After the JNUC Keynote
The 2022 Jamf Nation User Conference was kicked off by a one-of-a-kind Keynote, led by Jamf’s CEO, Dean Hager. It was jam-packed with product announcements, demos and speakers from Apple, Google, Okta, AWS, Microsoft and more.
But the conversation didn’t end there. Shortly afterwards, executives from Google, Okta, AWS, Jamf, SwiftConnect and HID came together for an exclusive press Q&A session.
Jamf CEO Dean Hager’s opening points
After welcoming the panelists, Parisa Tabriz, VP of Engineering, Google Chrome; Todd McKinnon, CEO, Okta; David Brown, VP of EC2, AWS; Brandon Arcement, CCO, SwiftConnect; and Bjorn Lidefelt, CEO, HID, Hager reflected back to the opening Keynote and his three big observations:
- Jamf Nation: Jamf now serves over 69,000 customers, and all of those IT admins and security professionals make up Jamf Nation — or, as Hager referred to them, the “tightest community in all of high tech.” But for far too long, Apple enthusiasts within the enterprise have found themselves treated like second-class citizens. That was until Jamf came along and provided management and security solutions specifically for Apple; IT admins rallied around this new source of empowerment, and Jamf Nation was born.
- It takes a village: The second observation Hager noted was just how honored he was to be joined on stage by Apple, Okta, Google, AWS and Microsoft during the general session. He questioned how often something like this happens, given the elements of competition that exist among these companies. But even with that underlying competition, there is also a wonderful element of humility that allows them to set aside any differences. All of us are working to make work simple for our customers, and ultimately that is what matters.
- Love and trust: During the opening Keynote, Hager asked the audience two important questions:
- Do your users LOVE their work technology at least as much as their home technology?
- Does your organization TRUST that every person and device accessing your network resources is safe?
That’s the goal, but not many organizations can respond with a resounding yes to both questions. As Hager pointed out to the group, “With all of us working together on behalf of our customers, we can actually help them achieve that.”
Hager followed these introductory points by posing some questions to the assembled executives.
Enterprise safe, consumer simple
To Parisa Tabriz, VP of Engineering for Google Chrome, Hager brought up the fact that she doesn’t have the “luxury” of focusing solely on Apple devices and users the way that Jamf does. So how does Google and its collaborators help to ensure security while creating a great experience for the end user?
Tabriz replied that the big challenge is to create a product that stands on its own but also works amazingly on whatever native operating system you use it on, taking full advantage of the native OS capabilities. For years now, their web platform has helped users to maintain continuity of work across different devices, a welcome change from the days when collaboration meant circulating many different versions of a project with increasingly lengthy filenames.
It’s also important to ensure that you have robust security tools that don’t get in the way of productivity, or users won’t take advantage of them no matter how powerful they are. Tabriz and her team work with Google security products to integrate them with Chrome, and it’s also an important part of their mission to make sure that the browser is secure by default.
Hager then asked Okta CEO Todd McKinnon how he works to make digital identity both central to the user experience and a seamless part of it. Jamf uses Okta for identity management, and it’s wonderful for employees not to have to enter their credentials over and over to accomplish their daily tasks.
McKinnon replied that just as Apple enthusiasts have historically been treated as second-class citizens in the enterprise, identity people have labored in obscurity for a long time. It has often been a thankless task to help companies manage and centralize the disparate world of identity, particularly because each platform and app in the IT world has handled digital identity issues in their own way. Pulling all of their approaches together to provide one universally applicable identity management solution has always been a difficult balancing act.
Fortunately, Okta has succeeded to the degree that all but one of the companies represented on stage are now their customers. Likewise, Okta uses Jamf and Google Chrome for their own operations. Their goal, shared with the other panel representatives, is to integrate their products with other enterprise software solutions so that everything can be connected. The lack of integration in the industry has always made security difficult; but now it is becoming easier to maximize organizations’ ability to link their various solutions with one central identity management provider, leaving them the flexibility to determine their own desired balance between security and ease of use.
Hager asked HID CEO Bjorn Lidefelt and SwiftConnect CCO Brandon Arcement about the movement to using digital employee badges, and how the shift to more companies using a hybrid work model is impacting adoption of this kind of technology. Jamf recently replaced its plastic physical badges for office access with digital badges powered by HID. We also realized we could provide this service to customers, which eventually led to an alliance with HID and SwiftConnect.
Lidefelt noted that our ways of working are changing, with the last few years constituting a unique period of accelerated change. This is all part of a larger evolution of how we work and how we collaborate; as the market has changed, so must we all if we are going to keep up. HID’s work is primarily about improving ease of use, not just keeping unwanted people out of our physical spaces but letting the right people in on their own terms, at various times and often various locations. He discussed with Hager the fact that in a hybrid work environment, grabbing a physical badge is no longer part of muscle memory the way that grabbing a phone is. And if you do forget a phone, you’re likely to realize it far sooner than you would with a badge. There is also a much greater degree of flexibility and potential with digital badges, as you can provision them on the fly and push credentials while users are out in the field.
