Saturday, July 27, 2002

Business case for Linux is seen at Boscov's

Boscov's, a privately held $1B department store chain in Pennsylvania, is in process of moving major portions of its IT infrastructure to Linux. According to Harry Roberts, CIO, the initial driver for Linux was the expense of managing a growing Windows NT server farm, which required one full time administrator for every 10-12 servers. Rather than continue to add Windows servers at the rate of one per month, Boscov's decided to upgrade its IBM mainframe to the IBM Z-series, which can run both IBM's OS/390 operating system as well as multiple instances of Linux. This would effectively allow a single mainframe to run all of Boscov's mainframe applications as well as function like hundreds or thousands of Linux systems.

As a first step, Boscov's moved file and print services as well as non-critical applications from Windows to Linux, immediately eliminating Windows boxes and increasing up-time. Roberts says, "I used to reboot our print server every two or three weeks. It's been over a year, and I haven't rebooted our Linux print server once." Then, after successfully converting e-mail and network management functions to Linux, Boscov's converted its bridal registry and invoice processing systems, which are heavy transaction processing systems requiring integration to other corporate systems, such as Peoplesoft.

Future plans include converting 3,000 POS devices from MS DOS to Linux in order to avoid the cost of upgrading to Windows, which carries an ongoing license expense and additional upgrades every 24-36 months. Roberts estimates that upgrading Windows costs about $200 in administrative costs per system, plus the cost of Windows itself. In contrast, he feels that Linux systems can be more easily upgraded remotely and require no additional license fees. Roberts is even considering replacing Windows with Linux on the company's 2,500 desktops and is evaluating Sun's StarOffice as an alternative to MS Office.

Forbes has the full story.