My company is asking me if Linux should be allowed as employee OS. Need good arguments to convince them!


TL;DR: I have a chance on convincing my IT company to add GNU/Linux to the OS that employees can pick for their computers and I need some good arguments why they should allow this.

Hi everyone, I work as a developer for a mid size company in Germany (around 1k employees) and in about 10 days I have a meeting where I have to explain why GNU/Linux could be a valid alternative for the employees' computers.

In this meeting it will be discussed which OS the company should officially support and allow their employees to use. Currently the official supported OS is Windows 10 with no admin rights (the OS is fully managed by Office IT).

Many Developers and Operations are complaining for years about this lack of options and recently an internal survey was sent to 150 of them to ask which OS they want to use and if they want to have admin rights. Some really interesting numbers came out of the survey because less than 23% of the people would like to stay with Windows 10 and the remaining 77% is split almost evenly between choosing GNU/Linux and Mac OS.

Office IT is already dealing with Mac OS because of the UX Designers and iOS developers so Mac OS will be almost definitely added since they have already some experience managing it. For GNU/Linux, sadly, is going to be more difficult, mostly because of the opposition of the Office IT, that is missing the internal knowledge of this OS.

The CTO decided to schedule a meeting with all the heads of the various departments, including Security and Office IT to decide which Operative Systems the company should support. I am also invited to this meeting, together with another colleague, because for more than one year we are taking part in a Linux Proof Of Concept inside the company (we are using exclusively GNU/Linux in our daily work).

They want to know from us what is our experience and what works fine and what does not. I don't have any particular issue beside not being able to do audio/video conferences with Webex Teams, mostly because Cisco doesn't provide a GNU/Linux client for it, but I can easily use my Smartphone for these calls. Proxy, Exchange, VPN, everything works just fine for me and my colleague.

Anyway I would like to use this meeting to try to convince the participants that including GNU/Linux, together with Mac OS and Windows would be the best choice. But for this I need some valid arguments.

And this is why I am writing here, because I would like to ask the community for help in finding these arguments.

I have already thought about some but I'm not sure how good they are:

  1. tech employees want to be able to pick their favorite OS. Why? Because people is more productive if it use an OS that they are comfortable with. Because it is frustrating to switch between different OS in the office and at home (especially if is an imposed decision). Because the ability of making this choice can have a weight when someone is evaluating if he should join the company or not (if you check StackOverflow survey, 1 out of 4 developers has GNU/Linux as preferred OS).
  2. if you have to deploy on GNU/Linux, it is better to also develop on GNU/Linux. I got this answer from several colleagues. Some are very frustrated when they try to use Docker on Windows, even with the Windows Subsystem For Linux, because it doesn't just work like it does on GNU/Linux (their words, not mine).
  3. you'll save money on hardware. As I said before, is practically sure that Mac OS will be added as an option and, if you don't allow the people who want GNU/Linux to have it, they will probably pick Mac as fallback. This means buying dozens, if not hundreds, of expensive Mac Book Pro instead of cheaper and easily upgradeable Dell notebooks. It will also be easier to convert a GNU/Linux notebook into a Windows one and the other way around if, for some reason, someone is not happy with their choice.
  4. possibly saving some license costs. If an employee doesn't need to use Microsoft Office, the license cost can be saved. I have Libreoffice installed and, for the few times a month I have to open a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel spreadsheet, it is good enough. Not sure if we can save also the cost of the Windows license but that can also be an additional plus.
  5. instead of Office IT, the community can provide support. By community I mean an internal to the company community of GNU/Linux users: if you want to use GNU/Linux you must be aware that Office IT will only deliver the hardware and than you'll have to do everything on your own. There will be a public space on the Company wiki, maintained by the community, where you can find instructions on how to setup your machine, and there will be a dedicated Webex Teams text chat group where it will be possible to give and get live help from other colleagues. But if you want to just have Office IT to fix your issue, you should stick to Windows.

These are the main arguments I found so far but I would be really grateful if I can get more here.

Beside the arguments to allow using it, I need to make also the Security team happy, they have some concern: they want a way to check on all the employee machines if the OS is correctly patched and what packages are currently installed. It would be great if someone here could give me some technical advice on how this can be done (some software/tool name that can do this would be a good start).

Some questions that might raise:

  • Are we talking about using GNU/Linux on servers or desktop? We are talking about desktops (mostly Dell notebooks). All the company servers are already running Red Hat Enterprise Linux or CentOS.
  • Why Fedora? Because the company uses RHEL and CentOS on all the servers and they wantet to stick to the Red Hat world as much as possible when the POC was created (at first they even tried to use CentOS but the outdated packages made using the latest notebook a nightmare). But Ubuntu 18.04 got already approved by the License team because of Windows Subsystem for Linux so, it is not completely excluded.
  • Do you want to convince your company to use exclusively GNU/Linux? No, as I said, the company currently only allow Windows on employees' computers, soon will allow to pick Mac as an alternative and I have a chance to convince them to add also GNU/Linux as an option.
  • Why should I spend time helping you? Because the company I work for has around 1000 employees and you could help making many penguin users happy providing some valid argument for this topic.

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