Seeking to standardize its approach to client/server computing, Citicorp has selected Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT operating system to help manage traffic over many of its expanding personal computer networks, officials at the two companies said last week.
Citicorp officials said the selection of Windows NT as a "strategic systems platform" was part of the bank's ongoing technological standardization process, aimed at keeping a lid on costs as well as providing a more seamless operation throughout its global organization.
The endorsement by $250 billion-asset Citicorp also comes at a crucial time. U.S. banks are poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 12 months on the installation of systems based on the emerging client/server processing scheme.
Client/server systems are tightly linked networks of personal computers that share information and applications, thus reducing or eliminating the reliance on mainframes.
With all the money at stake, it's not surprising that the competition between vendors of client/server operating systems has gotten fierce. The combatants, in addition to Microsoft, include International Business Machines Corp., with its OS/2 operating system, and Novell Inc., which licenses the Unix operating system to a number of hardware vendors.
"We determined that Windows NT provides the flexibility and ease of use, together with mission-critical capabilities, necessary to run in a transaction oriented environment," said Colin Crook, Citicorp's chief technology officer.
However, Citicorp officials stressed that they would also continue to build systems using Unix, and that the Microsoft statement basically certifies Windows NT as capable of handling the bank's large-scale corporate computing needs.
The endorsement was announced in a Microsoft press release, but Citicorp confirmed its accuracy. However, "it's important to note that this was not a statement against any other operating system," said Harriet Schabes, a vice president in Citicorp's technology office.
Observers said the endorsement was part of a larger effort to get Citibank's various operating fiefdoms to focus on a select number of client/server technologies. "They are looking to establish world banking, where you can go to any Citi branch in the world and get a similar level of service," said Bob Landry, a consultant at the Tower Group in Wellesley, Mass. "They have to reorganize their infrastructure, and (client/server operating systems) is one of the places they are starting to do that."
Mr. Landry said Citibank is currently installing Windows NT-based workstations in several Latin American countries, as part of branch automation projects with Olivetti North America Inc.
"There are three or four application areas we are looking at very seriously" to install client/server systems based on Windows NT, Ms. Schabes said, although she declined to specify them. "It could conceivably be used for very large applications."