Langham Hotels International has given the boot to Linux and rolled out the welcome mat for Microsoft. The Hong Kong-based hotels and apartments group, owned by Great Eagle Holdings, recently made the switch from open-source software Red Hat Version 7 to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 in a sweeping technology revamp. The overhaul would seem to fly in the face of the growing popularity of Linux and other open-source systems in corporate networks. Group executives said continued use of the Linux platform would have hamstrung efforts to bolster security, expand coverage and implement a unified messaging system across Langham properties worldwide. Langham Hotels senior vice-president Brett Butcher, also managing director at the new Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok, said: 'It is critical to have a unified messaging system that is easy to deploy and use. This could not be fulfilled in our previous Linux mail platform.' Removing those limitations was a priority for the group, as parent Great Eagle invested about $35 million to build the information technology infrastructure at Langham Place. The 665-room, five-star hotel will also serve as a global communications hub for all Langham properties. In just a few weeks the group's IT staff will have fully completed moving the back-office systems at Langham Hotel and Eaton Hotel to the Microsoft server platform in Langham Place. Microsoft Hong Kong partner United Technologies International, a local systems integrator, was selected by the group to implement its technology migration. Langham Place IT manager Dan Tse said: 'With Exchange Server 2003, we have successfully established a unified messaging system that provides our guests and staff with anytime, anywhere access via any phone or other device to a single Outlook Inbox containing e-mail, voice mail, fax and paging messages.' He said the move to Exchange Server was more expensive than the earlier Linux deployment, but steady advances in Microsoft technologies were expected to help reduce the group's hardware, leasing and systems administration costs. Microsoft's licensing policy, which is capable of simultaneously supporting thousands of users worldwide, also enabled the group to maximise its investment in the software. In a recent report, Yankee Group senior analyst for application infrastructure and software platforms Laura DiDio said: 'The instances where Linux imparts measurably improved total cost of ownership compared with Unix and Windows are in small firms with customised vertical applications or new, greenfield networking situations.' Mr Tse said the group's future initiatives would involve connecting the Microsoft server platform with its point-of-sale systems, and document and property management applications.