A Rolling Upgrade Strategy, Apple OSX and Cloud Infrastructure

One point that was buried in the Apple’s Mountain Lion updates this week is that Apple is shifting to a yearly update model for OSX. Think about that in a corporate environment.

Today, most IT departments have a specific team or persons that perform “Desktop Packaging” for the Windows environment. They get the software, check out how it works, setup some default configurations and then load it to a software distribution server. As part of cost recovery, each “Package” is usually billed to requesting party. It’s these people who are complaining about the rapid release of Firefox, Chrome or even Internet Explorer saying they don’t have enough time to test and release this software.

It strikes me that this is a uniquely Microsoft idea that is a reaction to poor quality of software installation on the Windows platform. Installing software on Win7 is risky business of DLL dependencies, driver updates, file overwrites, .NET libraries, Java dependencies and much more. Managing the risk of new software corrupting or damaging old software is a real issue for many corporate companies.

Apple has taken the view that maintaining “old stuff” is not part of the plan. They are signalling that a constant upgrade process is part of the OSX experience. Part of the ‘sell’ for this includes new features, better integration with the iPad and iPhone and many improvements under the hood like Grand Central, graphics engines and more to tempt you to upgrade. What’s also interesting is that Apple continuously makes small and large changes but rarely experiences major problems – Lion, Snow Leopard have been great experiences for my four computers.

To me, it also seems clear that Apple is saying that old software is not good enough. They are encouraging they customers to expect a yearly update cycle. You should expect install patches regularly and upgrade to the latest release every year or so.

The EtherealMind View

This type of rolling upgrade program fascinates me. In corporate environments, there is a resistance to change. The fear of an outage, or an expected result, means that companies do not implement regular upgrade programs and waits until forced into a change or upgrade by End of Life announcements or similar.

I wonder if Apple is setting an expectation of new behaviour here. Cisco has attempted this with their modular code in NXOS and IOS-XR but I wonder how many people actually trust Cisco’s software quality to upgrade regularly and often based on our past experiences.

We should be able to incrementally upgrade. In fact a big part of a cloud-like infrastructure is changes are, or should be, risk free. The software should not be dependent on a single hardware system.

So maybe we are adopting a rolling program for upgrades after all. We can just call it “cloud” in yet another abuse of the term.

  • http://twitter.com/CharlieClemmer Charlie Clemmer

    One thing I expect to see in play here is Apple push that they control the environment. Like the old mantra of limited hardware support in a controlled environment as it relates to OSX, I expect we’ll see further strengthening as Apple attempts to merge OSX and iOS into one environment … ultimately with the same kind of app control on OSX (or the traditional Mac platform after they drop that name) as they’ve established on the iOS mobile devices. The Gatekeeper functionality that’s been announced in OSX 10.8 could be viewed as another step to keep non-Apple approved applications from running, depending on the administrative control provided to that functionality.

  • Grumpy

    I believer that you’re quite right in that legacy or “old stuff” isn’t part of Apple’s plan, but neither is the “enterprise”, they might have achieved a lot more penetration, but most of that has been high end executives that just need^H want a fancy laptop and don’t run key applications, or small businesses where they don’t have any legacy applications…

    More application will be updated over time, but it seems that some of these are now been driven by OS availability rather than a business need for the application to be changed, is this cost viable if you have OS upgrades happening every 12 months?