Two Enterprises Share Linux Success Stories

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-06-01 Print this article Print

At the Red Hat Summit, KeyWest Bank says open-source software has brought cost savings.

NEW ORLEANS—In the past, IT managers looking to implement Linux-based servers faced significant barriers to adoption: misperceptions about open-source systems and a general lack of awareness. However, an increasing number of enterprise customers are willing to stand up and attest to the benefits from an open-source platform, including converts in the financial, retail and pharmaceutical sectors. Among the latest enterprises taking to the stage to sing the praises of Linux and their experiences moving to it are KeyWest Bank and Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co., both of whom shared their stories here at the first Red Hat Summit on Wednesday. They join the growing ranks of financial players like E-Trade and Citigroup and large retailers such as Boscovs Department Stores LLC, all of which are publicly talking about their experiences with Linux and open-source software and the large cost savings this brought them.
David Seager, the vice president of Unix server engineering at KeyBank in Cleveland, Ohio, said the IT team had to fight for several years to sell the value of Linux to the bank.
This had been an uphill battle, as many executives saw open source as a college project, not an enterprise solution. "This attitude was pervasive in the bank, from the enterprise architecture team to security to top management. "They all just wanted to know that if there was a problem, there would be a vendor to respond," he said. Two years passed, along with a concerted joint effort by the IT department and Red Hat to undertake an exhaustive TCO across all its applications, which involved looking at some 50 application stacks to see where such a move made sense, Seager said. By the end of 2003, there was still no Linux installed at the bank, but in 2005, just two years later, it has become its platform of choice. "Our environment, which is pretty large, runs on HP hardware with Intel processors as opposed to the Sun hardware of the past," he said. "Our Web servers, WebSphere and Oracle applications now run on Linux. As mission critical applications become available on Linux, we are transitioning to that, all the while maintaining customer satisfaction," he said. To read more about IBM boosting its suite of WebSphere products through its acquisition of Ascential, click here. The bank would also try and replace its boxes every 42 to 48 months. However, KeyBank continues to partner with Microsoft Corp. as well and has not switched out any Windows Servers for Linux yet, Seager said, noting that for new applications the bank looked at which platform the vendor developed it on and went with that. The largest cost savings came from hardware, particularly moving to commodity hardware, particularly as proprietary boxes also cost more in support as they get older. "Add in the operating system savings and this was pretty significant for us. We were also able to train up all of our existing staff within our training budget," he said. Some 75 percent of new installs both this year and next will be Red Hat deployments, Seager said. Asked what kept him up at night now, he said it was the dozens of operating system versions and hardware platforms that it supported and "very little to do with Red Hat or Linux," he said. On the issue of support, when asked by one of his managers what its Linux support was like, Seager responded that he did not know, which meant that there were few production issues, as most of these had been resolved during testing prior to implementation. Another large enterprise that has moved to Linux is pharmaceutical group Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. James Boudelaris, its senior Unix engineer, said the company had been running a Linux cluster on the research side for some five years. However, on the corporate side, policy dictated that any application had to be supported by the vendor, which delayed its implementation for some time. "But some 18 months ago, a decision was made at the top of the firm that Linux would be deployed," he said. As its primary platform had been Unix rather than Windows, it was not facing a lot of Windows to Linux migrations, he said, adding that the transition to Linux had started with some small dedicated Unix servers, Web hosting servers and simple Web servers. Software support is provided through HP. "Linux is treated as a regular operating system, and it is not getting any separate treatment by us," he 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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