"Windows and Linux in one big, happy network."
That's the tagline for Centeris, a startup based in Bellevue, Wash., which is set to share information publicly on Wednesday morning about its first product — a tool for managing Linux systems from inside a Windows network.
The broad-scale beta program for Centeris' first product, Likewise, kicks off on Wednesday, said Centeris officials. Centeris is expecting to ship the final version of the product in early December of this year.
Currently an estimated 15 to 18 Fortune 500 and mid-size companies are testing the Likewise product, said Centeris executives.
Likewise is designed to allow administrators to perform basic sysadmin tasks for Linux systems from a Windows console in a simple and relatively inexpensive fashion, company principals explained. Lower-end enterprise and mid-market users are the target for the product, Centeris officials said.
"With Likewise, we want to make Linux easier to use in a Windows environment," said company CEO Barry Crist. "Windows is very entrenched, and Linux is still growing like weeds. Our platform brings together Windows and Linux."
Centeris is expecting to sell Likewise via server vendors who will preload the product; a direct/telesales channel; and also some Linux vendors, who are considering adding the Centeris agent to their Linux distributions, said Manny Vellon, vice president of product development.
Centeris also is planning to create "an open-source project" around one component of its Likewise product. Company officials are expected to elaborate more on this plan at next week's Open Source Business Conference in Boston. The most likely candidate for such a project would seem to be the Centeris Likewise agent software that will install on Linux systems. Centeris officials would not elaborate now on its open-sourcing plans, however.
Centeris isn't the only company attempting to make Linux boxes more manageable for Windows administrators. Vintela — a Lindon City, Utah, a company in which Microsoft made a minority investment in 2004, and which Quest Software acquired earlier this summer — is targeting a similar need and similar set of customers.
Laura DiDio, a research fellow with the Yankee Group, acknowledged that " Centeris' offering is similar to Vintela's."
"Strictly speaking Centeris' product offerings are not unique. That said, the products are very solid. Centeris is in a rapidly growing market and one in which there is a definite need for their offerings," DiDio said. "Cross-platform Windows/Linux integration and interoperability and management is a must for corporate enterprises. Neither Windows nor Linux will disappear. Linux is now mainstream and its' usage and the ways in which it is used by corporations continues to expand. So too, does the need to ensure secure, reliable, manageable data transmissions between these two disparate environments.
"This market can absolutely sustain two, three or even four solid contenders. Centeris can absolutely be a top tier player in this space," Didio added.
One major factor which distinguishes Centeris from its competition is the company's ability to secure venture funding from Ignition Partners, a Bellevue, Wash.-based venture firm comprised of a number of former Microsoft executives. Centeris officials declined to specify the amount invested by Ignition.
Brad Silverberg, a managing partner with Ignition, recently expressed Ignition's reticence to fund .Net-centric companies, and its interest in open-source-grounded startups.
The pedigrees of the Centeris management team also are a differentiator. Several members are former Microsoft employees, including Chief Architect Brian Moran; Vice President of Marketing Chuck Mount; and Vice President of Product Development Vellon.