Samba debuts version 3.0

On Thursday, developers working on the open-source Samba project are expected to unveil the first major release of their Unix and Linux file server software in two years.

After four months of bug testing, the Samba team, a worldwide group of volunteer programmers, is set to release a “gold” version of the Samba 3.0 source code, according to one of the project’s leaders, Jeremy Allison.

“The main thing with the gold version is it means that large corporations will want to run it. We are standing behind it and saying it’s production quality,” he said.

Since it was created in 1991, Samba has become a popular complement to the Linux operating system. It provides a clone of the CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol that Microsoft Corp. systems use for a wide variety of network tasks, including file sharing, printing, and authentication.

Samba is shipped on Unix and Linux systems from a wide variety of vendors, including IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Silicon Graphics Inc.

The new version of the software should make it much easier for users to migrate their Windows NT 4 systems to Samba, and for Samba itself to better take advantage of the Active Directory services Microsoft includes in its Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 products.

Samba will now support the Kerberos authentication protocol and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) directory services standard that Microsoft uses in Active Directory, which means that when acting in a Windows domain, it can now integrate more seamlessly into a network running Active Directory. This means that System administrators can more easily use Windows management tools to administer Samba machines, said Samba developer Gerald Carter.

This was not the case with Samba’s older version 2.2 software, Carter said. “We look like an NT server under the 2.2 code,” he said. “Under 3.0 we look like a Windows 2000 server.”

More seamless integration with Active Directory will make Samba more secure, said Stephen F. Henderson, a director of engineering network services who is using Samba to serve 1,200 clients at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. With the new hooks planned for version 3.0, he’ll be able to use Active Directory’s user access tokens to authenticate between Windows machines and Samba servers, he said.

“Right now we’re assuming that anything coming directly from the Active Directory server is legit, and that’s not the best way to do things,” he said.

Samba will also now support Microsoft’s SMB (Server Message Block) signing, a lower level security protocol used to prevent malicious hackers from modifying network traffic between CIFS clients and servers. It will also contain new internationalization features that will allow it to support Microsoft clients using a variety of different character sets.

Samba 3.0 will be available on Thursday at, Allison said.

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