Enterprises Tout Linuxs Cost, Performance Benefits

Large enterprises such as Boscov's Department Store are beginning to see significant cost savings and performance benefits as a result of migrating to Linux.

In contrast to its reputation for being difficult and sometimes expensive to implement, some large enterprises are beginning to see significant cost savings and performance benefits as a result of migrating to Linux.

Harry Roberts, CIO for Boscovs Department Store LLC, in Reading, Pa., told attendees at the Linux Solutions Retail Conference here last week that while a move to open source had initially been difficult to justify to company executives who knew little about Linux, the cost savings the company realized some two years into the implementation were enough to quell dissent.

"The annual savings directly related to [Linux] implementation is my trump card," Roberts said, adding that moving to Linux saved Boscovs $1 million in the first two years, with ongoing annual savings expected to be about $500,000. That figure could rise to $1 million per year by 2007 as the retailer continues to port technologies to Linux.

Boscovs has migrated not only edge applications to Linux but also its invoicing database server.

The tales told by Roberts and other IT executives at large enterprises run counter to the persistent pitch from Microsoft Corp. that moving to Linux is not only expensive but also difficult and time-consuming.

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Robert Wiseman, chief technology officer of Cendant Corp.s Travel Distribution Services division in Centennial, Colo., which has more than 5,000 employees in 110 countries and owns brands such as Galileo International Inc., Cheap Tickets Inc. and Orbitz LLC, said the companys move from a mainframe environment to Linux in 2001 has saved the company $100 million.

"When we moved to Linux, we also found that using the low-cost x86 hardware platform made our system run three times faster and was 90 percent cheaper than the mainframe using Unix had been. It also has the highest uptime of any system we have had. We have not had a single second of outage, either scheduled or unscheduled, since June 2004," Wiseman said.

But while Linux is not free—"and dont let anyone tell you that it is—part of our savings also came from human capital, where we now have one person supporting all 200 instances of Linux in our enterprise," Boscovs Roberts said. "That allowed us to move other Windows support staff to new functions."

Aaron Graves, a senior vice president at Citigroup Inc.s technology infrastructure group in New York, said that while Citigroup decided to stay on the mainframe, it looked at Linux to bring distributed workloads into its mainframe hardware environment.

"We were able to configure an environment where a Linux application was running and connecting to [an IBM] DB2 database at the back end," Graves said. "We were able to configure multiple Linux instances across multiple mainframes and multiple databases, giving us a back-end Linux environment processing credit card transactions at a rate of between 90 and 120 transactions per second per Linux instance."

Josh Levine, chief technology and operations officer at E-Trade Financial Corp., in New York, said the company has switched from Sun Microsystems Inc. hardware running Solaris to Linux on Intel Corp.-based servers. "The way Linux is supported is incredible. The nice thing about Linux is that it can be supported in many ways, from both vendors and the community, and there is no mystery around it," Levine said.

All these enterprises plan to build out and grow their Linux implementations, which the executives said they believe will result in even greater cost savings. For Boscovs, that means replacing its aging POS (point of sale) infrastructure.

"The cost of Linux software will be less than half upfront, with almost no ongoing costs, compared with Windows, which we believe will add a cost of $180 a device every 24 to 30 months," Roberts said. "We will avoid about $630,000 in costs every two years."

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