Comparing Centrify and Likewise, In Their Own Words

Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

March 16, 2011

4 Min Read
Comparing Centrify and Likewise, In Their Own Words

There are two big names when it comes to Active Directory integration: Centrify and Likewise. Both provide similar solutions and target a largely identical piece of the same channel. So what sets them apart? I recently asked representatives of each of these companies that question. Here’s what they had to say:

Lest I risk redundancy, I should start by pointing to our comparison from last summer of some of the more technical aspects of the two products — installation, configuration and the like. Today, I’m more interested in the “bigger picture,” which includes items such as pricing, upgrade paths and general philosophies that distinguish Centrify and Likewise from one another.

With those categories in mind, let’s get started …


Asked to sum up Likewise’s strengths, VP of marketing Ken Cheney highlighted above all the ubiquity of his company’s product. Pointing to Likewise’s presence in products such as VMware’s vSphere, he called the software “the most embedded product on the market today,” including in the cloud.

Cheney also emphasized Likewise’s simple pricing plan, criticizing Centrify for what he called the “nickle-and-diming” of customers by selling multiple for-purchase versions of its software, as well as providing a free offering. Likewise, in comparison, is available in only two flavors, free and Free (as in open-source) Likewise Open, and for-purchase Likewise Enterprise, which is available under a commercial license but sports an “open core.”

Along related lines, Cheney cited a a Gartner report from earlier this month to make the case that Likewise’s pricing options prove substantially less expensive in certain scenarios than those of the competition.

Finally, reiterating points made in a blog post earlier this month, Cheney stressed Likewise’s out-of-the-box compatibility with leading operating systems and open-source tools, meaning that users can stick with any build of third-party software that they want. Centrify doesn’t require special builds of these tools, but it does recommend that users install Centrify-ready versions of software such as OpenSSH, rather than using the packages that ship with their distributions.


Unsurprisingly, Centrify representatives have a lot to dispute with Likewise, and they tend to see the aspects of their product that Cheney criticized as virtues rather than vices.

For one, Centrify employees described their promotion of optional custom-built tools such as OpenSSH as an approach that helps ensure better stability and security. The packages provided by distributions, they argued, aren’t guaranteed to be kept patched as security vulnerabilities and other problems are discovered, nor are they certain to work seamlessly with Centrify’s software.

Similarly, Centrify portrays its multi-tiered product offerings as a source of greater flexibility and savings opportunities for customers. In their own words, Centrify developers aim to “provide more for free, and more to upgrade to.”

Last but not least, Centrify representatives pointed to their product’s solid customer base as evidence of its effectiveness. With more than 3,000 paying customers, the company believes it has created the most seamless and user-friendly solution on the market.

What It All Means

If there’s one thing that the points outlined above make clear, it’s that for many users, there is a clear winner and a clear loser when it comes to deciding between Centrify and Likewise. Unfortunately, however, that choice is a highly contingent one, and varies from case to case.

If flexibility and nuance with regard to purchasing options are most important to you, Centrify comes out on top. On the other hand, if you prefer a one-size-fits-all (or two-sizes, actually) approach, Likewise is probably more appropriate.

Similarly, if you trust your distribution to keep your software up to date, Likewise’s out-of-the-box philosophy is a plus. Centrify, meanwhile, most likely makes more sense in environments where host operating systems are highly inconsistent or where keeping software updated is more difficult.

Ultimately, then, What It All Means is both companies offer compelling products that we can expect will remain a major presence in this channel for the foreseeable future. To decide which one fits a particular organization’s needs best, however, the specific needs of that organization have to be considered. And so this is one case where the Internet can’t provide a definitive answer to one of life’s most puzzling questions.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

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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