JNUC event, the world’s largest gathering of Apple administrators where CIOs of some of the world’s biggest businesses are gathered to discuss Mac and iOS in the enterprise.

Apple is now big in business

Jamf CEO Dean Hager told me in an interview:

“The stories of Apple being implemented in the enterprise are no longer being told by the manager or the director of the Apple part of the business; they're being told by the CEOs, CIOs and the vice presidents of these organizations. That alone should be a sign of how significant Apple is becoming within the enterprise.”

JNUC is seeing a string of highly significant announcements, including IBM’s decision to open-source its Mac@IBM codebase and SAP’s huge deployment of Apple tech across its business.

This all reflects a real sea change in enterprise IT, which is no longer the same as it was even five years ago.

“Today, when people choose, they choose Apple,” Hager told me, “both on the mobile side, and more and more are choosing Mac.”

SAP speaks on Apple in the enterprise

I spoke with Martin Lang, vice president of enterprise mobility at SAP.

He’s at JNUC to explain how SAP uses Jamf to manage its huge fleet of 17,000+ Macs, 83,000 iOS devices and 170 Apple TV’s.

One advantage of the new Apple enterprise is speed of deployment and onboarding of new equipment by enterprise IT. That task once took at least an hour and required the individual services of a tech support worker — these days employees can handle the whole process themselves and immediately have all the apps, passwords, and other credential they need available on their device.

martin lang vp enterprise mobility sap SAP

Martin Lang, VP of enterprise mobility, SAP

Lang demonstrated this live on stage at the event, using SAP and JAMF solutions to provision the iPhone of a new employee in a few moments live on stage. “The process is super-smooth,” said Lang.

The system can handle thousands of set-ups simultaneously and is in use globally. “I’m not aware of any problems,” said Lang.

To understand the capacity for onboarding, Hager pointed to Ohio State University where around 11,000 incoming students are assigned iPads using a similar Jamf system. All these students set their devices up within a very short time without a hitch.

Apple: The new enterprise IT

With over 100,000 Apple systems now in place, SAP is clearly moving fast to embrace employee choice. SAP CIO Thomas Saueressig has previously claimed that “offering Mac is key for any modern enterprise.”

“When new hires come to SAP today, they often want to pick a Mac. When they do, they can do anything they need to do from a business perspective,” Lang said. “I don’t think we have a choice but to offer choice anymore because of the expectations of employees coming up.”

SAP still has a large but declining 85,000 Windows devices.

“I think the reason we have more Windows devices is just historic. Because if you look back just five years, Apple in the enterprise was just emerging,” he said.

There are also a small number of Android devices in use at SAP, but the percentages tell their own story: “We have 93 percent iPhone to 7 percent Android on the mobile side,” said Lang.

Apple and the agile enterprise

To support SAP’s rapid Apple migration, it has a dedicated multi-disciplinary Apple at SAP team that combines device management, security, tech support, and Mac and iOS app development skills.

Combining all these traditionally separate departments within one group has enabled much more agility when building apps or supporting users to meet new business needs.

“We really look at Macs as very much like mobile devices,” said Lang. “You know you can open the Mac and get on with your work just like using an IPad.”

Enterprise deployments of Apple kit have been ongoing for years.

Initial problems in such deployments are shrinking, which makes it more possible for enterprise users to switch to Apple technologies, if they choose — even when using legacy systems.

Apple's TCO seems lower

SAP is using Apple technologies globally, in every department and business unit. “It’s very much a global thing,” said Lang. Sales, marketing, finance, executives, and many other teams are now using Macs, he confirmed.

There’s a perception that Apple equipment is expensive, but Lang sees signs that the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) of Apple equipment is lower.

“We have evidence of fewer support tickets and less walk-up to our internal support centers,” he said, adding that ease of use and ease of deployment also reduce overall cost. IBM has previously released research that claims a huge TCO saving in comparison to Windows.

SAP uses a system called Apple Pie to monitor its Apple fleet. This provides essential insights on the fleet, including iOS upgrade installations. While I spoke with Lang, he called up a chart that showed the company now has 18,110 Macs in use, of which a third are already running macOS Mojave.

Apples next big iOS to Mac opportunity

SAP creates highly cloud-based technologies, so enabling its solutions for use on Apple equipment makes sense.

While SAP does have around 70 internally developed iOS apps, it has a much lower number of Mac apps in place. This is changing.

“We are excited with what might be coming next year in terms of having iOS apps run on a Mac,” Lang said, referring to Apple’s Marzipan project, which should make it much easier to port iOS apps to the Mac in 2019

“We have a ton of iPad apps that would be just excellent to run on a Mac.”

When did enterprise IT change?

At least at SAP, the sea-change in enterprise IT culture really began in 2011, Lang explained. At that time, SAP had 22,000 BlackBerries but didn’t have many iPhones.

“What happened in 2011 is that we equipped our entire sales force with 20,000 iPads all at once. I think this was one of the largest deals Apple had made at that time,” he said.

When they used these devices, people soon realized Apple’s tablets were capable of doing so much more than BlackBerry, and Lang’s team began building apps to deliver on this promise.

“What really got Apple into the enterprise was the iPad. We started building iPhone apps slightly later in our team,” he said.

Lang noted that as iPhone displays grew larger and the apps more capable, many of SAP’s original iPad users migrated to the Apple smartphone.

“Most of our apps work on both devices,” he said. “We are really looking at other usage cases for iPads inside SAP.”

One interesting thing he shared is that when new iPads are set up at SAP, the company pushes the entire Microsoft Office suite to the device, just as it does when setting up a new Mac.“We do this because we see iPads as desktop-sized devices, and we want employees to be equipped to use them productively right away,” he told me.

News from Jamf

Jamf is making numerous announcements at JNUC. Enterprise professionals may be interested to also learn that:

  • Jamf andMicrosoft have expanded their technology integration to create a more seamless login experience for end users. Users can log in to a new Mac with Microsoft Azure Active Directory credentials.
  • Jamf Pro 10 now includes configuration profiles for Supervised iOS and tvOS devices prior to Setup Assistant completing.
  • Jamf is working with MATTER to send an Innovation Hub to the Victoria Falls Primary school in Zimbabwe.

There’s lots more enterprise-related news to come this week. Stay tuned.

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