Home > Linux > Linux’s Perfect Storm: Is Wall Street ready for Linux? Linux’s Perfect Storm: Is Wall Street ready for Linux? Guest post by Mike Bouma 2003-05-04 Linux 28 Comments Robert McMillan has written a feature article regarding Linux storming into the financial computing industry. Robert expects that 2003 will be Linux’ make or break year regarding financial applications. 28 Comments 2003-05-04 8:55 pm I’m qualified in Accounts but working in IT for a multinational. My response to this to say that the problem isnt *just* with Linux, it’s with the vendors of applications. At my office we use SAP R/3 on AIX and Win2K workstations. Now SAP actually does run on Linux ( and it interfaces to Oracle which also does )… but many firms use SAGE, its equivalent package and a far more popular one. SAGE won’t run on Linux… and there’s nothing happening fast to change that. It’s SAGE that accountants learn computerised accounting on……. and its absence from the Linux platform is something that needs to be remedied. People will move Desktop OS easily They’ll change Server OS if they see clear benefits But trying to get an accounting dept transitioned from one package to another is hell on earth, and fantastically expensive. Trying to do this while co-ordinating a Server or client OS change would be grievously stressful! 2003-05-04 9:41 pm “SAGE won’t run on Linux… and there’s nothing happening fast to change that. It’s SAGE that accountants learn computerised accounting on……. and its absence from the Linux platform is something that needs to be remedied. ” Two choices then. Wait for the company that produces SAGE to see the light. Come up with a good enough alternative. That’s it. 2003-05-04 9:50 pm It’s already happening. Linux is being used more on the backend with Oracle than you may know. In addition, when people are writing financial web applications, the choice these days seems to be J2EE + Linux. Which is smart, really, if Linux goes away you’re J2EE code runs elsewhere. And since it’s Linux, you’re not locked in to an upgrade cycle. Finance firms these days are very nervous about windows. Not so much about the cost, but that is a large part of it. It’s more about the licensing and the privacy issues. Say what you want about Linux’s security (and it does have holes), but nobody wants their financial apps, or much more importantly, financial data on a box that can be CodeRedded/NIMDAed/etc. 2003-05-04 10:01 pm ” Wait for the company that produces SAGE to see the light ” I don’t understand the logic of this at all. SAGE has absolutely zero reasons to support Linux – anyone who wants SAGE – and a LOT do – will buy whatever hardware and software it needs to run it. Porting to Linux will cost a fortune for SAGE, create extra support issues, and a lot of the sales will be at the expense of their Unix and Windows products. People who want a Linux accounting system for industrial use are already using SAP…. 2003-05-04 10:49 pm What exactly is SAGE? And what does it do specifically? I don’t do accounting, so forgive me as I don’t have a clue as to why SAGE is so important. 2003-05-05 1:02 am Porting to Linux will cost a fortune for SAGE, Why? It was my understanding that porting from Solaris to linux was relatively painless. Am I missing something here? 2003-05-05 1:06 am And Banco do Brasil recently announced that it hopes to completely replace most of it’s 70,000 European windows licenses — including desktops — with Linux. I don’t know how much those windows licenses are, but if you assume $200 a piece that is cool $14,000,000 vanishing from Microsofts pocket. Owch. Even if “most” meant only 51% you would still be looking at over $7,000,000. 2003-05-05 1:07 am The reason why some people think SAGE and every other vendor that provides an application only available on Windows seems to be for some kind of OS-religious reasons. I have a favourite 3D sports entertainment application which only runs on Windows, and when I tell people about it and how it is the type of thing that means I can’t switch to Linux on my desktop, I get responses like: 1) That application must suck then (denial). 2) Why don’t you write the application for Linux? (infeasible considering patents and rights issues) 3) You should write to the vendor and tell them to port to Linux. Honestly. The vendor is in business to make money, and as you point out Chris, porting is going to cost a bundle. As far as home desktops go, Windows remains by far the dominant market and to be realistic, isn’t going to lose the mantle anytime soon. To think that it would be good business for the company to spend lots of resources on porting the application to Linux just to help fulfil some Linux-fanatic’s fantasies is ridiculous. Linux would need to have a very sizeable market before it might be worth the money. Maybe this will upset some Linux fanatics, but it’s important to remember that this is not Linux’s fault, it’s just that application vendors want to maximise their profits, and there is no reason yet for them to support other platforms. Why Linux anyway? I’m not sure why one would pick Linux over all the other free OSes. There seems to be a whole lot of hype about Linux, which sounds like a good reason to avoid it. 2003-05-05 2:10 am but you are ignoring the fact that the server market is realy not that easy to lock in as the desktop market. the server market is so wide and competative that applications from one companie should run on mulitple platforms. the company that makes SAGE is either stupid (becasue Linux is not that much of a cost loss when you can sell your software to a lot of integrating companies that would be glad to sell accountants cheaper systems with