• United States

Users tout Linux savings

Jan 27, 20035 mins

Out with the old – as in Unix – and in with the new – Linux – was the mantra last week at the LinuxWorld Expo. Executives from Wall Street, the U.S. government and the Fortune 500 talked up open source software as a cost-cutting tool for corporate networks.

NEW YORK – Out with the old – as in Unix – and in with the new – Linux – was the mantra last week at the LinuxWorld Expo. Executives from Wall Street, the U.S. government and the Fortune 500 talked up open source software as a cost-cutting tool for corporate networks.

LinuxWorld drew more than 17,000 attendees and 150 exhibitors – both increases over last year, as estimated by show organizer IDG World Expo, a sister company of Network World. And with the show’s midtown Manhattan venue, the use of Linux in Wall Street IT shops was a major theme at the show, reinforced by a keynote address from Jeffrey Birnbaum, managing director and global head of enterprise computing in Morgan Stanley’s institutional securities division.

“We are in an arms race for adding computer power,” Birnbaum said. “That means adding new hardware and applications all the time.”

To keep up this pace while keeping down costs, Birnbaum said his firm decided to look into Intel servers and Linux software. By 2005, Morgan Stanley expects to be running 80% of its systems on commodity hardware, running a mix of Linux, Windows and Unix.

Another veteran of the Wall Street IT “arms race” praised Linux as a flexible development tool and a cost-reducing tool.

“The great thing about Linux is that you can use real [total cost of ownership] as the selling point to get your organization to buy into something that also lets us do innovative things,” said Evan Bauer, an independent software consultant and former CTO at Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). Speaking on a panel of Wall Street IT executives, Bauer described his involvement in porting one of CSFB’s trading applications from Unix to Linux. While the company realized savings of more than 80% by running Linux, Bauer said, the open source nature of the software let CSFB developers tinker and tune the operating system and applications to boost performance as well.

Before the switch, the company’s trading desk was losing millions of dollars in missed trades, Bauer said. But after the infrastructure change CSFB “could take on more business because our trade flow was increased.”

In addition to the Linux cheerleaders on Wall Street, IT executives from government and private sector firms discussed Linux as the logical successor to aging Unix systems.

The Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) of the Navy recently replaced proprietary Unix servers with Linux on some of its ships that collect data on weather patterns and other oceanographic measurements.

While Linux is still in the minority at NAVOCEANO, said John Lever, the organization’s CIO, the replacement of proprietary hardware and software with Intel and Linux resulted in a 10-to-1 cost reduction.

While Unix-to-Linux migration was a hot topic at the show, some IT executives with big Linux plans said they were not quite ready to dump their Unix boxes for Linux – yet.

“We’re waiting for Version 2.6 of the kernel to appear to go further in the data center,” said Colin Hope-Murray, CTO at the personal care conglomerate Unilever, which uses Linux for Web servers and other edge applications. Hope-Murray, who foresees Linux being in the data center “over the next eight to 10 years,” said he would like to see more high-end features in the software, such as better multithreading support, which would let Linux applications run faster for more attached clients.

Meanwhile, many software vendors used LinuxWorld to jump on the open source bandwagon with offerings to help Linux users manage their environments.

Computer Associates announced 12 new Linux offerings including Unicenter Management for WebSphere on Linux, Unicenter Management Portal, eTrust Web Access Control and CleverPath Aion Business Rules Expert. From its storage product line, it also released BrightStor ARCserve Backup agents for Apache and MySQL. CA also announced the formation of its Linux Technology Group, aimed at developing and marketing the company’s 60-plus Linux products, which it has developed since 1999.

Also on the management front was a new version of Ximian’s Red Carpet Enterprise software for distributing Linux software updates and configuration changes to large amounts of Linux nodes on a LAN or across a WAN.

The petroleum company Amerada Hess of Houston needed a tool for managing its 350-node Linux cluster for its oil exploration research applications. The firm first tried to create its own patchwork system of homegrown applications and automation scripts, but ended up turning to Ximian’s Red Carpet product.

After the cluster was brought online, “it started to become an issue of how to get updates to all the servers,” said Jeff Davis, systems programmer at Hess.

Davis runs Red Carpet on a server on Hess’ LAN, which stores software patches and updates and automatically downloads the packages.