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Morgan Stanley aids Linux learning curve

When Red Hat took on Morgan Stanley as a customer, it found out just how much work needed to be done before Linux was ready for corporate use--a process that's been worthwhile, a Red Hat exec says.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
NEW YORK--Red Hat had been arguing for years that its Linux operating system was ready for mainstream corporate use, but the company found out just how much work still had to be done when it took on Morgan Stanley as a customer in May 2001.

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The process was worthwhile, though, Red Hat Chief Technology Officer Michael Tiemann argued during a keynote speech Wednesday at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here. Less than two years after the collaboration, Morgan Stanley has 1,000 computers running Linux.

Sun Microsystems' servers have been popular with financial services customers, Jeffrey Birnbaum, managing director of enterprise computing at Morgan Stanley, said during Tiemann's keynote speech. Indeed, Unix still is the most widely used operating system at Morgan Stanley, running on about 3,100 of its 6,000 servers; Windows is next with 1,900 servers. Linux is running on the remaining 1,000, he said.

Birnbaum wasn't just helpful in pushing Red Hat to build necessary features into Linux, Tiemann said. He also helped champion the cause of Linux among Wall Street companies.

"We're working with eight of the top 10" Wall Street financial services companies, Tiemann said in an interview after the speech. "They were the first to break the ice."

The first requirement was a better version of the heart of Linux, the kernel. Tiemann said Red Hat needed to use version 2.4, which featured better abilities to take advantage of higher-end servers.

Unfortunately, the 2.4 code base "took a long time to stabilize" after the first version was released in January 2001. "It was a very difficult process. I'm proud that Red Hat was the last vendor to market with a 2.4 kernel, because we were the first to come out with one with no known data corruption bugs."

Another problem was that while companies such as Oracle and Veritas Software had certified their software to work with Linux, they didn't always certify the same Linux version. Red Hat has tackled this problem with its Advanced Server product, which changes less frequently and costs much more than its standard version.

Red Hat also helped create a Linux version of the Andrews File System, a software layer essential to Morgan Stanley's overall computer system design, in which one server stores the operating system while many other servers pull that software over the network to boot up.

To get Oracle's database software working, Red Hat had worked on "asynchronous input-output" technology, software that speeds data transfers to storage systems.

And Red Hat, with cooperation from Intel and Hewlett-Packard, helped coax Reuters to create a Linux version of software Morgan Stanley needed--Reuters Market Data System, a product that arrived last year.