Open-source Samba takes on enterprise

Open-source Samba takes on enterprise

The latest release of Samba, a widely used open-source application for file sharing on networks running Microsoft Windows, is for large-scale deployments, particularly those running older versions of Windows NT.

'It is staggeringly stable,' boasted John Terpstra, a member of the software's volunteer development team. He spoke last week at the January meeting of the Washington Linux Users Group.

Version 3 of Samba is nearly a complete rewrite of the previous version, Version 2.2, and has been in development for nearly three years, he said.

Typically, organizations use Samba'a common component in many Linux distributions'so computers running Linux can hang on Windows networks. Linux systems can access files on the computers running Windows, as well as make their files accessible to the Windows systems. Samba also facilitates printer access across the two operating systems.

Version 3 of Samba, released in September, includes a number of new features that make it more useful for system administrators overseeing large networks of desktop computers, Terpstra said.

The new version includes functionality for signing users onto networks. It mimics Microsoft Corp.'s primary and backup domain (PDC) controller, which Windows systems use to authenticate users.

Samba 3 will let organizations 'get off of Windows NT 4 and cut loose of Microsoft licensing,' Terpstra said. Version 4 NT is aging, and Microsoft eventually is expected to phase out support in favor of the newer Windows Server 2003'although the company has made no formal announcement of plans to do so.

A chief advantage that Samba server has, Terpstra said, is that, unlike NT 4, it is not limited to managing 65,000 accounts. NT 4, which uses a flat namespace architecture, keeps all account names in a single file. Samba's hierarchical directory is not limited to 65,000 clients, Terpstra said. A directory can be distributed across multiple machines. Although the previous version of Samba included this functionality, it wasn't at production level yet, and had neither a fallback nor an automatic failover capability.

Terpstra said networks using NT for authentication can migrate user lists over to Samba PDC. Windows PDC management tools can be used with Samba PDC as well.

Samba client software also lets Unix and Linux machines sign into networks controlled by Microsoft Active Directory, which is Microsoft's replacement for its flat namespace architecture.

A member of the audience asked if Samba was ready for production environments.
'Samba 3 is entirely ready for production environments,' Terpstra said, adding that versions have been used for more than a year.

To download the Samba software and documentation go to www.samba.org.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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