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Linux's Ticket To Ride

Large airline-reservation networks are considered among the most mission-critical of computer systems, outside of those run by trading exchanges and large financial-services firms. Their sheer volume and complexity made running them on anything but the fastest mainframes unthinkable.

Now that is changing, as one of the largest airline-reservation networks, Galileo, moves off such a system to Linux, underscoring the viability of an open platform for the most mission-critical of systems. According to a recent survey of large North American companies by Forrester Research, 53 percent are using Linux for mission-critical systems. Such a trend bears note by solution providers wary of Linux as an alternative to Unix for transaction-intensive applications--particularly those who don't think Microsoft's Windows data center server platforms are a cost-effective or scalable enough option.

"In more and more places, Linux is on the list to evaluate," adds Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems software research at IDC. "This doesn't mean it's always chosen, but organizations are looking at it because they are facing significant challenges, and they are looking to reduce costs wherever possible."

Cendant Makes Its Move
A number of factors are driving the shift to Linux. The technology is now scalable and reliable, for one. And the squeeze on the entire travel and hospitality industry is putting the greatest pressure on costs ever. Kusnetzky says that companies, in general, are looking to Linux as a way to cut costs and reduce the amount of hardware.

Cendant, a conglomerate whose holdings include Avis, Galileo, Howard Johnson Hotels and Web sites that include and, has been moving its systems onto Linux for years. Now Cendant's Travel Distribution Services, operator of its transaction-processing networks, including Galileo, is the latest to expand its reliance on Linux. Though Cendant CTO Robert Wiseman did not want to disclose the Unix systems the Linux-based systems are displacing, he said Cendant actually took its first steps away from the mainframe in 2001, when it migrated to systems running on Sun's Solaris.

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