Samba 4 enters public testing

Server-side Active Directory support is the main feature to be trumpeted from the latest version, but it's not yet ready for production systems

A next-generation test version of the open source Samba file-sharing software has been made available, with features emulating Microsoft's Active Directory ID management software.

The Samba suite is an implementation of Microsoft's SMB/CIFS protocol that allows other operating systems to emulate or interoperate with Windows for the purposes of sharing files or printing.

The new version of the software was released on Wednesday in conjunction with a speech on the subject by Samba creator Andrew Tridgell — generally known as Tridge — at Linux.conf.au in New Zealand. The team behind the software outlined its new features.

"Samba 4 supports the server-side of the Active Directory log-on environment used by Windows 2000 and later, so we can do full domain join and domain log-on operations with these clients," the group said in a statement on its Web site, noting this feature was "the main emphasis" for the new software.

"Our domain controller implementation contains our own built-in LDAP server and Kerberos key distribution centre as well as the Samba 3-like log-on services provided over CIFS," the statement continued.

The Samba developers noted their implementation of Kerberos correctly dealt with the "infamous Kerberos PAC" — a data field in the Kerberos authentication protocol which attracted controversy when critics claimed that Microsoft's version tied users into its own version of Kerberos.

Other improvements include the integration of Samba's Web-based administration tool (SWAT), a new scripting interface that allows JavaScript programs to interface with Samba's "internals", and new virtual file system features.

"We are aiming for Samba 4 to be a powerful front end to large directories," according to the statement.

One Linux enthusiast who saw Tridgell's Linux.conf.au speech enthused about it on his blog soon afterwards.

"The hall was packed for one of Australia's homegrown heroes," wrote Brisbane-based Joshua Wulf. "The Vampire migration tool [employed to shift users from Windows to Samba] now has 'longer fangs' and can take over an Active Directory domain."

"Tridge demonstrated sucking the life out of a Windows 2003 PDC in one click, importing all its user and machine information using SWAT."

"He then restarted BIND on his Samba 4 server, changed the server role to PDC... shut down the Windows PDC and then logged into the domain with an XP client using the new Samba 4 server as the PDC."

"This elicited suitable oohs and aahs from the audience," Wulf wrote in his blog.

However, the Samba team warned system administrators to be careful with the new software, which is dubbed a "technology preview" unsuitable for use on production systems.

"There is no printing support in the current release," the group's statement said. "We recommend against upgrading any production servers from Samba 3 to Samba 4 at this stage.

"We expect that format changes will require that the user database be rebuilt from scratch a number of times before we make a final release, losing password data each time."

In addition, they warned that the technology preview was not secure.

Renai LeMay reported from Sydney for ZDNet Australia. For more ZDNet Australia stories, click here.

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