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Open Source On Wall Street: Crunching The Numbers

Open source on Wall Street isn't exactly news, but the "where" and "how" are crucial. It's looking more and more like the big-money men are turning to open source not just to build their networks and backends, but to actually crunch and count the money. I hope it's not just a strategy only for hard times.

Open source on Wall Street isn't exactly news, but the "where" and "how" are crucial. It's looking more and more like the big-money men are turning to open source not just to build their networks and backends, but to actually crunch and count the money. I hope it's not just a strategy only for hard times.

Matt Asay's summary of the situation touches on (what else?) cost savings, but also flexibility. "...open-source tools like Marketcetera's put the customer in the driver's seat, and charge a lot less for the privilege. This is a recipe for success in any economy, and particularly in this recessionary economy."

The open source software he's talking about this time around is not basic infrastructure -- desktops, directory services, file/print services, etc. It's analysis, reporting, BI -- all the things that the financial sector normally obtained from closed-bits vendors, and had no choice but to obtain it from such people.

This situation provides, I think, a partial answer to a question that people have shot at me before: Just because people use this stuff, does that mean they stay with it for the long haul? There are few places where the pain and complexity of changing infrastructure, on any level, is going to be as profound as in the financial sector: if you change something that big, it had better be for a really good reason. But if it works...

It's tempting to say that this sort of open source usage is more important than the OpenOffices and Firefoxes of the world. Switching front-end apps is one thing; most of us have gone from one browser to another and (I hope) not endured too much difficulty in the process. But changing out this kind of software, rooted as it is in the underbelly of how finance does its work, requires far greater assurance that it's capable of doing the job. Evidently it is, and it provides that much more protection against Wall Street dropping cash on things which might vanish along with the next wave of volatility.

I'd still like to see what the deal is three years down the road, though, when the pressure to save is no longer as prominent.


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