Protecting users (and their data) from themselves is tough enough within uniform computing environments, which is one of the big reasons many organizations hesitate to make the jump to non-Microsoft platforms on their workstations. But now securing data across different operating systems is a little easier with Endpoint Protector's announcement of Linux support. Here's the scoop, and what it means for Linux in the workplace.

Endpoint Protector, developed by CoSoSys, focuses on securing data stored on portable devices. As such it's not a one-stop solution for total data security, but it covers an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to making sure data doesn't fall into the wrong hands -- which means both preventing unauthorized access to sensitive information stored on portable devices and ensuring that those same devices don't introduce nasty code to an organization's workstations and network.

Version 4 of Endpoint Protector, which was introduced November 2011, already supported Windows and Mac OS X. The recent announcement of support for Ubuntu and OpenSUSE means the software is now truly platform-independent, offering the same set of features regardless of the operating system on which it runs.

There are limitations, of course. Currently Ubuntu 10.04 longterm-support (LTS) and openSUSE 11.4 are the only Linux versions supported, so users of other distributions or releases remain out of luck. And in only a few weeks when Ubuntu 12.04 appears, Endpoint Protector no longer will be up-to-date with the latest LTS version of Ubuntu.

Nonetheless, this is a start that will make administering cross-platform environments that much easier, especially for large organizations hoping to break out of the Microsoft mold on their workstations. And there's no reason not to expect broader Linux support in the future.

Linux in the Workplace

While the solutions offered by Endpoint Protector may not be of interest to everyone, the bigger story here is about the momentum of Linux as a desktop operating system for large organizations. CoSoSys clearly calculated that there was enough demand for adding Ubuntu and OpenSUSE support to its lineup to make the endeavor worthwhile, reflecting the seriousness with which Linux is increasingly being taken in the workplace.

Other signs of this trend lie in the array of Active Directory integration tools currently on the market from a variety of vendors, including BeyondTrust, Quest and Centrify, as well as Canonical's effort to court the corporate market with the recent introduction of Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix.

Personally, I've yet to work anywhere where Linux was officially endorsed as a desktop operating system in the office. The best I've fared has been tacit acceptance of users administering Linux workstations themselves, and even then IT staff weren't always happy about it. But developments such as those cited above represent strong signs that, even if the Year of the Linux Desktop remains ever-elusive, Linux may yet have a decisive commercial future beyond the server room.