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The latest iteration of Centrify's Active Directory-integration software has debuted, bringing with it some particularly interesting features for Linux and OS X desktops. Here are the highlights, and what they mean for this rapidly evolving niche:
February 24, 2011
The latest iteration of Centrify‘s Active Directory-integration software has debuted, bringing with it some particularly interesting features for Linux and OS X desktops. Here are the highlights, and what they mean for this rapidly evolving niche:
The two big players in the market for AD-integration solutions — tools that make it easy to plug Linux, OS X and Unix machines into an environment based on Microsoft Active Directory — are Centrify and Likewise. Neither of these competing offerings has changed in any fundamental way since we compared them side-by-side in 2010, but both continue to introduce new features that make me cringe ever more bitterly at memories of the days when bickering with Samba and Winbind was the only way to make my Linux desktops and servers play nicely with the AD.
A full rundown of the cool new stuff available in Centrify Suite 2011 is available on the company’s website, but the two features that most caught my eye were the following:
Support for GNOME group policies, which will provide administrators with centralized control over the hundreds of GNOME settings provided by GConf; and
New desktop-management features for OS X, presenting what Centrify is calling “historically the most comprehensive set of desktop lockdown capabilities for Apple Mac systems.”
The focus on development in these areas is significant because it underlines the extent to which non-Microsoft operating systems are gaining a central presence on workstations in the office. Gone are the days when we saw Linux only on servers, or when OS X was limited to the desktops of “creative” types (a phenomenon I never understood — the only place Macs are objectively better at video- and image-editing is in the minds of Apple’s PR personnel, but I digress).
The support for GNOME group policies is also interesting given all of the excitement lately regarding the future of GNOME and its relationship with different Linux distributions. With Ubuntu set to default to the Unity desktop interface beginning in April and GNOME Shell representing a major departure from the GNOME environment that most Linux users have known for years, the importance of GConf going forward is a bit uncertain.
If you’re a Linux user and prefer Unity or a different desktop environment to GNOME, however, not to worry. According to e-mails with Centrify staff, support for equivalent functionality in other open-source DEs may be on its way in future Centrify releases:
We needed to get Gnome done first given the current interest. … We do have a number of other customers who’ve indicated the they’d like control over KDE, but as popularity of Unity and Enlightenment increases, we will investigate adding support for these as well.
The big question for many VARs, of course, is how Centrify’s new offering compares to the competition, especially Likewise. Fans of the latter will be quick to point out that Likewise Enterprise edition currently offers functionality similar to some of the new features in the latest Centrify release.
On that note, we’re in the process of investigating how the two competing software suites actually stack up, through a closer look of how exactly they deliver their promised features. Stay tuned to future posts on what we find out.
Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.
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