Co-operation between Microsoft and the developers of the open source Samba protocol is going much better since a landmark settlement late last year, according to the software's original developer.
In December, Microsoft agreed to make documentation relating to its workgroup server products available to the Samba team under a non-disclosure agreement.
The non-disclosure agreement was brokered on behalf of Samba by the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF), an organisation that seeks to facilitate the exchange of free and open source software information. PFIF, which paid a one-off fee of 10,000 euros for the documentation, is part of the Software Freedom Law Center.
While Samba's developers must keep that documentation confidential, they can implement code reflecting it within open source projects.
"In the early '90s we had a very good engineering relationship with them," Samba author Andrew Tridgell said during a presentation on clustering Samba at linux.conf.au in Melbourne.
"Then there was a period in the wilderness for about 10 years." During that time, Samba's developers had to rely on reverse-engineering to make the product work, which was difficult when dealing with entirely undocumented features.
Following the December settlement, communication has quickly resumed. "We're talking directly to the engineers again, and engineers, as with engineers everywhere, like talking," Tridgell said.
"We're really very pleased with how that's going."
With more than 15,000 pages of documentation to consider, however, major changes to the software will be some time in coming, Tridgell said. "There's a lot to look at."