Microsoft contributes open-source code to Samba

Microsoft has contributed source code under the GPLv3 to Samba, the file server software that enables Linux servers to share files with Windows PCs. No, I'm not making this up.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Freak snowstorm reported in hell. Tea party agrees Obama is the best candidate for 2012 presidential election. Microsoft submits open-source code under the GPLv3 to Samba. Those are all pretty unlikely, but Microsoft really did submit code to the Samba file server open-source project.

This might not strike you as too amazing. After all, Microsoft has supported some open-source projects at CodePlex for some time now and they will work with some other projects such as the Python and PHP languages and the Drupal content management system (CMS). But, Samba, Samba is different. They're an old Microsoft enemy.

Samba, itself, is a set of Windows interoperability programs that provide secure, stable and fast file and print services for all client operating systems that use the Server Message Block (SMB)/Common Internet File System (SMB/CIFS) protocol. As such Samba is used to seamlessly integrate Linux/Unix servers and desktops into Active Directory (AD) networks using the Winbind daemon. In common usage, Samba is on almost every network attached storage (NAS) device that ships today. In short, Samba enables Linux to rival Windows Server on workgroups.

In fact, it was Samba on Linux that took Linux from being an edge server, used for Web serving and e-mail, to being an infrastructure server. With Samba, Linux delivers the bread and butter of file and print serving that every business needs in millions of companies.

Since Samba began in 1992, Microsoft has been well, less than happy, with its server rival. But, every since Microsoft lost an anti-trust case in the European Union and was forced to open its network protocols to Samba in 2007, Microsoft has ever so slowly been getting along better with Samba.

But, even so it came as a surprise when on October 10th, when Stephen A. Zarko of Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center, gave Samba some proof of concept code for extended protection (channel and service binding) for Firefox and Samba for NT LAN Manager (NTLM) authentication. That's one small step for open source, one giant leap for Samba/Windows interoperability.

As Chris Hertel of the Samba Team wrote, "A few years back, a patch submission from coders at Microsoft would have been amazing to the point of unthinkable, but the battles are mostly over and times have changed. We still disagree on some things such as the role of software patents in preventing the creation of innovative software; but Microsoft is now at the forefront of efforts to build a stronger community and improve interoperability in the SMB world."

Hertel continued, "Most people didn't even notice the source of the contribution. That's how far things have come in the past four-ish years. ...but some of us saw this as a milestone, and wanted to make a point of expressing our appreciation for the patch and the changes we have seen."

Jeremy Allison, one of Samba's leaders and a software engineer at Google Open Source Programs Office told me that he was "really pleased. It does show that Microsoft now consider us part of the landscape they inhabit, and cooperating with us is a really good sign that engineering-wise they understand Free Software/Open Source is a really good thing that can help them also (not to put words in their mouth, but I think recent work from them on Hadoop [An Apache open-source framework for reliable, scalable, distributed computing] and others have shown this).

That said, "Sending code to Samba is a big deal due to historical legacy of the EU lawsuit, and shows that Microsoft is becoming a mature member of the OSS [open source software] ecosystem," said Allison.

He continued, "Now if they'd only stop threatening OSS over patents, and just tried to make money with it the same way everyone else does by building it into products (they're nearly there I think), I think we could finally bury the hatchet :-)."

"But," Allison concluded, "I want to be fair to the guys who sent the patch, that's another department in Microsoft (the one who is suing people :-). These guys are in the OSS-lab in Microsoft and they're great!"

OK, I was wrong. One amazing thing hasn't happened. Two amazing things have happened. First, Microsoft has contributed code of its own free will to a former enemy, Samba. And, second, one of Samba leaders and a well-known champion of open-source software is saying that people at Microsoft are great. It's a day of miracles!

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