The strict regulations of the banking industry means that COCC, an Avon, Conn., online financial services firm, did not even consider Linux when it installed four AIX servers about five years ago.
Brent H. Biernat, assistant vice president of network services for COCC, said FDIC regulations suggest that financial companies use open source software only when it is supported by large, stable companies. That means a Linux vendor wasn't on the list when COCC installed its Unix-based AIX boxes five years ago. It wasn't until recently that Biernat thought large enough companies supported Linux.
COCC now runs SuSE Linux enterprise servers on Intel-based machines. The company uses SuSE Linux to handle Oracle financials, e-mail, bank teller applications, back-office processing software, reporting tools and financial applications.
Growth for a smaller price
COCC provides technology services to community banks and credit unions in the northeastern U.S. Essentially, the company handles the behind-the-scenes number crunching for smaller banks. The company has nearly 300 employees who handle more than 7 million check images per month from more than 130 customer banks.
About a year ago, Biernat and other company officials started planning an IT expansion in a way that would not break the bank. The intervening years have seen larger companies add Linux support to their repertoire, so the software earned a spot on COCC's latest vendor list.
Being able to expand at a more affordable price than AIX drove the switch to Novell SuSE Linux servers, Biernat said.
Biernat said his company evaluated Windows and Unix products before settling on Linux.
"We think we are much more stable than we would be under Windows," he said. "For something mission critical, Linux gives us a little bit more stability."
Recent Linux offerings from larger companies -- like IBM, Red Hat, SuSE and Apache -- have lent it greater legitimacy and increased awareness of their products from SMBs, said Abhijeet Rane, senior vice president at Access Markets International Partners Inc., a technology analyst firm in New York.
Linux offers several advantages to SMBs, Rane said.
"The two key reasons SMBs mention they are evaluating Linux or have already adopted it are stability and security -- real or perceived," Rane said.
SMBs also find Linux appealing because companies can often download and test free versions of the software before committing to more extensive, fee-for-support packages, Rane said.
Linux, however, may not make sense for small business owners who use proprietary applications that run on Windows, Rane said.
It's all about budgets
For Biernat, the change occurred because Linux could grow with his company, not because Unix was failing to perform.
"It's scalable, it's secure and it's always had very good stability," Biernat said. "We haven't noticed any decrease in uptime [since the switch]. We have phenomenal uptime with AIX. It was good and still is good."
But there are differences.
"The difference is it's much more expensive to host it on AIX, as far as hardware, software and talent," Biernat said. "The expertise is a little more expensive.
With Unix-based AIX already in place, Biernat said the changeover to Linux was easy because of his staff's experience with open source software. They installed the Linux boxes themselves.
"One of the things that made this good for us is we already had Linux talent," Biernat said.
And the company will continue to consider Linux as it expands in the future.
"We'll look at where it is best, what makes best business sense to run this on," he said. Biernat expects to consider Linux more in the future as the number and variety of products grows.