Retailer Prepares for Business Without Windows

Jul 19, 2002

The chief information officer at Boscov’s is slowly moving its technology operations from Windows onto Linux, according to an article in Forbes. “We went from simple to complex.” CIO Harry Roberts says.

In March 2001 the 91-year-old, privately held one-billion-dollar department store chain based in Pennsylvania determined that it was adding one new major server per month. Windows servers require significant manual administration, according to Mr. Roberts. “For every ten to 12 servers, we had to allocate one full-time person,” he says. This added hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses.

Meanwhile, Boscov’s decided to upgrade its aging and overworked IBM mainframe to the Z-series system, which runs IBM’s OS/390 operating system as well as Linux. Before going live with a critical mainframe application on Linux, Linux servers were tested with noncritical applications and file and print serving, which used to run on Windows. After several months of testing, Mr. Roberts loaded it onto servers used for e-mail and network management. Eventually, Boscov’s put its bridal registry and invoice processing systems on Linux servers.

Boscov’s IT department had minimal understanding of Linux, but Mr. Roberts says the learning curve was very short. He praises the help and support offered by IBM, and makes use of the vast network of Linux developers who share information on the Internet.

The downside is that despite the rapid rate of third-party software development for Linux, not every application is on the platform. Major software companies are getting there, but it is taking time.

Moderator Comment: Will more retailers and CPG companies looking to reduce IT costs begin moving away from the Windows OS and Microsoft apps?

The long heralded Linux revolution has not really taken
hold. Let’s not write Linux off just yet however. Those that know say that the
OS is substantially more stable than Windows. It is certainly a lot less expensive.
Companies looking to squeeze more profits from flat or declining sales may find
themselves coming to the same conclusion as Boscov’s. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer
will have a lot more to worry about than the federal government if that should
come-to-pass. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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