The open-source software Linux has become by far the most-widely used operating system among the largest firms on Wall Street, according to a presentation made Thursday by Tabb Group analyst Kevin McPartland.

The biggest firms – aka, bulge bracket firms – have the technical prowess to use Linux and adapt applications to run on it, McPartland indicated in an address to the Wall Street Technology Association at the Westin Times Square hotel in New York.

All told, Linux has displaced the Solaris operating system of Sun Microsystems, which has now become a part of database giant Oracle, by a wide margin. By Tabb’s reckoning, 68 percent of bulge bracket firms now use Linux, compared to 23 percent for Solaris. Far back: Windows, at 7 percent.

“Linux is free and it doesn’t crash,” McPartland said, in summation.

The term “bulge bracket” normally refers to the largest investment banks on Wall Street, such as Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America), Morgan Stanley, and UBS.

Linux also is preferred by a wide margin of “second-tier” broker-dealers, McPartland said.

Linux is used by 58 percent of these medium-sized firms, compared to 30 percent for Windows and 11 percent for Solaris.

Only with the smallest firms does Windows dominate. These are companies which have small technical staffs and for whom it’s easier to order a bunch of Dell servers with Windows Vista pre-installed to go into a data center, McPartland said.

There, Windows dominates, with 78 percent of small firms preferring its use. Only 16 percent use Linux and 6 percent Solaris.

Overall, however, across all sizes, 43 percent of firms intend to use more Linux and 7 percent more Windows. By comparison, 21 percent intend to use less Solaris.

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