Apple has been adding a potpourri of tools for its OS X operating system. Rendezvous, LDAP Directory, Workgroup Manager, and Apple Remote Desktop are some of the most notable for network management, although several others are significant, too.
Rendezvous, an IP-based browser/chooser/finder, LDAP Directory; and Workgroup Manager, an LDAP-based replacement for Macintosh Manager, will all make their debuts in the upcoming Jaguar (MacOS 10.2), slated to ship on August 24.
Also new in Jaguar are multi platform file and print sharing through Samba, and NetBoot and Network Install, for implementing standard OS configurations across multiple Macs.
Apple Remote Desktop, on the other hand, is a standalone application for software distribution and remote management and tech support, meant to replace Apple Network Assistant.
Jaguar's Rendezvous is designed to let end users' machines discover and connect to available resources on local networks, such as files and printers. Intended to overcome "local area chaos," the new IP-based technology is conceptually based on the old AppleTalk "chooser," said Thomas Weyer, Apple's Senior Consulting Engineer focusing on X Server, Mac OS X, and Networking; during MacWorld Expo in New York City.
Weyer pointed out that, at one time, Mac machines supported a list of communications protocols that included serial ports, parallel ports, SCSI, and ADB.
"Fortunately Apple did away with these, and replaced them with another set of incompatible protocols," he quipped.
The IP-based Rendezvous is supposed to work over any IP-capable protocol, including Ethernet, USB, Firewire, Bluetooth, IrDA, and AirPort 802.11.
To find out which resources are available, Rendezvous "will listen for Multicast DNS packets," according to Weyer. Through the use of "aggressive caching," Rendezvous will suppress duplication of already known devices.
Rendezvous users will be able to give whatever names they wish to computers and peripherals they're willing to share, not necessarily the numerical IP address. By typing a query for "printers" into the browser, for example, the user will be able to view a list of all available Rendezvous-enable printers on the local network. The user can then connect to any of the available printers, without configuration, according to Weyer.
"Microsoft has been looking at Rendezvous, too, as a possible Windows XP update," he maintained.
Unlike previous industry attempts such as Jini and UPNP, Rendezvous will actually "solve the browser problem over IP," he predicted.
"Why did (these other efforts) fail? Because they were created by engineers, who couldn't resist adding too many features," according to Weyer.
If software gets "too thick, no device will support it," he added. "You could browse for hours, and find absolutely no devices - which means it's dead."
Printer makers Hewlett-Packard, Epson, and Lexmark, on the other hand, have already agreed to build Rendezvous into future printers.
Meanwhile, Apple is now focusing most of its efforts on Rendezvous and TCP/IP, instead of adding to AppleTalk or SLP, according to Weyer.
"Hey GrandDad - It's time to retire. AppleTalk, we love you - but goodbye," noted Schoun P. Regan, CEO of The Mac Trainers.
The future also looks a bit bleak for NetInfo, Apple's existing directory. In Jaguar, Apple will include an LDAP directory, along with Workgroup Manager, for LDAP-enabled management of users, groups, and computers.
Jaguar administrators will be able to use either LDAP or NetInfo for managing directory services. NetInfo, though, looks likely to be discontinued. "Will NetInfo be updated? Probably not," Regan said.
Apple initially introduced LDAP support in MacOS 10.1, a release that shipped last fall. Version 10.1 provided support for LDAP 2.0 in its address book and mail server.
Jaguar, though, will be the first release of OS X to integrate an LDAP Directory. The LDAP 3.0-compliant directory will interoperate straight out of -the-box with directories from Novell and iPlanet, but not with Microsoft's Active Directory, said Tom Goguen, director, server software, in Apple's Worldwide Product Marketing.
Apple Remote Desktop, the new standalone app, will run on a choice of Jaguar or MacOS 10.1, supporting Mac OS X, OS 9, and OS 8 clients.
Beyond the capabilities of the now defunct Apple Network Assistant, the new software distribution and remote management tool adds a new black-and-white screen display, for easier observation of remote computers over slow network connections.
When you install Apple Remote Desktop, though, existing Apple Network Assistant client software is automatically deactivated.
Apple Remote Desktop is targeted at both business and school use. Network managers should be careful, though, not to use it to monitor the activities of business higher-ups unless they have explicit permission from their companies, warned John C. Welch, IT manager for the MIT Police Department.
"Potentially, the VP of finance (might be visiting) porn sites on the side," joked Welch.
Marc LaFountain, head of Macintosh Technical Services for Capital One, said his company uses third-party Timbuktu tools from Netopia for tech support, instead.
As LaFountain sees it, the Timbuktu tools have traditionally taken a "more collaborative, peer-to-peer approach."
Editor's Note: This article previously identified Mr. Thomas Weyer as "Apple's network and communications manager," which is incorrect. Mr. Weyer is Apple's Senior Consulting Engineer focusing on X Server, Mac OS X, and Networking. We regret any confusion. -ed.