Migrating to a new operating system is not a simple task, especially for enterprise users. This has led many people to exploring whether WINE on Linux is an enterprise friendly solution. This article will look at working examples at how it can be, but may not be the best idea for a long term approach.
What is WINE and why use it on Linux
Installing WINE onto the Linux desktop allows the end user to run Windows-specific software in a Linux environment. In truth, running WINE to power Windows specific software is a bit of a hack and probably best suited for non-mission critical applications. However for businesses looking to keep some software expenses down without switching their existing software for a Linux migration, often times WINE presents a degree of opportunity for a smoother transition.
When using WINE on Linux makes sense
There are instances when using WINE on Linux can make a lot of sense for enterprise users. For example if you're in dire need of using Microsoft Office products, running these applications on WINE might make sense for you. The only caution here is to make sure you fully test the version of the software you're needing with the recommended version of WINE. Clearly this isn't a great long term strategy, however for smaller businesses, it can work out pretty well.
If you have legacy Windows software users working from home, using WINE can be beneficial if they prefer to run Linux as their primary platform. As mentioned above however, you must remember that using WINE is a work-a-round at best and not something anyone should be relying on for mission critical software.
When not to rely on WINE on Linux
Above I mentioned the importance of not relying on WINE for mission critical software. I wanted to take a moment to elaborate on this statement. Do not rely on WINE for anything that affects the stability of your business or the safety of anyone. For example, running a firewall application in WINE would be advised against as it's placing the security of your network into the hands of a work-a-round instead of using a properly installed native firewall appliance.
Another example of when not to rely on WINE is when you need to run a program that handles the safety of passengers, environmental controls for the office, or other related tasks. Even if such a thing was possible and could be made to work, it's simply not worth the risk of having the software running in WINE and hoping it doesn't crash.
Reliable examples of WINE usage on Linux
Without question the best supported business programs for WINE are those offered by Microsoft. More specifically, Microsoft Office products. Office 2000, 2003, 2007, and newer versions of Office all work with varied levels of support. As a general rule when running WINE, the older the Windows program the more likely it'll work without a ton of additional effort.
This is especially true for those businesses that rely on Adobe products such as Photoshop. Specifically, Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 5. However there are usually some issues to be aware of such as it working best on one graphics chipset and not another. Intel for example, doesn't usually lend itself well for CS6 whereas NVIDIA, does.
By now you may have noticed that it's important to find a WINE installer that you can trust. Because if you attempt to do some of this stuff using WINE on its own and lack a database of what is working and what is not, you're going to find yourself dealing with a lot of frustration.
WINE installers for the enterprise
Without question, the number one WINE installer I recommend is both commercially supported and also supports the WINE project as a whole. That installer is from CrossOver. Not only does CrossOver have unofficial support for running Microsoft Office 2016. The official Linux rating for this version of Office is that it runs well. But don't be too excited, you're still limited on the versions of Photoshop that will install successfully.
As a general rule, CrossOver is best for those who want professional support for their WINE installer. CrossOver support comes with phone, email and even remote desktop support solutions...it's the recommended method I'd suggest if you're looking to implement WINE into your business environment. However, it's not the easiest to use if you want to install WINE on your own terms.
A Do It Yourself WINE Installer
If you want greater control over the version of WINE you run, yet still would like to keep to a nice GUI experience with CrossOver, then I recommend looking at PlayOnLinux. Contrary to popular belief, PlayOnLinux isn't just for games. Despite the lack of professional support available, it does offer solid community support for Microsoft Office products and other legacy Windows only programs.
If it runs on WINE, it'll run great in PlayOnLinux. This handy GUI installer for WINE provides both supported and unsupported installer functionality like you might find with CrossOver. If you're up to becoming "the support person" for your business, then PlayOnLinux is absolutely worth looking into.
Now, for the final piece of the puzzle. If you know what a "WINE bottle" is, have a working knowhow regarding winetricks, winecfg, among other WINE specific tools...then perhaps you're in a position to install and configure WINE on your own. No GUI, all "conf" and command line tools only. I cannot stress enough this isn't a recommended approach unless you know exactly what you're doing.
Forget WINE, go native instead when using Linux
To bring this article to a close, I'd like to point out the following – there's no substitute for running natively available applications. If possible, use LibreOffice over Microsoft Office. Consider Krita / GIMP over Photoshop and always run applications built for Linux when relying on something that is mission critical to your business.
What say you? Perhaps you cringe at the very idea of running WINE in any enterprise environment? Maybe instead, you advocate for going with a VM based environment running a full fledge instance of Windows? Hit the comments, I'd be interested in hearing your perspective on whether or not it makes sense to consider running WINE in a Linux enterprise environment.