Investors demonstrated their enthusiasm for the Linux operating system last year, when Linux information technology vendors Red Hat Inc. and VA Linux Systems floated hugely successful initial public offerings in June and December, respectively. Before the first month of the new year had drawn to a close, computer giants IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. had announced major new business strategies sparked by Linux's rise.

Yet as the free, open, Unix-derived operating system is taking capital markets by storm and restructuring the landscape of the OS marketplace, bankers remain cautious about adopting it. In general, banks are holding back on implementing the system for critical business applications. Some, however, have begun to adopt it for more peripheral parts of their information systems, such as firewalls, Web servers, mail servers, and file and print servers.

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