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.
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.
"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."
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.