Samba 3.2 reflects open source project's ambivalence toward Microsoft

Samba’s forthcoming version 3.2 release capitalizes on Microsoft’s interoperability commitments while also guarding against patent covenants that threaten the GPL.
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

Samba’s forthcoming version 3.2 release capitalizes on Microsoft’s interoperability commitments while also guarding against patent covenants that threaten the GPL.

Samba 3.2, which is expected to be released in roughly one month’s time, offers improved integration with the Active Directory in Windows Server 2003 and recently released Windows Server 2008 and offers support for Vista clients authenticating through Kerberos.

Version 3.2, for instance, offers full support for Windows Server 2003 cross-forest transitive trusts and one-way domain trusts, support for establishing interdomain trust relationships with Windows Server 2008, the ability to join to Windows server 2008 domains and built-in support for Active Directory LDAP signing policy.

Samba is file and print serving software for Linux/Unix servers that provide interoperability with Microsoft’s SMB/CIFS clients and servers. In recent years, project lead Jeremy Allison (updated: pictured below right, dessed as a self described cyberman, leading the annual Golden Penguin quiz show at LinuxWorld 2007) has been an outspoken critic of Microsoft’s alleged efforts to undermine such interoperability efforts.  In an e-mail discussion with this ZDNet blogger, Allison agreed the situation is improving. Microsoft is making more protocols available and sent engineers to its recent Samba XP conference where engineers from both organizations drank beer together and discussed future joint engineering events.   

Yet, in spite of a warming up between the two organizations, Microsoft and Samba remain on opposite sides of the fence, Allison said.  

Samba’s support for GPLv3 in Samba 3.2 -- its first incarnation of the revised open source license --guards against the kind of patent covenants that violate the spirit of open source development and free distribution.  Last year, the open source community cried foul after Microsoft and Novell entered into a patent protection deal that was widely viewed as a legal end run around the GPL. The Free Software Foundation acted swiftly to enact the GPLv3 to prevent Microsoft from making such arrangements with other open source software companies.

As part of its rollout of Windows Server 2008, and its interoperability promise, Microsoft has been promoting its strengthening relationships with prominent open source projects -- including those that tangled with Redmond in the past.  Still, Allison sought to clear up any notion that the two organizations are now joined at the hip.

“Samba doesn't have a partnership with Microsoft. We joined the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF) and they have the agreement with Microsoft. Having said that, Microsoft has been very cooperative and friendly, and the engineering relationship is getting back to the way it used to be in 1994-1997, which is a great relief to us,” said Allison. “Microsoft engineers are now collaborating directly with us on protocol details and improving the documentation, and we envisage further collaboration in the future. Now, about those software patents."

In that email, Allison scoffed at the idea that Microsoft’s interoperability agenda would signify an end to Samba. “That's not what the promise means.  What I think it means is that they are no longer actively preventing people from interoperating with them, not that they're proactively interoperating with others. The onus is still on us to do the work I'm afraid, which means Samba is more important now than ever.”

Beyond Samba 3.2, Samba is working on a major 4.0 upgrade that will feature support for clustered file systems. Experimental support will be offered in version 3.2

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