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Likewise Open 6, Advancing Active Directory Interoperability With Open Source Software

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Jul 2, 2010


For many enterprise networks, Microsoft's Active Directory is the default approach used for authenticating and connecting users to applications and services. Active Directory isn't however just limited to Microsoft's Windows users: Mac and Linux users can also connect and get access by way of open source software from software vendor Likewise. Managing mixed Window, Linux and Mac environments is getting a speed boost with latest release of the open source software, Likewise.

The Likewise Open 6.0 release expands on the Likewise Open 5.3 release last year, with improved performance and service management that the company says helps further its goal of enabling interoperability across Mac, Linux and Windows environments.

"The ongoing effort that we have is to make authentication and interoperability a commodity and allow people to focus on their applications," Gerald Carter, director of engineering at Likewise, told InternetNews.com. "People should be able to choose whatever platform that they want to be able to run their applications. We want to remove roadblocks from Active Directory environments that would prevent people from selecting a platform, whether it's Linux or Mac."

On the performance front, Carter noted that the Likewise Open 6 release has cut the login times for large Active Directory environments by a factor of six. As a result, a login that previously required 40 seconds to complete now needs only six or seven.

The new version 6 release also a new service manager that further makes Likewise Open more efficient.

"The Likewise Service Manager is a way for us to enable a common management model for services across any platform that you're on," Carter said.

While Likewise Open is an open source effort and can be downloaded by anyone, the Likewise authentication services are included as part of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. Carter noted that Likewise is also working on getting Likewise packages into the Red Hat Fedora and Novell openSUSE package repositories.

Though Likewise Open can enable a degree of authentication services interoperability with Active Directory, it's not a complete solution for Windows interoperability on its own: Admins need a separate Likewise project called Likewise-CIFS to provide file folder access and additional interoperability features. Though Linux and Mac users can utilize the open source Samba project to provide fileserver interoperability, Carter noted that Likewise-CIFS is a different approach.

"The Likewise-CIFS file server stack was written from the ground up as a clean-room implementation," Carter said. "The fileserver was never based on any Samba code."

Carter added that Likewise-CIFS uses the same authentication as in Likewise Open, and the two projects are closely related -- although Likewise-CIFS hasn't yet been released with version 6 code yet.

"The Likewise Open code as well as Likewise-CIFS code all exist in same development trunk in our Git repository," Carter said. "So if you wanted to pull it right now and do your own build, it's all out there. It's just more of a release staging issue for support purposes."

Carted added that there will likely be a standalone Likewise-CIFS 6 release in the coming months.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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