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Bringing Peace To The Windows-Linux Front

Most open-source advocates would say the world of Linux and Microsoft Windows will never meet. But a venture capital-backed startup is bringing the two so close together that the typical Windows administrator will be able to launch and manage open-source Linux servers from what looks and feels like the familiar Window's interface.

Here's how the Windows administrator, who may want to use more open-source code but was inhibited by compatibility issues, can administer open-source servers from a familiar interface. Centeris Corp.'s approach lets Linux and other open-source code run alongside the Windows environment instead of competing with it.

For example, the beta version of Centeris' "Likewise" management console, released last week, allows a Windows administrator to run either Windows machines or Linux servers from the same management interface. The Microsoft Management Console can be launched and used with Likewise. When it's time to move to Linux servers, Likewise invokes Centeris-provided snap-ins that navigate the differences between Windows and Linux systems.

In the past, that's been a dicey proposition. Linux, coming out of the Unix world, has different conventions and a less graphical, more command-line style than Windows. In addition, open-source systems typically represent an assembly of code modules and it's crucial to know what works with what. There are dependencies between a version of Linux and its Apache Web server, for example. "Installing the right packages of open-source code can be confusing," says Manny Vellon, Centeris VP of products.

When managing a remote Linux server, Centeris first places its agent on the Linux machine and then manages it through the Likewise interface. The process is similar to invoking Windows' Manage Your Server on a Windows machine to initiate a Windows server and assign it a role, says Vellon. Likewise enables Windows administrators to place a disk containing Apache or Samba on their Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows 2003 systems and send software to a Linux computer on the network. Likewise figures out the dependencies of a particular server and installs the right open-source packages, Vellon says.

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