Merrill Lynch and Linux


Mark Snodgrass, vice president of Merrill Lynch’s in-house technology provider, the Global Technology & Services group, said that the company has found that rebuilding its information infrastructure using Linux can reduce administration costs dramatically. In fact, Snodgrass found that although the software licensing costs of Windows was higher than Linux, the highest cost was in managing traditional Windows infrastructure. “It’s the people that cost the most,” he said.

Merrill Lynch’s new plans for its information infrastructure call for running much of its Linux applications not on their own physical machines but in virtual machines running on high-end servers. Such a scheme simplifies management and allows for rapid deployment of new Linux “servers” by activating a copy of a stored preconfigured image in as little as 2 minutes 14 seconds.

Snodgrass said the next target for using Linux could be on the desktop. The company plans to do a pilot project that will allow thin clients–computers with minimal hardware requirements–to be used as workstations. The applications would actually run on Linux and Windows terminal servers. To a customer, the result would be the same, but to the company’s administrators, all of the client’s data would be centrally stored and thus, much easier to maintain.

The irony that companies may be moving toward an infrastructure that resembles the mainframe-and-terminal setups of several decades ago didn’t escape Snodgrass.

“It’s interesting when Solaris and Windows are the ‘legacy,’ and mainframes are the new big thing,” he said.

Some very interesting comments, especially the part about using Linux on thin clients on desktop. That is exactly what we are doing. Of ourse, for small organisations, they don’t need a mainframe as a server – a new desktop will be more than good enough.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.