Centeris releases Likewise Management Suite 1.0

Startup Centeris Corp. plans to officially release version 1.0 of its Likewise Management Suite software Tuesday. The company emerged from stealth mode in October with a public beta of Likewise that manages Linux servers in a Microsoft Corp. Windows network.

Centeris finished Likewise 1.0 in the third week of December and posted it on its Web site, but held back the public announcement so it wouldn’t get lost in the buzz around the holidays, according to Barry Crist, chairman and chief executive officer of Centeris.

The software pricing is set at US$350 for a perpetual license per server managed, including upgrades. Centeris was still finalizing the cost of paid support for the software when Crist was interviewed recently — he expects it to be around 20 percent of the license cost.

Likewise 1.0 is made up of several components. A systems administrator installs Likewise Console on Windows machines and remotely installs Likewise Agent on Linux servers. The administrator can then use Likewise Console to configure Linux server roles and join them to Microsoft’s Active Directory. Then the administrator can manage and monitor Linux servers through Likewise Console and Microsoft Management Console.

Crist estimates that 800 organizations have downloaded Likewise so far, ranging from midsize to large companies in a variety of different industry sectors including financial services, manufacturing, education and government. The level of interest in Likewise has validated the company’s belief that managing Linux servers in a Windows environment is a very large problem, he said. “People either give up on it or struggle with it,” Crist added.

Half of the 800 organizations are in Europe, with a third of those European downloads originating from Germany, according to Crist. Over time, Centeris hopes to make some small as yet unspecified move into Europe and the company is already looking to hire a part-time salesperson fluent in German. Crist is also beginning the search for Series B funding for Centeris. He hopes to raise around $8 million in the first half of this year.

The money will fund the company’s planned buildout of its sales and marketing operations, he said. Centeris raised $5.35 million in Series A funding from venture capital firm Ignition Partners LLC last year.

Likewise 1.0 currently supports the two leading distributions of Linux from Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc. However, Centeris is considering supporting additional distributions in release 1.1 of its software due out in the middle of this year, according to Crist.

“We’ve received requests for Fedora Core, Debian, Mandriva and CentOS,” he said. Centeris also plans to expand the services its software can manage up from its present three — file, print and Web services.

The company will most likely extend its ability to manage Apache and other LAMP components, Crist said. LAMP is an open-source Web development platform based on Linux, Apache, MySQL and programming languages PHP, Perl or Python. It derives its name from the initial letters of the software components.

The startup is actively evaluating user requests to manage a wide range of applications. “Users are also asking for Asterix phone support, instant messaging [management] and Skype’s come up a few times,” Crist said.

Centeris is looking to extend its existing marketing partnerships with IBM Corp. and Novell during the coming year, as well as establish a formal relationship with Red Hat, according to Crist.

The startup, based in Bellevue, Washington, joined Microsoft’s partnership program last year and has found the software giant to be “very supportive,” he said.

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