Samba 4 will hurt and help Microsoft's business

The release of Samba 4 will no doubt cut into Windows server business somewhat, but its interoperability capabilities will ease administrative and vendor support costs and preserve Windows servers and clients in the long run as open source transforms enterprise computing
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

The availability of Samba 4 will do Microsoft's server business some harm but will do  more good for Windows over the long run. 

It will also give enterprises the go ahead to deploy both Windows servers and clients as the momentun shifts to Linux.

As some point out, its much anticipated interoperability capabilities will curtail Microsoft's enterprise server lock-in. But it also helps Microsoft stay alive in the long run. 

First, it will ease administrators' burdens in supporting mixed Windows-Linux environments and reduce Microsoft's (and Red Hat's) support costs in doing so -- provided Samba is implemented correctly and there are no major showstoppers in the code.

It will also give enterprises the go ahead to deploy both Windows servers and clients as the momentun shifts to Linux, as mixed environments expand, and that becomes far more important to Microsoft as open source commandeers the transformation in enterprise computing over the next decade.

It was disappointing to see that version 4 implements SMB 2.1 file serving protocol and only an initial implementation of SMB3. The Samba team claims it will be in an upcoming release but given the long wait for version 4 it's surprising and concerning. This is a better development for Microsoft than Linux. 

See also: Samba 4 released, brings Free alternative to Active Directory

"The Samba 4.0 file server contains an initial implementation of SMB3, which will be further developed in later Samba 4 releases into a fully-featured SMB3 clustered file server implementation," the Samba team wrote. "Future developments of our SMB3 server and client suite, in combination with our expanding number of SMB3 tests, will keep driving the performance improvements and improved compatibility with Microsoft Windows that Samba users have come to expect from our software."

Windows server with AD has been around since 2000 and the installed base is massive. While Samba will help enterprises deploy Linux as well, there's no way Linux will immediately displace Windows out of the gate given the massive installed base and investments in the Active Directory infrastructure. 

The availability of Samba 4 is a direct offsrping of Microsoft's antitrust settlement, which required the company to disclose specific protocols that the Samba team used. 

But Microsoft went far beyond just releasing the protocols and has been helping the Samba team throughout the process -- though slow and laborious as it was. 

Microsoft even offered up a few words of compliment to the Samba team with the release of version 4 this week. That doesn't suggest to me that Samba is going to put Microsoft out of business any time soon. 

"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. "We are pleased that the documentation and interoperability labs that Microsoft has provided have been key in the development of the Samba 4.0 Active Directory functionality."


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