By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2006-03-06 Print this article Print

QCD Microsystems InterStructures aims to ease integration of Linux servers into a Windows environment by allowing administrators to manage Linux-hosted network services through the Microsoft Management Consoles of their Windows machines.

In eWEEK Labs tests, we found that the InterStructures modules worked as advertised, enabling us to carry out common management tasks for Samba, Apache and other Linux services without having to delve too deeply into what many Windows-focused administrators regard as Linux command-line arcana.

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However, it isnt possible to install and configure the InterStructures products without touching Linux at all, and while the modules interfaces should appear friendly to MMC devotees, we found them a bit rougher around the edges than the native Windows Server management snap-ins.

In addition, companies interested in committing to Linux at their sites would do well to devote time to training administrators in native Linux administration techniques or hire administrators with some Linux savvy. (A good place to start is the book "Windows and Linux Integration: Hands-on Solutions for a Mixed Environment"; see Pings & Packets for more.)

With that said, the InterStructures modules we tested do offer Windows-focused administrators an opportunity to hand off some of the network services load to low-cost Linux servers without requiring them to first learn new management techniques.

The InterStructures line includes modules for administering Samba as an Active Directory member server, as a Windows NT 4.0-style primary domain controller or as a member server in a Samba-led PDC (primary domain controller). QCD also offers modules for DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), Squid Proxy and Apache Web servers.

InterStructures can be used with Red Hat Enterprise Linux versions 3 and 4, Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, and Fedora Core 3 and 4. We tested with Fedora Core 4, since Fedora is freely available—if a company is looking to save money on training by using something like InterStructures, it seems to make sense to opt for a Linux distribution sans license costs. For this reason, wed like to see QCD add support for the similarly free-of-charge Debian GNU/Linux.

The InterStructures modules are sold in a $1,149 suite that covers the Samba configurations mentioned, along with the DHCP, Squid and Apache modules. The suite includes 10 server licenses and 60 days of e-mail-based installation support. The complete suite also is available for $249 with a single server license. Either way, the pricing is not bad if it means avoiding license costs on a few departmental servers.

All the modules we tested are available in evaluation versions from the InterStructures site (www.interstructures.com).

Linux through Windows

We set up a test network in VMware Workstation with one Windows Server 2003 domain controller, one Windows XP Service Pack 2 workstation and one Fedora Core 4 server with a minimal set of packages installed. We had to create a host entry for our Fedora system in our Windows server to make it locatable on our network.

We installed the InterStructures Samba Domain module on our Fedora and XP machines. On the Windows side, this meant installing an InterStructures core package thats common to all the available modules and a package specific to the Samba Domain module. On the Fedora side, we installed two similar packages (available in Fedora-native rpm form), along with the latest Samba 3 package from the Fedora repositories.

Next Page: Snags and shortcomings.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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