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Bank Adopts Linux In IT Revamp

Clive Whincup bet big three years ago and is now reaping the rewards, after his bank restructured its entire branch platform around Linux and Web services.

"At the time, it was a calculated risk," says Whincup, IT director at the Italian Banco Popolare di Milano (BPM, Milan). That's because critics said that while Linux was good for certain applications, such as e-mail, it lacked the ability to handle mission-critical solutions.

"We looked at it in detail and did a lot of work internally," testing and researching Linux, Whincup says. That included working closely with IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) and Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner to examine the potential. At the time, he recalls more businesses were starting to look at Linux and "were giving it a positive response. When we looked at it, no real reason emerged why the same thing could not be done for more mission-critical situations."

BPM is Italy's 19th-largest bank, with 600 branches, 7,000 employees and more than EUR 18 billion in assets. At the time of the operating system review, its branch platform operated on IBM's OS/2, which Whincup says was "no longer viable in terms of support."

BPM set out to re-engineer its system with a goal of moving to open standards. By doing so, Whincup says, "we would treat portability and interoperability as key business assets." A key goal was to integrate all of the channels and the different technology platforms.

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