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TowerGroup: Linux Gaining Ground Fast in North American Securities Firms

Oct 11, 2002, 20:30 (3 Talkback[s])

In just ten years, the Linux platform has developed into a compelling alternative to established operating systems for securities firms--one which is now beginning to gain significant traction at influential brokerages, such as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and E*TRADE.

Running on Intel processors and rivaling low- and mid-tier Unix servers in performance, scalability and reliability, the Linux platform boasts a lower total cost of ownership than other platforms. In addition, its origins in the Open-Source movement also make it highly "portable" across a wide range of platforms. Combined, these attributes are creating an extremely attractive proposition for securities firms struggling with an environment where infrastructure cost is as paramount as speed and reliability.

New research from TowerGroup examines how Linux is being implemented today--and what can be expected over the next few years. Highlights include:

  • The need for more flexibility and the ability to "port" applications across platforms is driving many securities firms to consider migrating large parts of their IT infrastructure to Linux. And as avenues for further IT budget cuts become exhausted, migrating away from proprietary operating systems to Linux can help firms reduce software licensing and hardware expenses.
  • Linux currently trails behind dominant platforms in the securities IT mix. TowerGroup estimates that Linux is now deployed on 14% of total servers at North American brokerage firms. In contrast, Microsoft has 54% of the market (both NT and 2000 combined), while Unix has 27% of the market.
  • However, TowerGroup believes Linux use will grow at an annual rate of 22% in the North American securities server market between 2002 and 2005, outpacing growth in Windows 2000, NT and Unix deployments over that same period.
  • Firms are using Linux in a number of ways. One of the most popular is Linux "clustering," which involves either stringing multiple processors on to a single server, or linking different servers so that they are managed as a single machine and share their workload. This strategy offers a number of benefits, such as rapid installation, enhanced performance and improved "uptime." Clustering also supports brokerage firms in the area of disaster recovery.

"While Linux now offers a compelling new technology alternative, securities firms shouldn't let current enthusiasm for the platform push them toward hasty implementation," said Dushyant Shahrawat, senior analyst in the TowerGroup Securities & Capital Markets practice.

Shahrawat noted that even firms like Credit Suisse First Boston--considered by many to be a 'poster child' for Linux in the securities industry--are not replacing their current mix of Unix, NT, Windows 2000 and mainframe platforms.

"Securities firms currently believe that each platform is well-suited to its particular purpose in the brokerage infrastructure, and it is not prudent to replace one platform with another en masse for the next few years. Other firms should look to this lesson when analyzing their current IT infrastructure, as well as business and technological priorities, to determine where Linux fits best in their environment," he said.

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