Linux helps guard Thompson Financial

Go into many small or midsize companies, and you may find a Linux firewall churning away in the computer room, keeping out bad packets and letting in good traffic. Businesses often choose Linux firewalls for their reliability and low cost, compared to products from Cisco or NetScreen that can cost thousands of dollars.

But Linux as a firewall platform also catching on in larger firms, such as Thompson Financial, which is using 10 Linux firewalls in one of its data centers in Milwaukee.

"We're using Linux as our security platform as a way to keep costs down," says Doug Moorhouse a network administrator at the Milwaukee facility, who now oversees the network security.

Moorhouse says his firm had used firewall appliances, and even Unix servers to run firewall software. But when organization's budget was tightened he decided to switch to Linux and Intel servers, which were cheaper to deploy and maintain than the Sun and IBM RS6000 boxes he'd used previously.

Thompson Financial uses Intel-based servers running Red Hat Linux, which includes a firewall software package. Moorhouse says the boxes are reliable protectors of the company's trading data center, which executes online orders for eTrade's front-end Web site.

"We have some pretty important information being protected by those Linux boxes," Moorhouse says.