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Open Source Goes Corporate

One line of code at a time, application by application, Web server by Web server, the data centers of a growing number of major companies are taking on a new personality, one that smells of the ocean and waddles when it walks. The trend is open-source software, the motivation is added flexibility at lower costs, and the long-term ramifications--well, those aren't entirely clear. From ABN Amro Bank NV in the financial industry to Yahoo Inc. on the Web, billion-dollar companies are expanding their embrace of the Linux operating system and other open-source components for a wide range of purposes. The Linux penguin has hit the big time.

Opening Up

ABN Amro Bank NV
Financial services

2004 revenue: $24.3 billion

ABN Amro has used open-source tools to help create some of its banking applications, most prominently its Web-based service. The company is running some mission-critical applications on Linux and is considering the use of open-source business-intelligence and reporting tools.
Cendant Corp.
Travel services
2004 revenue: $19.8 billion

Cendant Travel Distribution Services has saved about $100 million since 2001 when it began moving to Red Hat Linux. The company uses open-source Apache Web server and Tomcat servlet engine to run its operation.
Continental Airlines Inc.
Air travel
2004 revenue: $24.3 billion

JBoss application server and MySQL database are key components of Continental's homegrown Ticket Reissue and Traveler Alert applications. It used open-source Zope and Plone applications to create the Traveler Alert System's portal.
E-Trade Financial Corp.
Financial services
2004 revenue: $1.5 billion

E-Trade's migration from Unix to Linux began in 2001 and saves $13 million annually while improving the IT infrastructure's performance. The company plans by early 2006 to move from BEA Tuxedo middleware to Common Web Services transaction-messaging software.
Fidelity Investments

Financial services
Privately held, with managed assets totaling $2.3 trillion

Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, founded in 1999 to find technologies and tools for Fidelity's business units, has developed Struts Plus, a set of proprietary-code enhancements to the original open-source Apache Foundation Web application framework.

If you missed the announcement of this industry-changing development, that's because it never went out. The deployment of open-source software is happening a project at a time, and many of them are never publicly discussed. So InformationWeek set out to find out just how large corporations are using the stuff, conducting interviews with 10 big companies that are beyond the dabbling stage. We wanted to know not just why they're embracing open source, but how, where, and to what extent. What we found is that open-source adoption is growing rapidly in these companies, even though some of the issues involved in using software that no one owns haven't been completely worked out.

Consider the changes underway at UPS Inc. By the end of this month, the package-delivery company will finish migrating its Tivoli systems-management software, used to monitor and distribute software to 6,000 servers, from RISC-based machines running Hewlett-Packard's Unix operating system to about 50 Intel-based computers running Red Hat Inc.'s Enterprise Linux. The Web site is being migrated from Sun Microsystems' Solaris to Red Hat Linux on Advanced Micro Devices-based HP servers, and UPS estimates Linux servers will handle all of the site's traffic by January 2007. "You don't have to buy industrial-strength software to support all areas of the business," says Nick Gray, UPS's director for architectural services. "You can use an open-source application to support a project rather than building one, buying a lower-end application, or not doing the project at all." As a next step, Big Brown has begun testing Red Hat's 64-bit Enterprise Linux 4 as an option to run its Oracle data warehouse.

Or look at how the Walt Disney Co.'s enterprise application services architecture team is quietly contemplating the deployment of the open-source Tomcat servlet engine in its portal environment. The portal consists of packaged applications, including Vignette Application Portal, IBM WebSphere, and DB2, all running on Sun Solaris e480 servers. Disney is upgrading to the current version of the Vignette portal software and migrating to Tomcat, which will likely run on Intel-based Linux servers, a move expected to reduce the portal's hardware and software licensing costs. By the time the migration is completed by year's end, Disney's Enterprise Application Services Architecture team will have its entire Unix farm of more than 200 servers running on Linux, says Jonathan Chaitt, director of enterprise application services architecture.

As large companies move in this direction, they've got some issues to deal with. First and foremost, they must find a way to integrate open source into their commercial software environments and support it on an ongoing basis. They want reassurances that open-source code won't be subject to intel- lectual-property lawsuits. They need procedures established to avoid violating licensing terms that are different from what they're used to. And, as they move up the open-source "stack" of operating systems, databases, and application servers, they have to decide where to draw the line. Are open-source applications in their future?

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