HSBC to Standardize on Novells SUSE Linux

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-03-13 Print this article Print

British-based banking and financial services group HSBC is standardizing its thousands of Linux servers on Novell's SUSE Linux, a direct result of the recent cooperation agreement between Microsoft and Novell.

HSBC, the British-based banking and financial services group that has more than 125 million customers globally, is moving to standardize on a single Linux distribution: Novells SUSE Linux.

The HSBC move is a direct result of the technical cooperation agreement penned between Microsoft and Novell in November 2006. As part of the agreement, the two companies committed to make their products work better together, to jointly build, market and support new solutions to improve interoperability, and to deliver new virtualization capabilities.
Susan Heystee, Novells vice president and general manager for global strategic alliances, told eWEEK that there had been a lot of progress between the two companies over the last four months on the technical collaboration front.
"These developments have been shared with global customers like HSBC, who also provided input into the process around interoperability and into helping Microsoft and Novell understand those areas that are key for the bank in this regard," she said. Click here to read more about how Microsoft and Novell made peace over Linux. Microsoft will now give HSBC certificates for three-year priority support subscriptions to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server from Novell, as the bank moves to standardize on SUSE Linux. HSBC, which has 9,500 offices with 284,000 employees in 76 countries, believes that the move will reduce its total cost of ownership for Linux, and improve interoperability with its existing Microsoft Windows infrastructure. The bank, which has thousands of Linux servers deployed, is not replacing any existing Windows servers with the open-source operating system, Matthew ONeill, the group head of distributed systems for HSBCs global IT operations, told eWEEK in an interview. "We run Linux in the server space, for application hosting. So we run Websphere, a big J2EE application server, and we do a lot of our critical application serving on that platform. We also have a number of third party investment banking products that we use that all sit on top of Linux," he said. HSBC has been working through a two-year program to roll out a global AD (active directory) environment for the whole company. "We have done that now in a single forest, and we have every employee in there," ONeill said. In looking at the way HSBC operates its Windows Server environment, and how AD now plays such a fundamental part in managing identity and Windows resources, along with the capability HSBC now has to leverage any resource globally from the one ID, "we see this as a huge opportunity to break that into some of our other platforms," ONeill said. HSBC had also used a third-party benchmarking company to benchmark against itself and the market, which showed there was room for improvement, particularly in its Linux environment. The global bank realized that it could learn from what it had done in the Windows space and apply that to the Linux space, specifically reducing the number of builds to support just one or two stacks so that time-to-market became the important thing about deploying an application rather than the intricacies of the distribution and how to recompile the kernel, he said. Click here to read more about how some Linux allies have rebutted Microsofts Get the Facts campaign. "This agreement will help us take Linux to that same level of efficiency. Our analysis proved that it costs us less to run a Windows server than it does to run a Linux server. You have to very quickly put aside the acquisition cost and get into how you can manage it, what tools you use to manage it and how you can link that in with the rest of your infrastructure," he said. HSBC also did a lot of work with virtualization within the Windows server space, which had improved its agility and ability to deliver critical services quickly, with the bank already delivering production services through virtual machines. "At the moment, we wouldnt dream of mixing a Linux and Windows workload on the same server," ONeill said. "But, as time progresses with the interoperability between Novell and Microsoft, that is the pressure we will be putting on them as a very interested party. It is a critical thing for us to be able to run any workload on any server and that will have huge benefits from a TCO point of view as well as in increasing server utilization." Read more here about how Microsoft and XenSource joined forces to aid server virtualization. Susan Hauser, Microsofts general manager of strategic partnerships and licensing, told eWEEK that the HSBC deal underscored the demand from customers for Linux vendors and Microsoft to work together to provide interoperability and IP assurance. "We are looking to customers like HSBC to help ensure that we are making the right investments around technical collaboration," she said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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