the same appliation software) or they are just totaly ignorent 2003-05-05 3:07 am In response to the “hype” comment — the fact that something receives hype is neither a good or bad reason to avoid it. An operating system should be judged on more substantial grounds. Should I avoid using Windows because almost everyone uses it? (Granted, I avoid Windows, but that certainly isn’t why. I won’t stop using Linux if it gets more hype, less hype, more users, less users, etc.) As for “Why Linux anyway?” For me, because it agrees well with my hardware, there’s a lot of software available for it, I like the GPL and the philosophy behind it better than I like a BSD-style license, and I like the way it feels/works/is organized. I also like the fact that there are so many different distributions. But — whatever floats your boat, you know? 2003-05-05 3:20 am Going backwards. Unix is the stable and secure OS on stable and secure platforms. 8 and 10 way rudundant systems are easy to make. One would be a fool to use linux or an x86 in any secure system. 2003-05-05 4:26 am It won’t be Linux’s fault, as the vendors have had plenty of time to port their applications. If a GNU replacement pops up because they took their time to port then there won’t be anything they can say about it. Sorry, we either cooperate and get along or you lose. We’ll see how long any financial software or simple database/data organization software can maintain against OSS. Less than a decade I’m guessing. But only time will tell. But that’s the thing about time. Us OSS folks have a lot of it. 2003-05-05 5:10 am I’ve tried to set up Linux co-operatives that would collect money, pay for the porting of applications and a portion of the profits are then given back as “dividends” to the investors. The first two companies I proposed approaching were Adobe and Macromedia. Guess what I got? the deafening sound of silence. Conclusion, Linux users obviously don’t want commercial applications, they simply want to hang around, hug trees and hope that “GNU will provide” through some act of god. I then tried something even less visionary, and tried to get the same sort of fund but instead get Adobe, Macromedia and other major vendors to work with wine to get their applications running. Again I was deafened by the sound of silence. 2003-05-05 6:39 am So because you couldn’t get people into your program you say that linux users don’t want commercial applications? You are suggesting that because you couldn’t find people to invest money (money they probably don’t have) in getting companies to port software that they don’t want that software? How well did you advertise these “cooperatives”? I have never heard of such a thing. I wouldn’t have the money to support it even if I wanted to. This isn’t because I want to hang around and hug trees. It is because I am a poor college student. I have to make the little money I have stretch and convincing Adobe to port isn’t at the top of my list. The people with the kind of money you would need to make this work aren’t your average linux users. 2003-05-05 8:34 am Apologies, I kinda forgot I’m in two industries and using terms from one in the other.. SAGE is a unified business application. It provides a server/client system for accounting, invoice management, payroll, tax, shipping and stock management, reporting, analysis and pretty much anything else you’d like to code in. Like most major business systems it has a plugin structure so extra functionality can be added later or by 3rd party vendors. ( 3rd party plugins would also need porting of course… ) This is why I’m stressing the importance of having the right software available on Linux. This isn’t something as simple as a move between OS on a workstation or switching from Office to OpenOffice.org. About 3 million major companies use SAGE 2003-05-05 11:34 am Newsgroups, a number of distributions, SUN Microsystems and Codeweavers. I tried to contact a number of sources. Heck, I even offered to start the fund off with $500 of my own money! conclusion: Linux users don’t want commercial applications. Can someone in the Linux community prove me wrong? It seems that the Linux community are more concerned about things being free and hugging trees than actually enticing companies to port applications that people demand. Can you suggest a better avenue? 2003-05-05 11:53 am “the fact that something receives hype is neither a good or bad reason to avoid it” I didn’t make what I meant very clear did I, my apologies. One example of what I consider to be Linux hype is the “stable” label. I started playing with Linux a little, after a few months of crashless Windows XP usage. Linux eventually crashed on me a couple of times before I managed to blue screen XP with a bad CD (crash is repeatable actually, perhaps I should report the problem). So as far as I was concerned, Linux wasn’t as stable as I was expecting it to be, and if you look at uptimes at http://www.netcraft.com, it seems that it’s basically a top 50 UNIX list, with one Windows 2000 machine in there as well – no Linux though. Security in Linux is also overhyped, I believe. When I first heard about it, apparently it was going to ensure that I would never get a virus, etc. I never had one even on Windows actually, but when I started playing with some Linux distros a lot of them had crap like SMTP, ftp, web servers installed and running by default. I wondered where all the “security” was. I’m subscribed to a Linux distro mailing list or two as well, and every week there are packages supported by the distributer containing security flaws, it doesn’t seem much better than Windows in that regard. At least on these two points, I would certainly choose a real UNIX ahead of the clone that Linux is, because the hype about Linux doesn’t match the statistics. It would appear that they are both more stable and more secure than Linux. 