Trying To Ease Linux Server Management In A Microsoft Environment

Likewise, slated to be available in December, aims to help Linux administrators with provisioning, maintenance and other tasks--all the while working within a larger Microsoft Server shop.
A Washington-based startup is finalizing software that aims to let server administrators have the best of both worlds by simplifying the task of controlling Linux servers within a Windows Server-based network.

Centeris Corp. has been beta testing its package, called Likewise, for much of 2005 and is making a final beta publicly available today before finalizing it for release in December, say company officials. The software uses two parts that work with each other to bridge the gap between Linux servers and Windows Server: Likewise Console, which is installed on a Windows Server management machine and allows provisioning and maintenance of the Linux servers, and Likewise Agent, which translates the console's instructions on the Linux servers themselves.

"We talked to about 150 customers during our process, and we identified two issues that led us to believe that this was useful," said Barry Crist, Centeris's chief executive officer. "Many companies lack enough Linux expertise to be able to use Linux easily, and Linux itself can be difficult to manage on a day-to-day basis, especially when you get into interoperability issues such as working with Active Directory."

Beyond management of specific server provisioning and performance, Likewise is also configured to join with Active Directory to permit authentication of users, and to handle single sign-on from Windows users looking to access Linux servers. The software also handles Linux file and print services and Apache web servers, and Crist said administrators can choose to use the Microsoft Management Console in lieu of the Likewise Console to take advantage of MMC's wizards and other familiar Windows-based management.

Likewise Agent supports Red Hat, SUSE and Open SUSE, while the console runs on Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Likewise should help Centeris tap both the Windows Server market, entrenched as the leading server deployment, and the growth in the Linux server market, said Crist, who was a vice president at Mercury Interactive and Network Associates before starting the new venture. The software will compete with the likes of Quest Software's Vintela Authentication Services and Centrify's Direct Control suite.

"With Linux, it's the #2 server operating system, and we're seeing that migrations are by and large successful," Crist said. "But companies are less successful using it in a mixed environment. That's the problem we set out to solve."

Centeris, located in Bellevue, Washington, has been working on Likewise since August of 2004 and recently closed on $5 million in finding from venture capital firm Ignition Partners, which includes such former high-level Microsoft executives as Cameron Myhrvold, Richard Fade, and Brad Silverberg as well as former McCaw/AT&T Wireless CEO Steve Hooper. Myhrvold and Fade are among the members of Centeris's board of directors.

Crist added that the company will rely on a channel approach to sales in addition to direct customer contact, and says Centeris anticipates working in the near future with such companies as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Novell. "We're definitely focused on the mid-market and the enterprise, and the channel will be key," he said.

Elements of the Likewise Agent code are likely to be made available to the open source community at some point, Crist noted.

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