Open-source software project Samba has signed an agreement with Microsoft to receive protocol documentation for the software giant's Windows workgroup server products.
The deal will enable the organisation to build software that will interoperate with those products.
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 is paying a one-off fee of €10,000 (£7,240) for the documentation, is part of the Software Freedom Law Center.
Samba's software, used for sharing files over a network and controlling networked printers, is designed to facilitate interoperability between Linux/Unix servers and Windows-based clients.
Andrew Tridgell, creator of Samba, said in a statement: "We are very pleased to be able to get access to the technical information necessary to continue to develop Samba as a free software project."
Samba expects that the agreement will allow the project to add features including full support for Microsoft's Active Directory, encrypted files, a better search interface and support for "SMB2", a new version of Microsoft's Server Message Block protocol from which the Samba project took its name. SMB2 is built into Windows Server 2008.
Microsoft agreed to make workgroup server interoperability information available to open-source developers in October, after complying with a 2004 EU court antitrust ruling. Microsoft's compliance with the ruling has not quietened the open-source community's patent fears, however.
"Although we were disappointed the [EU] decision did not address the issue of patent claims over the protocols, it was a great achievement for the European Commission and for enforcement of antitrust laws in Europe," said Tridgell. "The agreement allows us to keep Samba up-to-date with recent changes in Microsoft Windows, and also helps other free software projects that need to interoperate with Windows."
Microsoft's director of platform and technology strategy welcomed the Samba agreement in a blog which talked up the agreement and emphasised recent co-operation between Samba and Microsoft.
CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this article.