Linux gaining interest from Wall Street

The wealthy brokerage houses and financial companies in the heart of Manhattan can buy just about any IT hardware and software they want, so why is Linux gaining users and drawing interest?

At the Linux on Wall Street Show and Conference on Monday, the answers centered on the open-source operating system’s adaptability, security, reliability and potential in allowing IT departments to customize it to fit their needs.

The show was small by recent IT standards, but it was designed as a comfortable place for Wall Street executives to get a close-up look at the Linux phenomenon. IBM was here, as were SuSE Linux AG, Hewlett-Packard Co., Computer Associates International Inc. and Reuters Market Data System, all showing off some of their Linux technologies to users and potential users.

Interestingly, in a sign that Linux is becoming more mainstream, there wasn’t really any Linux news announced at the show. Egad, a pack of hungry vendors and no news releases or major pronouncements?

Victor Raisys, an analyst at SoundView Technology Group in San Francisco, made that observation and said the user-friendly presentations were evidence that Linux has arrived as a viable operating system strategy and is now just one more technology to be investigated for inclusion in a company’s IT department.

Rather than issuing major announcements, the show’s emphasis was on providing information and answering questions about how Wall Street firms are currently using Linux in their back offices and edge devices -- and how Linux could find more uses in Wall Street data centers in the future.

IBM shows of Linux Center

A few blocks from the show, IBM showed off its "Linux Center of Competence" so attendees could see various IBM hardware configurations running Linux with real-world applications.

The center, located in IBM’s building at 57th St. and Madison Ave., offered classrooms and display rooms featuring IBM’s zSeries mainframe, a Linux eight-node cluster and other IBM servers running Linux as well as a host of financial and other applications.

Daniel Dantzic, the center’s manager, said he showcases the technology regularly to executives and IT people from financial companies in the heart of midtown Manhattan, giving them glimpses of how Linux can fit into their work.

Classrooms are also available for larger groups looking to get briefed on the fast-moving world of Linux in business.

Desktop Linux still a dream?

Linux on Wall Street desktops was also a subject at the one-day show. But so far, the idea is still largely being explored rather than implemented.

Mark Snodgrass, vice president of Linux convergence strategy at financial house Merrill Lynch & Co., said his company is testing SuSE Linux on thin clients to reduce desktop costs and increase control of the operating environment. But the effort hasn’t gone much beyond that -- yet. "We’re taking a slow and steady approach to Linux on the desktop," Snodgrass said. "We don’t plan on replacing every Microsoft[-equipped] desktop anytime soon."

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