Microsoft and Samba finally come to terms over Windows protocols

Summary:After years of public disagreement over ensuring interoperability between their respective software, Microsoft and Samba have come to terms. And not surprisingly, each vendor is offering quite a different spin on the licensing agreement they unveiled on December 20.

After years of public disagreement over ensuring interoperability between their respective software, Microsoft and Samba have come to terms. And not surprisingly, each vendor is offering quite a different spin on the licensing agreement they unveiled on December 20.

Microsoft and Samba finally come to terms over Windows protocols
It took an intermediary, the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF) -- a non-profit organization created by the Software Freedom Law Center -- to hand off the Microsoft protocol documentation that Samba said it needed to make its Unix/Linux file/print sharing products work properly with Windows.

According to a press release issued December 20, Samba is paying Microsoft a one-time sum of 10,000 Euros, after which the PFIF will make available to the Samba Team, under non-disclosure, "the documentation needed for implementation of all of the workgroup server protocols covered by the European Union decision." (The EU decision to which this refers is the Microsoft's loss of its appeal to overturn the European Commission's 2004 antitrust decision against the company.)

Not surprisingly, Samba and Microsoft had quite different spins on today's news.

Samba and the PFIF characterized the agreement as a victory for free software projects. They also reminded observers that Microsoft was required by the European Commission to provide this protocol information as part of the terms of the EU antitrust case. Samba also emphasized that the agreement with Microsoft does not mean Samba is acknowledging that it was or is in violation of any Microsoft patents.

Jeremy Allison, co-creator of Samba, was quoted in the press release as saying:

"We will be able to use the information obtained to continue to develop Samba and create more Free Software. We are hoping to get back to the productive relationship we had with Microsoft during the early 1990's when we shared information about these protocols. The agreement also clarifies the exact patent numbers concerned so there is no possibility of misunderstandings around this issue."

Microsoft, meanwhile, portrayed the protocol agreement with Samba in a more congenial way.

In a post to the Microsoft Port 25 blog, entitled "If you're surprised, you're not paying attention," Microsoft Director of Platform and Technology Strategy Sam Ramji, emphasized recent cooperation between Samba and Microsoft.

Ramji noted that Microsoft recently donated Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Premium subscriptions to the core Samba team; built a test bed with them; started sharing testing tools; and worked to preserve the Unix Extensions in CIFS to ensure continued compatibility with Microsoft's software.

Ramji said he worked with Samba's principals to hammer out an agreement that would fulfill Microsoft's protocol-sharing obligations and make Samba happy. From his December 20 blog post:

"The terms were good, but the Samba team wanted Microsoft to make some changes to fully conform with the existing practices of the Samba developer community .... Attorneys and technologists (always an odd combination) on both sides worked hard to refine the language and do so in a clear and cooperative way. ...

"I expect that this (Samba licensing agreement) will significantly improve the process of Samba development, and produce better quality interoperation between Windows and Linux/UNIX environments.... "What this process has shown me is that if we focus on technology, and patient, diligent execution, we can make real progress together."

However you spin the deal, Microsoft is now doing what the European Commision stipulated three years ago: Sharing protocol information in a way that does not discriminate against the open-source/free-software community.

For more details on today's Samba licensing announcement, check out the post from News.com's Stephen Shankland.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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