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What's Holding Up Linux on Wall Street?

A Stealth Takeover In Progress?

  • September 29, 2005
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Although the financial services industry has adopted Linux more slowly than first expected, Linux is now starting to hold more sway, even if often from behind the scenes, according to participants in this week's High Performance on Wall Street conference in New York City.

"I like Linux," said Chris Kwasnicki, VP/senior architect for capacity planning at Pershing LLC, one of the speakers at the full-day conference in Manhattan.

Kwasnicki pointed to the advantages of open source development. Linux also "puts pressure on the vendors to look at the business case--what (vendors say) versus what you're going to get," he added.

"We are using some Linux," Kwasnicki told LinuxPlanet after his conference presentation. "But I can't say anything more than that about this."

But more Linux implementations are actually happening in financial services than is commonly known outside the industry, said some attendees at the show.

Among Information Builders's customers, Linux has grabbed hold faster in government--particularly among state and local agencies--than in financial services, said Adam E.Cohen, partner marketing manager at IB, during an IBM-sponsored customer and press event at the close of the show.

Cohen listed costs and ease of use as two key drivers for Linux adoption in the government space. On the other hand, though, he pointed to financial services as second only to government in terms of enterprise-level Linux deployments among IB users.

A sales rep for CiRBA also said she sees widening use of Linux in financial circles. In fact, 60 percent of all implementations of the vendor's software are running on Linux, she said. These deployments are split just about evenly between Red Hat and Novell SUSE Linux.

"Although our software is running mostly on Linux, it is being used to configure changes on (RISC-based) Sun and HP servers, too. But (RISC-based) Unix is an older platform that's been around longer," she said.

Some banks and other financial firms, however, are reticent about their use of Linux, participants suggested. "What really needs to happen is for (a major bank) to come out strongly and say, 'We are using Linux,'" according to Cohen.

Meanwhile, some recent press reports have focused on issues such as a decision by Lloyd's of London to deploy Windows instead of Linux, and on allegations that Bank of America was an initial target for SCO's customer lawsuits, until SCO decided to go after AutoZone instead.

It was only a couple of years ago that major vendors were proclaiming high hopes for Linux in financial services, an industry traditionally viewed as an early adopter of emerging technologies.

Back in 2002, for example, HP, Intel, and Red Hat announced plans to migrate Reuters Market Data Services to Linux.

That same year, IBM opened a Linux Center at its office building in Manhattan. At the time, some analysts mentioned scalability and applications as the chief barriers to Linux in banking.

Now, scalability has greatly improved, and more Linux software is available, said participants at last week's conference.

In one session at the Wall Street conference, Bruce Talley, director of BMC Software's Virtualizer Products Group and Chandy Nilakantan, co-founder and CTO of Scalent Systems both noted that their software runs on Linux.

Are there any other remaining obstacles to deployment' Concerns over Linux and open source legal issues seem to constitute one newer stumbling block. Technical support could be another.

"There may be (some) legal and implementation issues," said Pershing's Kwasnicki.

Still, though, attendees acknowledged no opposition to Linux in the financial services industry per se, even though they opently admitted to plenty of controversy over service grids, an architecture for sharing software services across departments and other organizations.

"Departmental managers pretty much run whatever (OS) we give them. They really don't care whether or not it's Linux," Kwasnicki told LinuxPlanet.

"It's really just a matter of preference. Some of our customers like Windows, while others prefer Linux," said a vendor said, during the IBM-sponsored event that evening.

In contrast, service grids are still a foreign concept to many. "Ownership of a service is paramount to people in departments," said BMC Software's Talley, during a panel presentation.

"The key is not to introduce (the grid) as an agent of sweeping change," recommended Scalent's Nilakantan.

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