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CommVault Tames the Mac; Windows and Mac Can Play Nice Together

A few years ago when I suggested to my co-workers that our company needed to account for the continuing growth of the Apple MacIntosh in its enterprise storage design, I was met with outright guffaws and left the meeting with my tail between my legs. Fast forward to today and the Mac is no longer a laughing matter. Mac is now an emerging OS in many enterprise organizations and creating new data management issues that today’s announcement between CommVault and Group Logic should help address.

Everyone may smile at the cheeky “Mac versus Windows” commercials that regularly appear on network television but the Mac is showing up in the most unexpected of places. Some places where it is being adopted are quaint in nature, such as when my pastor who has three college-age children living at home sweeps his house of Windows PCs on the recommendation of his son and replaces them with Apple Mac Minis. But it is more notable such as when one of CommVault’s clients did an internal audit on their ratio of Windows to Macs and found that 12% of their 12,500 desktops (1500 of them) are Macs.

This number of Macs changed the perspective of how this organization needed to manage them. While an obvious problem that it created was the need for the organization to provide Mac tech support for this OS, a more subtle back end problem that it created was managing the data on corporate networks that the Mac created and accessed.

Macs are traditionally used in the advertising, entertainment, media and publishing space so until now this served as a natural point of demarcation between it and Windows as almost every other vertical (government, finance, retail, etc.) used Windows. But now social media has taken off as at least 42% of enterprises now use Web 2.0 technologies which make extensive use of JPG, WAV and MP3 files. Further, those who are proficient in these editing and publishing these types of files are typically Mac aficionados and are bringing their Macs to work with them.

This is where the problems emerge. Media files are large and stored on network file servers where they consume a lot of space. Further, the value of the data in these files fluctuates so once the files satisfy their original purpose, they can become dormant and/or infrequently accessed. As such, they are prime candidates for archiving since organizations are rightfully loath to delete them as these file could become of value again in the future.

Now in Windows-only environments, it is rather straightforward to archive these files but once Macs enter the scene, the file archiving picture changes. An archived file leaves behind a stub on the file server that contains pertinent information such as where the file is now physically located and enable Windows clients to automatically retrieve the archived file from its new location. The key here is that the file is only retrieved if the Windows client selects it; the mere act of browsing the folders does not result in files being retrieved from the archive.

The Finder on Mac (Mac’s equivalent of Windows explorer) does not behave the same way. As Finder browses folders with stubs in them, it triggers these stubs to request and retrieve the archived files associated with them. Depending on the size of the folder, this mere act can result in a Mac client ‘hanging’ for 3-5 minutes or more while files are retrieved from the archives.

This problem is only exacerbated on enterprise corporate networks. Not only is the Mac client accessing these files hung up, other Windows and Mac clients accessing this network file server experience degraded performance. Since the file server is busy processing this request to retrieve these archived files, it slows response times for all other clients accessing this file server.

This is why today’s new partnership between CommVault and GroupLogic makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, GroupLogic’s ArchiveConnect prevents exactly this type of behavior from happening. Using ArchiveConnect, Mac clients can browse network folders that contain these stubs without inadvertently triggering them to retrieve archived files. Second, enterprise companies that are already using or considering the use of CommVault Archive for their email and file archiving requirement can now do so without concern as to how it will impact them if they have Macs in their environment.

No one needs to worry about being laughed out of the room when bringing up the topic of how to best manage Macs anymore. The emergence of Macs within enterprises correlates with the growing importance that graphics and video are having but Macs create a new need for organizations to efficiently manage these files stored on network file servers without negatively impacting the organization as a whole. This new partnership between CommVault and GroupLogic should go a long ways towards making the Mac and Windows play nice together in the archiving space.

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