Jamf Nation User Conference: Going Virtual with Orka
Jamf is the standard in Apple Enterprise Management, offering solutions to extend the legendary Apple experience and empower IT, information security professionals, and end-users with the tools they need to be productive.
For the past 11 years, Jamf has hosted its annual Jamf Nation User Conference (JNUC) to bring together thousands of the brightest minds in Apple device management for three days of learning, listening, and interaction. A staple part of this experience has always been the Interactive Labs. At these labs, attendees get hands-on experience with Jamf and macOS through provided MacBooks. An incredible learning opportunity for attendees, but one that required Jamf to set up, manage, and reset roughly 120 pieces of hardware for every single lab experience throughout the three days.
The process was incredibly labor-intensive, with a team of eight making sure the devices were charged, wiped between sessions, and checked in and out properly. They also needed a security detail to watch the secure storage for the devices overnight for the duration of the conference. It was a massive undertaking – and while no incidents ever occurred during those 11 years, when COVID-19 forced the conference to go to an online-only format, Jamf needed a way to give their 17,000 attendees access to the full lab experience — all from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Making Virtual Labs a Reality with Orka
With Jamf looking to virtually replicate the community, knowledge sharing, and hands-on experiences that in-person attendees had come to know and love, they needed to find a way to make the interactive labs happen without the ability to physically hand out the hardware.
Jamf turned to the Mac cloud experts at MacStadium to create code and processes in the short 11-week period leading up to the virtual conference.
MacStadium created a completely customizable solution for Jamf’s unique use case and answered the question: how can we give the lab experience to users without the physical lab? The team at Jamf needed to have more than 200 users per lab session, with VMs that could be spun up, spun down, and wiped once the lab was over – with a new lab experience available quickly for another 200 users, multiple times a day, over the course of three days.
The task may have seemed daunting at first, but the MacStadium team was prepared. With a timeline set and the Jamf team’s goals defined, the MacStadium team knew that Orka would provide the best solution for Jamf and JNUC. Powered by MacStadium, Orka is the first and only solution for orchestrating macOS in a cloud environment using Kubernetes on genuine Apple hardware. Orka could easily manage the deployment of the hundreds of VMs needed by the JNUC lab attendees.
Orka was decided on and the teams got to work creating custom scripts and a unique credential identity delivery system tied to Orka that would allow things to run smoothly. The Orka development team created a custom Docker image that would allow Jamf to use specific serial numbers, critical for the demonstration of Apple management practices. Once everything was created, the Orka team met with the Jamf team and seamlessly implemented Orka for their lab experience.
We had over 500 successful lab experiences with three times that number of people just watching from the sidelines.
“After some hard work by the MacStadium product team, it was very straightforward to learn and teach out,” said Sam Weiss, Solution Partner Manager at Jamf. “The MacStadium team stood by our side the entire time supporting us whenever we needed it.”
The conference kicked off without a hitch, and the lab experience, powered by Orka, was able to run effortlessly for the duration of the conference. MacStadium was there, with 24/7 remote hands and eyes to help should any problem arise, ensuring that Jamf and their conference attendees would never have to wait for any fix. However, attendees were able to experience a seamless, effortless lab experience, all thanks to Jamf and the custom solution created by MacStadium’s Orka.
Creating and refreshing instances took minutes, a significant reduction compared to bare metal.
“Even in the physical world, many attendees prefer to watch and not participate which is more than fine. We had over 500 successful lab experiences with three times that number of people just watching from the sidelines,” said Weiss. “The process of creating and refreshing instances was minutes, a significant reduction compared to doing the same thing on bare metal.”
“JNUC has always been a special conference with the entire company dedicated to a phenomenal attendee experience,” Weiss said. “Without MacStadium, we would have had to retire an entire track of our conference. The Interactive Labs powered by MacStadium gave Jamf the opportunity to pioneer new technology and offer a first of its kind experience for Mac admins.”
This was the most successful user experience we had at a conference.
MacStadium is able to provide highly customized, organizationally specific solutions to the distinctive use cases many customers, like Jamf, encounter every day. Jamf and MacStadium partnered to create something absolutely unique, tailored with a solution in mind. During the conference, support was on standby, available through a dedicated Jamf-MacStadium Slack channel, providing real-time support and monitoring as needed. Due to the success of JNUC, Jamf plans to use this solution created with Orka in their digital trainings and future events. MacStadium continues to be the expert in the Mac VM space, providing organizations like Jamf, a true and reliable partner for custom solutions.
“To give ourselves the most amount of time to plan an amazing experience, Jamf has decided that JNUC 2021 will also be a virtual conference. We had 11 weeks to put together Interactive Labs for JNUC 2020 – we’re confident with this lead time we’ll be able to replicate last year’s success and improve on it at the same time,” Weiss said. “This was the most successful user experience we had at a conference and we’re looking forward to partnering with MacStadium for 2021.”