By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2006-08-21 Print this article Print

Centeris Likewise Management Suite makes it easy for Windows network administrators to configure and monitor most Linux systems, including integrating Linux systems into Microsoft Active Directory. Version 2.0 of the Likewise Management Suite, which was released on Aug. 8 for $349 per managed server, provides tools for managing firewalls, SSH (Secure Shell) console connections, a dashboard with system status information, a new interface for managing users and groups, and support for direct editing of network settings. IT administrators at small to medium-sized organizations who want to integrate Linux-based servers into an existing Windows network will probably benefit the most from Likewise.
The previous version of Likewise often required the use of MMC (Microsoft Management Console) to perform tasks. Likewise 2.0, in contrast, uses simple, integrated user interface components that resemble Windows tools for managing users and groups and viewing events and services.
Getting Likewise installed in eWEEK Labs network was quite easy, and even inexperienced IT managers should have no trouble installing the product. We installed Likewise on a Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL360 running Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition. Once the Likewise 2.0 software was installed, we started the console and followed the products simple directions for deploying Likewise agents to our Linux systems. Our network included systems running Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 4, CentOS 4.2 and Ubuntu 6.0. We were able to easily install the Likewise agent on the Red Hat ES and CentOS systems, but not on the Ubuntu system (currently not a supported operating system). Likewise 2.0 supports various flavors of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora Core, CentOS and SUSE. Wed like to see Centeris add support for Debian-based distros, including Ubuntu. Click here to read more about Centrify DirectControl Suite 3. The biggest pain point during testing was agent installation: Likewise 2.0 takes a one-at-a-time approach, and it took between 5 and 10 minutes to install the agent on each of our systems. However, the agent installation process did a good job of keeping us informed of installation status, and no agent failed to install on any of the supported operating systems. Reaching out After adding the agents to our systems, we set about performing management tasks. First, we added local users to Linux systems using a familiar, Windows-like graphical interface. We could set and reset passwords and delete, rename and set properties that governed password usage. Likewise really shone when we added user groups to our Red Hat Enterprise Linux system from our Windows AD setup. We used the AD groups interface to create new groups, add users to existing groups and modify the properties of existing groups. Direct competitors to Likewise are scare, but there are some similar products available. Centrifys DirectControl Suite 3, for example, focuses on extending AD capabilities over many flavors of Linux, Unix and Mac OS systems, and its AD and identity tools go beyond Likewises offerings. Also related—somewhat—to Likewise is OpenCountrys OCM 3.0 Universal Systems Management Suite, which unifies management over various Linux distributions. OpenCountry focuses on a broad array of system administration functions—including operating system provisioning, asset tracking and updates—but it does not support Windows systems. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant has been with the Labs since 1997, and before that paid his IT management dues at a software publishing firm working with several Fortune 100 companies. Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility, with a focus on Android in the enterprise. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his reviews and analysis are grounded in real-world concern. Cameron is a regular speaker at Ziff-Davis Enterprise online and face-to-face events. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at csturdevant@eweek.com.

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