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Linux servers join with Active Directory

Centeris launched Likewise Identity 3.0, an identity management app that turns Linux servers into native Microsoft Active Directory clients.

Centeris Corp., a Bellevue, Wash.-based vendor specializing in Linux server management tools for Windows administrators, has launched a new product that allows Linux servers to take part in an Active Directory (AD) environment.

Competition is scarce for Centeris, but it does exist:
  • Centrify Corp.'s DirectControl: Focuses on extending Active Directory identity to non-Windows systems.

  • OpenCountry's OCM Universal Systems Management Suite: For systems administrators who have graduated from managing a few Linux systems to managing a lot of Linux systems.
  • The product, Likewise Identity 3.0, extends Active Directory features and tools to Linux servers, including a Group Policy feature that provides centralized management of all the computers and users in the Active Directory environment.

    When an administrator installs Likewise Identity on a Linux machine, the software makes them into Active Directory clients. The Linux boxes are then joined to Active Directory using Identity's GUI or through deployment scripts. Administrators can then use existing AD management tools to manage the servers and configure Group Policies. Identity's GUI resembles the tools Windows administrators are already used to, said Centeris CEO Barry Crist.

    Linux servers, Windows tools

    Integration with Active Directory has been a pain point for administrators who desired to bring more Linux into their data centers. As many users will attest, Linux and AD don't get along without a little help.

    "Essentially, Linux lacks central management capability and easy integration with AD and Windows," said Ferris Rezvani, an IT infrastructure manager with Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Experian. Experian was an early beta tester of Identity 3.0 and recently began a full-fledged deployment of the technology for its mixed network of 40 Dell 2085s and 6850s.

    Linux also lacks easy-to-use, network-wide single sign-on functionality, he said. Before he deployed Identity, Rezvani was forced to administer separate user passwords for Linux server in the environment. "In the event that an employee was terminated, we might not have been able to get to all the servers. We'd have lingering accounts and that creates a security issue," Rezvani said.

    Likewise Identity 3.0 drops during a time when analysts are predicting the beginning of a surge in Linux deployments. As more and more Linux servers make their way into Windows shops, AD integration has been one of the biggest barriers, said Sameer Karmarkar, product manager for Persistent Systems, an outsourcing product development firm based in India. "There was really no way to do [AD syncing] before," he said.

    The one alternative that Experian's Rezvani looked into before choosing Likewise Identity was an AD plug-in from Red Hat Inc. It lacked the knowledge base and resources he expected from an enterprise-class application. "[The plug-in] was a bit messy and manual; what we wanted was a bundled tool," he said.

    Time and money

    Centeris is also pitching Likewise Identity 3.0 as a time saver for administrators.

    More on Linux and Windows:
    Centeris CEO: Managing Linux servers in a Windows world

    In Experian's case, every password or Group Policy change to one of its 40 Linux servers would take roughly one minute. But with Active Directory, they could simultaneously manage every Windows box in the organization in about 30 seconds. Today with Identity 3.0, applying a change to the entire network can be completed in a matter of minutes, Rezvani said.

    Identity 3.0 is available now as part of a bundle with Centeris Likewise Admin for $349 per Linux server and $49 per Linux desktop client. Likewise Admin is a set of Windows-based tools that allow administrators manage day-to-day tasks like file and print services on their Linux servers. It is based on Likewise 2.0, which has been on the market since 2006. Likewise Identity 3.0 comes in a standalone version for $249.

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