2003-05-05 12:40 pm >>To think that it would be good business for the company to spend lots of resources on porting the application to Linux just to help fulfil some Linux-fanatic’s fantasies is ridiculous.<< In fairness, server linux has a pretty big user base. I wouldn’t be surprised if server linux has a base that is as big as some propritary UNIXes. On the server side, Linux is taking market share from propritary UNIXes. Also, makers of server products, especially those that run on *NIX, should be more inclinded to port than desktop application manufacturers. Server apps sell to much fewer installations, but those apps cost up to hundreds of thousands each. 2003-05-05 1:35 pm Fair criticisms, for the most part. Most Linux isn’t particularly secure. The issue of what is running by default is, of course, a distribution-by-distribution matter, but it isn’t a point I’ll argue too far. I’ll leave it at this — I think I can make my Linux machines more secure than if I were running Windows, and pretty easily, but I certainly don’t think that Linux is a super-secure OS. If security mattered more to me than it does I’d probably be running OpenBSD. Or trying out one of the distributions aimed at making Linux more secure; I don’t know much about them because security isn’t a big issue for me. Stability is a bit more tricky. Do I think that Linux’s stability is overhyped? Yeah, probably. Do I think it’s really stable? In my experience, it is. For me, things get buggy and start crashing in X, not frequently, but more often than I’d like – though less often than I deal with when I have to use Windows. On the other hand, I can always kill what’s crashing; the OS itself has never once crashed on me, and I’ve never had anything like a BSOD. So, while any number of applications I’ve run in Linux have been more or less unstable, the OS itself has been very stable for me, and made it easy to deal with unstable applications. 2003-05-05 4:21 pm Yes, I’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of my personal funds on Linux based software. There’s a market there, perhaps your business plan or marketing is flawed. 2003-05-05 4:51 pm If SAGE customers are willing to buy whatever hardware they need to run SAGE, then the the company that wrote SAGE could switch from Windows or Solaris to Linux and then ship the combined SAGE software/hardware turnkey solution. They could charge less than the current price because the OS is free, but they could make more because they don’t have to pay the “OS tax” to some OS vendor. Charge LESS, but make MORE! 2003-05-05 5:28 pm “”So as far as I was concerned, Linux wasn’t as stable as I was expecting it to be, and if you look at uptimes at http://www.netcraft.com, it seems that it’s basically a top 50 UNIX list, with one Windows 2000 machine in there as well – no Linux though. “” IIRC for a long time (I think it’s fixed now) uptime on Linux rolled over to zero after a coupla hundred days. It might not be the only reason it’s not on the top 50 lists, but it’s a contributing factor. 2003-05-06 12:17 am Unfortunately, if you run a ‘Real unix’ you will probably find yourself running the same programs (sendmail, apache etc) with the same holes as you would if you ran a Linux box. The Linux kernel is pretty secure, more so with SELinux, GRX patches etc. I, and many others would consider it competitive with ‘real unix’ in that area. Of course, if you install Lindows or Mandrake at the lowest security settings, just keep your fingers crossed. I agree the default enabled webserver/ftp services are just plain stupid. 2003-05-06 12:35 am … 2003-05-06 6:20 am It’s just a question of time before something really really horrible happens to a crucial Linuxserver and people will flee from it. Just face the fact, Linux can’t compete with real Unix. Besides, it will be ages before any of the big softwarehouses will build software for the Linux kernel (because it’s not an OS as you know) 2003-05-06 6:43 am My marketing isn’t flawed. Linux users don’t want commercial software otherwise I would have had a full email box by now. Face it, Linux is screwed on the desktop. Stop trying to make out that there is any future for it. For the server, no problems. For the desktop, it sucks now and it will still suck in 5 years time because the core of the “community” won’t get off their ass and do something about the dire shortage of commercial software. If one wants an alternative, by a eMac with MacOS X preinstalled, and you are able to run all the mainstream applications to your hearts content. 2003-05-06 12:04 pm “My marketing isn’t flawed. Linux users don’t want commercial software otherwise I would have had a full email box by now.” If your marketing was not flawed I would know what you were selling. If persons like myself don’t know that you have a product to sell me, how can you have a “full email box”? Again, either your marketing is flawed or you are not providing a product that is useful to anyone at a good pricepoint. 2003-05-06 12:54 pm Can someone in the Linux community prove me wrong? Codeweavers themselves? They’ve invested tons of cash and got others to do the same with Wine, WineX and Crossover Office. In fact, Codeweavers did exactly what you state is impossible and got the Linux community and Adobe behind them and the latest version of Crossover will run Photoshop (along with MS Office etc.). Other software won’t be far off. Just because you walked into an empty room with a petition doesn’t mean nobody wants to sign.