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4 use cases for Linux desktops in the enterprise

Linux OS isn't as popular as Windows, but it still offers a variety of benefits, including flexibility and heightened security. Delve into these use cases for Linux desktops.

Linux desktops in the enterprise remain the exception rather than the rule. But for certain cases, nothing else will do. IT pros should prepare to give users what they ask for, and they may realize some surprising and unexpected benefits.

Given that Linux currently runs on about 2% of desktops, with even fewer Linux in the enterprise, this is clearly a special situation. Let's explore the circumstances that might prompt certain users to join this small minority.

Why choose Linux in the enterprise?

Access to specific applications. Organizations that run certain applications, such as high-end 3D graphics design and rendering, often choose Linux for desktops. Other specialized applications that may warrant a Linux desktop include financial modeling, data analytics, finite element design and other CPU-intensive tasks. In these scenarios, Linux offers improved performance, a common interface with related servers or supercomputers and an ongoing and data-intensive pipeline operation.

User preference. Certain power users with specialized skills may simply demand Linux for their desktops. Software developers or system administrators may work on Linux-based systems on a daily basis. It often makes sense for these users to run Linux on their desktops as well.

Some organizations adopt Linux for the desktop as a matter of preference and policy. Google, for example, provides and maintains its own Linux distribution, Goobuntu, for its staff to use.

Security, privacy or confidentiality. Linux is generally regarded as easier to maintain and more secure than Windows. The U.S. Department of Defense, for example, developed Lightweight Portable Security Linux, a Linux-based OS that government staff can use to log into secure networks from external and untrusted PCs. Users can install the OS on any PC from plug-in media such as a USB flash drive. The OS establishes and maintains a secure connection into the organization's networks and leaves no footprint behind when users shut it down.

Other Linux distributions such as Tails, IprediaOS, Whonix, Discreete Linux and the Qubes OS are designed specifically to meet stringent security requirements. Some organizations may decide that such options are just what they need to establish and maintain the highest possible security levels.

Performance for legacy hardware. All Linux distributions are built around a fast and lean OS kernel, with the ability to add only the services and capabilities that users need. This makes Linux more compact and often significantly faster than Windows on the same hardware. Some organizations find Linux to offer a performance boost, even when they deploy the OS on state-of-the-art PCs.

The minimum requirements for CPU, memory and storage are far lower for Linux than those for current Windows OSes. Some organizations might choose a "hand-me-down" strategy to extend the lifecycle of their current hardware investments. For PCs that are more than five years old -- which might not support Windows 10 -- IT pros can run Linux in the enterprise on these devices and repurpose them for data entry or other light-duty use.

This was last published in April 2019

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