CARACAS, Venezuela — Banco Mercantil has implemented International Business Machine Corp.’s Linux server system, making it the first Latin American company — and among the first financial institutions anywhere — to install Linux.

Banco Mercantil, one of the largest banks in Venezuela, with 375 branches, has completed the first phase of the project, replacing 30 Microsoft NT servers with a single IBM mainframe. In the next phase, applications running on Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard servers will be moved to the new Linux platform. The bank is also using Linux mainframe Web applications to let customers check bank account information online.

Banco Mercantil is using a specially designed hardware feature for Linux on the mainframe that it says will enable it to add Linux applications and system capacity without increasing overall mainframe software costs.

“Linux on the IBM mainframe allows us to consolidate in a very cost-effective way,” said Isaac Arismendi, information technology infrastructure manager at Banco Mercantil. “We have higher availability and reliability, and better performance. Consolidation also means that we have far fewer individual servers to administer.”

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