July 2, 2022

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How Apple is updating cell system administration

As anticipated, Apple at WWDC introduced a collection of great modifications to how Macs, iPads, iPhones, and Apple TVs are managed in enterprise and training environments. These modifications largely break into two teams: people who have an effect on total system administration and people who apply to declarative administration (a brand new kind of system administration Apple launched final 12 months in iOS 15).

It is vital to take a look at every group individually to finest perceive the modifications.

How did Apple change total system administration?

Apple Configurator

Apple Configurator for iPhone bought a major enlargement. It is lengthy been a handbook methodology of enrolling iPhones and iPads in administration slightly than utilizing automated or self-enrollment instruments. The instrument initially shipped as a Mac app that would configure units, however it had one main draw back: units needed to be related by way of USB to the Mac working the app. This had apparent implications by way of the time and manpower in something apart from a small setting.

Final 12 months, Apple launched a model of Configurator for iPhone that reversed the workflow of the unique, which means an iPhone model of the app could possibly be used wirelessly to enroll Macs into administration. It was major used to enroll Macs that had been bought outdoors of Apple’s enterprise/training channel into Apple Enterprise Supervisor (Apple merchandise bought by way of the channel may be auto-enrolled with zero-touch configuration).

The iPhone incarnation is extremely easy. Throughout the setup course of, you level an iPhone digicam at an animation on the Mac’s display screen (very similar to pairing an Apple Watch) and that triggers the enrollment course of.

The massive change this 12 months is that Apple expanded using Apple Configurator for iPhone to help iPad and iPhone enrollment utilizing the identical course of — eradicating the requirement that units be connected to a Mac. This enormously reduces the effort and time wanted to enroll these units. There’s one caveat: units that require mobile activation or have been activation locked will want that activation to be accomplished manually earlier than Configurator can be utilized.

Identification administration

Apple has made helpful modifications for id administration in enterprise environments. Probably the most important: it now affords help for added id suppliers together with Google Workspace and Oauth 2, which permits an expansive set of suppliers. (Azure AD was already supported.) These id suppliers can be utilized along with Apple Enterprise Supervisor to generate Managed Apple IDs for workers.

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The corporate additionally introduced that help for single sign-on enrollment throughout its platforms shall be applied after macOS Ventura and iOS/iPadOS16 arrive this fall. The purpose right here is to make consumer enrollment simpler and extra streamlined by requiring customers to authenticate solely as soon as. Apple additionally introduced Platform Single Signal-on, an effort to broaden and streamline entry to enterprise apps and web sites every time they login to their system(s).

Managed per-app networking

Apple has lengthy had per-app VPN capabilities, which permit solely particular enterprise or work-related apps to make use of an energetic VPN connection. This is applicable VPN safety, however limits VPN load by solely sending particular app site visitors over a VPN connection. With macOS Ventura and iOS/iPadOS 16, Apple is including per-app DNS proxy and per-app net content material filtering. This helps safe site visitors for particular apps and capabilities the identical as per-app VPN. And this requires no modifications to the apps themselves. DNS proxy helps system-wide or per-app choices whereas content material filtering helps system-wide or as much as seven per-app cases.

E-SIM provisioning

For iPhones that help eSIMs, Apple is making it doable for cell system administration software program (MDM) to configure and provision an eSIM. This will embody provisioning a brand new system, migrating carriers, use of a number of carriers, or configuration for journey and roaming.

Managing Accessibility settings

Apple is well-known for its expansive set of Accessibility options for folks with particular wants. The truth is, many individuals with out particular wants additionally use a number of of those options. In iOS/iPadOS 16, Apple is permitting MDM to allow and configure a handful of the commonest options robotically, together with: textual content dimension, Voice Over, Zoom, Contact Lodging, Daring Textual content, Scale back Movement, Improve Distinction, and Scale back Transparency. This shall be a welcome instrument in such areas as particular training or hospital and healthcare conditions the place units could also be shared amongst customers with particular wants.

What’s new in Apple’s Declarative Administration course of?

