Samba 4 released, brings Free alternative to Active Directory

The long wait is over — the Samba project has announced the release of an Active Directory-compatible domain controller.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

No longer does having an Active Directory (AD) domain controller on a network automatically mean that, somewhere in the building, a Microsoft server is lurking. Today's release announcement of Samba 4.0 means that it is now possible to control an AD domain from a non-Windows system.

"Samba 4.0 comprises an LDAP directory server, Heimdal Kerberos authentication server, a secure Dynamic DNS server, and implementations of all necessary remote procedure calls for Active Directory," wrote lead Samba developer, Jeremy Allison.

The new Samba server provides support for Group Policy, Roaming Profiles, Windows Administration tools, and integration with Exchange. The server supports all versions from Windows XP and up, including Windows 8, and new Samba 4.0 servers should be able to join any existing Active Directory services without a problem.

Support for SMB3 and SMB2.1 file-sharing protocols is included, with SMB3 support worked on further to become a "fully-featured SMB3 clustered file server implementation."

The Samba team was not working alone for the 10 years it took to create the Active Directory controller; in order to create a server compatible with the Active Directory protocols, the Samba team gained access to the official protocol documentation from Microsoft.

"Samba Team would like acknowledge the documentation help and interoperability testing by Microsoft engineers that made our implementation interoperable," wrote Allison.

However, Microsoft has not always been so accommodating to the Samba project — in 2007, it took a European court to force Microsoft into the process of opening up its protocol documentation. These days, though, the company is singing a different tune.

"Active Directory is a mainstay of enterprise IT environments, and Microsoft is committed to support for interoperability across platforms," said Thomas Pfenning, director of development, Windows Server.

To get help starting out with Samba 4.0, the Samba team has created a large "how to" page on its wiki, with tarballs available on the Samba website.

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