Linux makes measured moves in real world

For the Bank of Canada’s Christian Boutin, investing in a Linux cluster environment to support the Ottawa-based Bank’s day-to-day economic research activities is the most practical option for its 64-bit x86 architecture.

“In our case, open source was always in the picture,” the senior technical analyst said. And while the national bank continues to use mainframes in the business units, Boutin noted that on the research side, the Linux OS is the best choice to run VMware.

Boutin made the comments during an IBM roundtable at last month’s LinuxWorld Canada event in Toronto. According to IT research firm Gartner Inc., 45 per cent of mid-sized organizations are presently using or at least experimenting with the Linux operating system.

IBM has been actively touting open source standards — Gartner reports that Big Blue ranks first in overall Linux-based server revenue worldwide in 2005.

“Linux is not a threat to IBM but an opportunity,” said Chris Pratt, manager of strategic initiatives for Markham, Ont.-based IBM Canada.

Not only is Linux becoming more robust, there are more real world Linux implementations than most realize, Pratt said.

But Pratt maintains that IBM hardware strategy is platform agnostic. “You can run AIX and Linux on the same box,” he said.

For iStockphoto Inc., Linux was simply a more cost-effective alternative to Windows and Unix, said Patrick Lor, executive vice-president for the Calgary-based firm. iStockphoto provides a royalty-free stock photography community where designers can share and download images for a fee.

This year alone, Lor said, iStockphoto is bracing for approximately 10 million digital downloads from its servers.

“In iStockphoto’s case, cost was the large driver,” Lor said. “Our very first step was to move into IBM xSeries to eliminate a lot of the server failures.”

iStockphoto recently migrated from Windows to a new environment which includes IBM’s fibre channel RAIDS with an combination of MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python (LAMP) and Apache, he added. “We’re looking at triple-digit growth…and we also look forward to future versions of PHP and MySQL so that we can scale along as we grow the business.”

But Boutin also notes that despite standardizing on Linux for its economic research activities, the Bank of Canada is still moving slowly with Linux migration on the business applications and back office side. There are those that still prefer Windows, he said.

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