McKinley envisions Linux adoption spreading to embrace a wider variety of applications as companies such as Oracle and SAP move to offer support for the OS. There is nothing to stop Merrill Lynch from deploying such applications as well, he says. "We are using Linux for everything from trading applications to infrastructure servers," McKinley says. "Linux has proved itself to be a robust and stable solution with a compelling cost of ownership."
McKinley couldn't provide dollar figures on Merrill Lynch's savings from Linux, but others are ready to talk in those terms. Alex Zoghlin says Chicago-based Orbitz saved millions of dollars in 2002 using Linux to replace expensive hardware, including Sun Microsystems' Java application servers using Sun's Solaris software.
"We replaced our entire midtier architecture," Zoghlin says. "We replaced $7 million worth of hardware with about $80,000 of hardware. So we saved about $6 million by moving to Linux."
Zoghlin had previously deployed Linux in about 400 Web servers that provide the cutting-edge flight information for which Orbitz is noted. The prohibitive cost of starting a modern flight information system from scratch forced him to look at Linux instead of proprietary mainframes, he says.
"We can route you through every city in the country, with literally billions of possibilities," Zoghlin says. "Linux gives us the opportunity to rethink options in fare search [engines].
"To bring computing costs down and lower the cost-per-minute, we turned to Linux machines," Zoghlin says. "We have hundreds and hundreds of Linux machines running Intel boxes. Now, they do everything. Some boxes run application servers, Web servers. This year we proved we are a real player in the market and drove costs down."
No license needed
Whereas some CTOs seek to escape the costs of expensive mainframe severs, others use Linux to avoid paying on software licenses in multiple machines. At Regal Entertainment, which claimed $21.1 billion in revenue in 2001, Henry avoided the cost of Microsoft licenses in thousands of point-of-sale terminals in the chain's theaters. For hardware, he selected IBM SUREPOS500 terminals that supported Linux.
"We are conducting a major rollout in connection with concession stands in 520 theaters," Henry explains. "We started 12 months ago with 3,000 workstations running Linux and will roll out another 1,000."
IDC's Kuznetsky says some companies will have to calculate the cost of hiring IT staff familiar with Linux or its forebear, Unix. "If you are a Windows shop, the learning curve can be steep ... because there is a different philosophical base for Linux as compared to Windows," he says. "In a Windows environment, everything is done for you, while the presumption behind Linux is that the developer controls everything."
In a Microsoft-centric environment, Kuznetsky says, "the operating system attempts to do a lot to ease the burden of the developers. But the developers have to go out of their way to get outside the software to do special things. So we find Windows-based shops often have cultural shock when they run into Linux. Although if they already have Unix, it's like an old friend."