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11 December 2012, 20:27

Samba 4 delivers free software Active Directory support

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After ten years of work and six years after the last major release, the developers of the Samba team have announced the release of Samba 4.0, the latest version of the free software implementation of the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. Samba 4 introduces long-awaited support for Microsoft's Active Directory technology by implementing a combination of an LDAP directory server, a Heimdal Kerberos authentication server, a Dynamic DNS service (via its own DNS server or a BIND plugin) and all the needed remote procedure calls to fulfil the function of an Active Directory Domain Controller for all currently supported versions of Microsoft Windows, including Windows 8.

Samba 4 can provide Group Policies, Roaming Profiles and other features to administer systems in a Windows domain as well as integrate with Exchange servers and compatible open source alternatives. Samba's support for Active Directory is completely transparent to clients which means that a Samba-based Domain Controller can be integrated into existing Active Directory domains. To help with a smooth migration from the existing Windows NT Domain Controller functionality in Samba 3.x, upgrade scripts are provided by the Samba developers.

The Active Directory compatibility features in Samba 4 were created with the help of official documentation and interoperability testing from Microsoft. "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. Microsoft is committed to support for interoperability across platforms", said Thomas Pfenning, Director of Windows Server Development. Likewise, the Samba developers themselves stated that they were thankful for the support provided by Microsoft.

Other features in Samba 4 include the first free software implementation of version 2.1 of Microsoft's SMB file-sharing protocol and an initial implementation of SMB3 which the developers say will be further developed in upcoming releases of the Samba 4 branch. A clustered version of these protocols is also available which allows administrators to set up several Samba servers that will load-balance between each other, with clients automatically connecting to the server under the least amount of load. A new Python scripting interface allows users to access Samba's under-the-hood components for automation purposes.

The release ships with two distinct file servers that will both be supported for the foreseeable future. By default, the smbd server from Samba 3 is used for all file serving. For use cases as an Active Directory Domain Controller, the NTVFS file server is provided which was used in early betas of Samba 4 and is better tuned for this task. Built-in and secured integration with NTP provides more accurate timestamps to Windows clients.

Samba 4 has been in beta since June and the developers say that it has been rigorously tested and should present a very stable release. Samba 4.0 source code is licensed under the GPLv3 and can be downloadedDirect download from the Samba servers. More information on all changes, new features and known issues in this release is available from the release notes.


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