Apple unveiled Declarative Administration final 12 months as an enchancment over its unique MDM protocol. Its large benefit is that it strikes a lot of the enterprise logic, compliance, and administration from the MDM service to every system. Because of this, units can proactively monitor their state. That eliminates the necessity for the MDM service to always ballot for his or her system state after which situation instructions in response. As an alternative, units make these modifications primarily based on their present state and on the declarations despatched to them and report them again to the service.

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Declarative administration depends on declarations that include issues like activations and configurations. One benefit is {that a} declaration can embody a number of configurations in addition to the activations that point out when or if the configuration must be activated. This implies a single declaration can embody all of the configurations for all customers, paired with activations that point out to which customers they need to apply. This reduces the necessity for big units of various configurations because the system itself can decide which of them must be enabled for the system due to its consumer. 

This 12 months, Apple has expanded the place Declarative Administration can be utilized. Initially, it was obtainable solely on iOS/iPadOS 15 units that leveraged consumer enrollment. Going ahead, all Apple units working macOS Ventura or iOS/iPadOS/tvOS 16 shall be supported, no matter their enrollment kind. Meaning system enrollment (together with Supervised units) is supported throughout the board, as is shared iPad (an enrollment kind that enables a number of customers to share the identical iPad, every along with his or her personal configuration and information.)

The corporate has made it crystal clear that Declarative Administration is the way forward for Apple system administration and that any new administration options shall be rolled out solely to the declarative mannequin. Though conventional MDM shall be obtainable for some unspecified time, it has been deprecated and can finally be retired.

This has main implications for units already in use. Gadgets that may’t run macOS Ventura or iOS/iPadOS 16 will finally be dropped and any that stay in service will should be changed. Given the swath of units shedding help, this might make for a pricey transition for some organizations. Though it isn’t speedy, it is best to start to find out the dimensions and price of the transition and the way you’ll handle it (significantly since it’ll probably require a transition to Apple Silicon, which doesn’t help the power to run Home windows or Home windows apps, within the course of).

Past increasing what merchandise can use declarative administration, Apple additionally prolonged its performance, together with help for passcode configuration, enterprise accounts, and MDM-governed app set up.

The passcode choice is extra advanced than merely requiring a passcode of a sure kind. Passcode compliance is historically required for sure security-related configurations, corresponding to sending the company Wi-Fi configuration to a tool. Within the declarative mannequin, these configurations may be despatched to the system earlier than a passcode is about. They’re despatched together with the passcode requirement and embody an activation that can solely allow it as soon as the consumer creates a passcode that complies with that coverage. As soon as the consumer units a passcode, the system will detect the change and allow the Wi-Fi configuration with a number of connections to the MDM service, enabling Wi-Fi instantly and notifying the service it has been activated.

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Accounts — which may embody issues corresponding to mail, notes, calendar, and subscribed calendars — perform equally. A declaration can specify all of the forms of accounts supported inside the group in addition to all of the subscribed calendars. The system will then decide — primarily based on the consumer’s account and position(s) inside the group — to activate and allow.

MDM app set up is probably the most important addition to declarative administration, since app set up is among the duties that places probably the most load on an MDM and the largest bottleneck throughout mass system activations (corresponding to a big onboarding of recent workers, new system rollouts, or the primary day of faculty). A declaration can specify all of the potential apps to be put in and despatched to a tool at activation, even earlier than it has been handed to its consumer. Once more, the system will decide which app set up configurations to activate and make obtainable, primarily based on the consumer. This avoids every system having to repeatedly question the service and obtain apps and their configurations. It additionally simplifies and accelerates the method of enabling (or disabling) apps if a consumer’s position modifications.

These are important enhancements and it’s straightforward to see why they’re the primary additions to Declarative Administration after its preliminary rollout. There are nonetheless MDM capabilities that haven’t made the leap to declarative use, however it’s apparent that finally – maybe as quickly as subsequent 12 months – they may.

This is among the most important WWDC bulletins for enterprise and it’s good to see that Apple has been considerate in deciding which options so as to add or replace since most of them deal with areas that had been tough, time consuming, useful resource intensive, or tedious. Apple isn’t just addressing enterprise buyer wants, however demonstrating that it understands these wants.

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