Arcement stated that SwiftConnect’s mission is to connect the right person to the right physical place at the right time — like single sign-on for the physical world. There is currently a demand to make real estate more efficient and dynamic, as there is often no longer a 1:1 relationship between each employee and their assigned work space. He identified three impediments to effective access management that it is now possible to work around:
- Integration — In a traditional office setting, systems integration looked like a human in a seat with a keyboard, monitors and so on. Each employee had an assigned space and assigned hardware on which they were authorized to work. Now SwiftConnect is using APIs to automate identity, credential, permission and entitlement lifecycle management so that those space and hardware limitations disappear while productivity remains.
- Physical cards — Badges for office access used to be issued in person; this was a minor inconvenience that became a major difficulty when organizations were forced to shift to remote work. Working with Apple and HID, SwiftConnect has been able to transfer this process to a mobile device. Now issuing credentials is a self-service, over-the-year provisioning experience with access rights that can be adjusted.
- Security budgeting — Physical security has traditionally been budgeted centrally, which means that making significant changes is only possible with broad organizational consensus. This causes the technology to grow stale quickly. Now physical security is increasingly being handled the way IT has been for years. Under a choice program, employees get to choose between, say, a plastic badge and mobile credentials, and the cost is billed to the department. This model makes it easier to achieve rapid adoption of new technology without requiring the consensus of the entire organization.
Making Mac an app
Addressing David Brown, VP of EC2 for AWS, Hager asked him to comment on what problem the provisioning of EC2 Macs solves, and likewise what is accomplished by managing these virtual Mac instances with Jamf. This new step in the Jamf-AWS relationship was announced shortly before the beginning of JNUC 2022.
Brown explained that their efforts in the Mac space were born out of conversations with AWS customers who loved the service and were relieved at having been able to shut down their data center, but who were using Macs to accomplish certain critical tasks and wanted to be able to integrate them with other organizational technology. AWS started looking into how they could take Mac to the cloud, preserving the Apple experience and combining it with the best of AWS. They initially came up with an effective virtualization process that embedded the Mac inside the server, even tackling the issue of creating an automation for pushing the power button. Customers quickly began to unlock incredible efficiencies when they had the capability of accessing a Mac for work whenever they needed one.
After Amazon EC2 Mac instances became available in 2020, customers started to ask about how to manage them, and in particular whether they could manage them with Jamf. This led to the collaboration between AWS and Jamf to allow management of these virtual Mac instances. Arcement noted that over and above management, organizations that go this route get to rely upon the added security provided by Jamf. Positive feedback obtained during the beta testing period points to great potential for this new capability.
Importance of Apple devices
Next came a group question: Hager asked Tabriz, McKinnon and Brown about the degree and trajectory of Apple’s importance in their respective fields. Tabriz pointed to the fact that her entire team was working on MacBooks, herself included. macOS, iOS and iPadOS continue to grow in usage, so for her the importance of continuing to optimize Google Chrome’s functionality in these native operations systems is obvious. On her team, they call this kind of work “OS citizenship.” They work hard on the web platform so that developers can create powerful applications — the design app Figma being a great example — that run on the web.
McKinnon pointed out that no one ever cared about PCs, they just cared about the apps that ran on them. Just ten years ago, most of these apps were on Windows, but now they’re on the web; this is arguably as big of a seismic shift in tech as the explosion of mobile devices. Good web apps provide simplicity and a clean user experience, and they make it easier to let employees choose their devices. Having said that, he noted that Okta requires most employees to use Mac due to how easy it is to manage and secure. He concluded that apps are available everywhere now, so it is much more important to focus on the user experience and on security.
Brown replied that Apple users have high expectations about the user experience, so with Apple becoming more of a dominant force it is more important than ever to nail the simplicity of your product. Referring again to the Amazon EC2 Mac instances, he confessed surprise at how much improvement customers saw in their workflows, increasing the speed with which teams could gain access to Macs. When you create content, it’s important to be able to see what it looks like on different devices and operating systems. The Mac virtualization that AWS carried out makes it easy to quality-check content on the fly, and it enables an unbelievable level of efficiency.
Communications and the “skip the line” experience
This panel discussion concluded with an audience-submitted question about what users of digital technology will come to expect in the future that isn’t consistently available now. The panelists touched on improved communications technology, with better simultaneous interaction and more immersive experiences. Hager expressed his desire for the ability to become a hologram and physically inhabit remote spaces anywhere. This improvement in how we communicate and collaborate will likely be a major focus as organizations discover more efficient workflows for a hybrid workforce.
The panelists also discussed how much more universal the “skip the line” experience could become. This means that ideally you never need to carry a physical badge or wait for someone to give you access to a space. Instead, you might tap something with your phone or walk by it with your watch. Whether in airports, offices, retail spaces or other locations, there are plenty of unrealized opportunities for organizations to make it easier to move around and access physical space through mobile technology.
Thank you to our partners!
We’re incredibly grateful to these panelists and their respective organizations for playing such a big role in making JNUC 2022 a can’t-miss event for Apple admins. It’s exciting to see what we can all accomplish when we transcend competition and work together to transform the Apple user experience. Thanks to our sponsors and partners for another fantastic conference this year, and we can’t wait to see what remaining workflows and efficiencies we have yet to unlock!
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