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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 product’s 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. We’d 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.

Centrify’s 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 Likewise’s offerings.

Also related—somewhat—to Likewise is OpenCountry’s 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.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at

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