Linux Raking in Enterprise Support

Much of the talk that Linux isn't ready for the enterprise was put to rest last week as a string of large companies, ranging from E-Trade Group Inc. to DreamWorks SKG, announced deployment plans for the operating system.

Much of the talk that Linux isnt ready for the enterprise was put to rest last week as a string of large companies, ranging from E-Trade Group Inc. to DreamWorks SKG, announced deployment plans for the operating system.

At the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here, large IT customers cited the competitive advantage Linux provides in terms of price and performance for their change of heart on the platform.

"There is no question ... that Linux is now ready for prime time," said Harry Roberts, senior vice president at Boscovs Inc., in New York. "I was unsure of this a year ago, but developments over the past 12 months have convinced me. In addition, it can provide a less expensive alternative to Windows. Microsoft [Corp.] is becoming increasingly unfriendly to the enterprise."

Boscovs, which operates 35 department stores in the eastern United States, is consolidating its Windows NT server farm on a single IBM z900 running Linux. Boscovs has also moved its print and file server workloads from 44 Windows NT servers to Linux virtual servers on the z900. The company said it plans to move its e-commerce and database applications to a Linux mainframe over the next few months.

Other business sectors converting to Linux include financial services and digital animation companies. E-Trade, of New York, announced last week that it was dumping its Solaris servers from Sun Microsystems Inc. in favor of Linux servers from several vendors.

E-Trade has converted a large portion of its middleware and Web servers to an open architecture running Linux. "Open systems and open standards give us more performance for the same or less money," said E-Trades chief technology officer, Joshua Levine.

The company plans to replace more than 300 customer-facing databases, application servers and Web servers with Linux boxes, based on the fact that open-source software contributed significantly to the estimated $65 million E-Trades IT department saved last year, said Levine, who expects more savings this year.

Another financial services company, Salomon Smith Barney Inc., of New York, has deployed an IBM mainframe running SuSE Linux 7.0, which allows it to continue using its communication infrastructure. The company plans to use the mainframe to provide hundreds of virtual Linux guests, said Doctor Robinson, Salomons senior systems manager.

In the digital animation arena, recent converts include Pixar Animation Studios and DreamWorks, both longtime users of Silcon Graphics Inc. Irix-based workstations.

Pixar has ported 300 million lines of code to Linux and is two months into the deployment of its move from SGI to IBM IntelliStations. "Linux has given us a competitive advantage and greater absolute performance, productivity and creativity among our staff," said Darwyn Peachey, Pixar vice president of technology, in San Francisco.

DreamWorks, of Glendale, Calif., has replaced its SGI computers with Linux boxes and announced last week that it would be collaborating with Hewlett-Packard Co. to optimize its animation software for the IA-64 architecture.

"This will be the worlds first Linux IA-64 render farm, giving DreamWorks artists the ability to create larger, more complex images," said co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Another barometer of Linuxs acceptance is the growing base of enterprise management software supporting it. Last week, Computer Associates International Inc. announced 23 products in support of Linux.

IBMs Tivoli unit is working on support for multiple Linux images on the IBM zSeries.

Additional reporting by Paula Musich