Circumstances for Samba were transformed by the 17 Sept 2007 decision of the European Court which obliged Microsoft to publish the protocols used by Windows clients and servers under "reasonable" and "non-discriminatory" terms.
"Since MS released the documentation a bunch of new competitors have sprung up. Now it's all documented, how hard can it be to make an SMB server? Some have tried to make a business out of it. Apple has done their own, and we've had bug reports because their server doesn't implement some of the older calls, and isn't as complete."
"There's more competition but it helps us to raise our game, and this is what we've been doing for 20 years now. The people who used to work on the SMB server at Microsoft have taken their money and their shares, and they're all retired now and long gone. But Tridge and I and Volker are all still here working on it. So we have history with this stuff that few others do, and we do more than anyone else does."
"No-one else, other than Microsoft, does a print server. No-one else does an Active Directory server, and Samba 4 when it's finished will be a complete replacement for Microsoft. It's being shipped but doesn't do trusted domains yet and doesn't do forests."
"The selling feature of the latest release is SMB2, the new protocol that's been shipping since Vista. It has lots of new and tricky features. Devising a new protocol isn't an easy thing to get right and there are some new and tricky things that are challenging. People say we're an old project but Tridge did some statistics on this, and our rate of change in Samba is greater than the rate of change in the Linux kernel."
We won and we didn't notice
When Allison began to work on Samba he saw it as "a file server for me, because that's the whole point. It still is a file server for me. I watch all my movies using Samba. I have a Sage TV box and it mounts a Samba server off my Ubuntu box, and I always run the latest version, so if that doesn't work that is a showstopper bug. My home system has to work..."
In the beginning Linux made its mark as a file server, thanks to Samba, or as a web server, thanks to Apache, but "Samba is no longer a sexy and glamorous project. It's fading into the background and has become part of the plumbing." Where once Samba and Apache sold Linux to the world they are now just part of the plumbing. "But that's OK, plumbers make good money."
"Samba is infrastructure and essential, because without it a lot of things wouldn't work. I don't know where it's used, and I don't have to care. I'm paid to help people use it, and one of the testaments to our software is I don't get many people asking how to use it. They just use it. The people who do get involved are the people who are pushing it to do weird things..."
"In twenty years everything has become Linux. I have a music system that is entirely Linux-based. I have a video streaming and TV watching system that is entirely Linux-based. I wouldn't be surprised if every flat screen television I have is also Linux-based. The laptop and the desktop my wife uses to do her online banking and email is Linux. My phone is Linux, and my son's tablet PC is Linux..."
"We won and we didn't notice."
For other feature articles by Richard Hillesley, please see the archive.