Anthony’s Mac Labs Blog

MDM, MDS, OSS, and DEV at MDC in YYC

Posted 2019 April 21

The MacDeployment Conference this year is tackling the now-unavoidable Mac admin questions of “Which MDM solution should I choose?” and “How will this new world order affect my deployment workflows?” I’m really excited about this year’s 2-day event and the speakers that are coming (both announced and unannounced), so let me take you a little deeper into this year’s Conference content to help explain why you might want to make the trek to Calgary June 10–11, even if you already have an MDM in place. If I had to sum up the theme of this year’s conference in one word, it would be acronyms.


Of course, the key acronym this year is MDM, but that’s because of other acronyms that have come into the Mac admin lexicon since our last Conference: UAKEL, UAMDM, ASM, ABM, and PPPC Payload (a.k.a. TCC).[1] With Apple’s increased emphasis on security (including the inclusion of the T2 chip in many of its new models), having an MDM solution has gone from nice-to-have to a necessity for most people managing Macs in education or enterprise. So we’ve asked Rich Trouton to do a talk about why that is and to provide a grounding in MDM basics. (He and Charles Edge have an upcoming book about Apple device management that is sure to inform his talk.)

Following that, we’ve invited some MDM vendors (currently 4 of them) to talk for about 10-15 minutes each on why you might want to choose their MDM solution, followed by a group Q&A. If you don’t have an MDM solution yet, that will give you direct contact with some notable vendors. If you’ve had an MDM for a while now, you will likely gain some insight into how your MDM deals with more recent deployment issues like the acronym alphabet soup I mentioned earlier. For many of you, these sessions will justify the entire price of admission.


One of the things that Apple’s doubling down on security has done is changed our deployment workflows. If you’re deploying Macs with a T2 chip, you already know that NetBoot doesn’t work for those Macs. But you can boot from Recovery and do work from there. That’s the theory behind MDS (previously known as Mac Deploy Stick), open source software with an optional automaton to minimize how much you have to “touch” each Mac you deploy or redeploy. The developer of that tool, Timothy Perfitt, will be with us at MacDeployment to talk about the ever-increasing feature set of this new tool. (How could we not talk about Mac Deploy Stick at MacDeploy?)


We know many Mac admins use Open Source software (OSS) as a regular part of their toolset. Tools like Munki and AutoPkg have made the task of maintaining Macs much easier for those without a commercial solution in hand — some would argue that they do those specific tasks better than any commercial tools currently available. Now that educational institutions and enterprises know that they have to add an MDM solution to their toolkit, do they need to abandon their OSS tools? We asked a major contributor to Open Source software (you may know him from AutoDMG or AutoPkg or CreateUserPkg) to tell the story about how his University kept Munki while adopting a full-featured MDM. Yes, Per Olofsson will be joining us all the way from Gothenburg, Sweden. Per was the first speaker I confirmed of the ones we have joining us this year and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have him come to Calgary; he doesn’t give public talks very often, but when he does, they are always great. At my institution, we are considering just the kind of setup he already has running, so there will be great local interest here.


OK, so Dev is an abbreviation, not an acronym. But in filling out the programme for this year’s conference, we realized that many of us could (or do) benefit from having some developer-centric skills in our toolkit. I got the specific idea for this portion of the conference when speaking with Dana Donaldson. As a Mac admin at Box, she gets dragged in to doing some developer-like work because of her Mac expertise (sound familiar?). So I thought she would be a great person to share some of the skills she found useful in situations like that. On the flip side, Tami Miguens is a developer who works with a bunch of Mac admins and technicians. She’s going to provide her unique perspective, which should be a great complement to Dana’s session.

Of course, the MacDeployment Conference will directly follow Apple’s WWDC. We know that there will be plenty to discuss from that week, some of which is already becoming apparent (notarization being the most notable). So we’ve set aside time in the schedule for this, even if we don’t know exactly what that part of the conference will look like.


And there’s still more! We invited people in our local meetup to propose Quick Talks for the conference and have already accepted one proposal. We also know that some of our sponsors may want to add value to the conference by offering a session — since we’re a single track conference, we’ll always try to be considerate of your time, selecting and scheduling such sessions with that in mind. As well, we have things that we cannot annouce at this time, but keep an eye on the @MacDeploy Twitter account or the #macdeploy channel in the MacAdmins Slack for that info.


The only thing missing is you. Thanks to the great support from our host, the University of Calgary, and our other sponsors, you can register for the conference until May 10 for an Early Bird rate of CAD$249 plus 5% GST (around USD$200 including tax).[2] And considering how affordable hotel rates are, you might even have time and funds to take a trip to nearby Banff and the Rocky Mountains — with the sun staying up until close to 10 p.m. at that time of year, it’s a great chance to enjoy the majesty right on Calgary’s doorstep. (If you ask around in the #macdeploy channel, you might be able to find people wanting to carpool to the Mountains on the Sunday before the Conference.)

I am so proud to be a part of this Conference and the Meetup group that sprung up from it. One of our meetup regulars said to me that this is arguably the best lineup of speakers we’ve ever had — I’ve loved them all, so I can’t say either way, but I agree that some really great people are agreeing to share their time and expertise with us this year. This conference is clearly and squarely aimed at helping Mac admins with the most pressing problems they will be encountering now and in the near future, whether they have small deployments or large ones; are in education, in enterprise, or are a consultant. The focus is on MDM this time around because that’s where the rubber is meeting the road right now.

But we haven’t forgotten the lesson we learned after our very first conference in 2014: building community was part of the reason to have these conferences. So if you’re reading this and you think someone you know might benefit from this conference, especially if they’re based in Western Canada, spread the word. If they are closer to another Mac Admins Conference, tell them about that one, too — we always wrap up our conferences with a list of the other conferences coming up over the next 12 months and regularly Tweet and Retweet about meetups and conferences from our Twitter account. We’re all better when we help each other.

So whether you’re new to supporting Macs or are an experienced Apple admin, I hope to see as many of you as I can this June 10 and 11 on the University of Calgary campus when we hold our 5th MacDeployment Conference.

Updated 2019-04-26 to correct last date for Early Bird rate and to add full rate.

[1] I could have included DEP in the list of acronyms, but it is no longer available as a standalone programme. Device Enrolment, as Apple now calls it, is embedded in ASM and ABM. [Return to main text]

[2] If that rate is still a struggle, we have a financial and diversity bursary programme that could reduce the cost futher. Just email info [at] macdeploy.ca to inquire. The full rate is CAD$299+GST. [Return to main text]