The interesting date is 2001. This article, and the recent news about Sun being takeover fodder, reminds me of a conversation with a colleague back in (I think) 2002. We were working for a (UK based) company which was going to set the world of e-commerce a fire with Linux and Solaris clustering. At the time my colleague was working with a marketing guy in New York, since Wall St companies seemed like a likely market.
Apparently they had spoken to a well known Wall St company (it might have been Morgan Stanley, but I can't remember) and been told the following. Right up to September 10th 2001, the labs which were developing IT systems had been buying huge quantities of Sun Solaris servers. Naturally, Wall St companies paid the full price for hardware (unlike e.g. universities which get big discounts) but, hey, they could afford it.
On September 11th, everyone on Wall St had other things on the minds.
Immediately afterwards, it became clear that existing disaster recovery based on the idea that a terrorist bomb might disable, say, a city block, implied that a backup site a few blocks away would be fine. From then on, a backup site for a Manhattan office would need to be in New Jersey. To replace the lost hardware and commission the new backup data centres would require very big hardware orders, much of which would be from Sun.
The Wall St CIOs contacted their Sun salesmen with the specs to ask what the price would be and - given the large orders and unique circumstances - what sort of discounts they could expect. The Sun salesmen said, thanks for the order and no, Wall St doesn't get discounts.
Since any systems running on Solaris / SPARC had few alternatives, the boards of those Wall St companies told their CIOs to go ahead, buy what they needed to commission the new disaster recovery sites and then, as soon as everything was working, investigate how they could ensure that never again would any large IT procurements ever be at the mercy of one company. The CIOs replied almost immediately that Unix based systems could quickly be ported to Linux, which ran on cheap commodity hardware as well as the expensive Sun servers they had just bought. As it happened, IBM had just made its major statement of Linux support, and Oracle had been ported a couple of years before. No longer was Linux seen as just some hippy student project. That was why Wall St CIOs were talking to little Linux cluster software companies like us in 2002.
Just one problem, of course. Many of these companies had clients heavily dependent on shares in a certain software company in Redmond. Buying from Sun - seen as a supplier of "big systems" - was one thing, but to openly admit that their infrastructure would be based on cheap commodity hardware running Linux - clearly now Microsoft's main competition - was quite another, and frankly embarrassing. So at the time this was all kept secret, with conversations NDA'd to prevent worrying the (investing) public. The situation changed when the NYSE itself upgraded its main trading system to huge IBM servers running Red Hat. For me, the surprise is not that Wall St uses Linux, it's the fact that Wall St now casually talks about using Linux, apparently unbothered about the effect this might have on the price of MSFT stock.
So - can anyone shed further light on this anecdote? If it has an element of truth, then Sun's decision not to cut their Wall St customers some slack in their hour of need should probably go down as one of the stupidest decisions of business history. This, in conjunction with IBM's decision to fully support Linux, is probably why IBM recently considered buying Sun and not vice versa.