Samba, the open-source suite of programs that connect Windows and Linux computers, is getting a face-lift with the release of Samba 4.0.0 TP 1. The release which is a pre-alpha, "technology preview", allows testers to use a Linux server to handle file and print sharing plus network logins. Windows servers are still needed to initially set up the accounts, but the Samba team says the new version can serve as a decent backup or to take the load off the main server.
Samba can take over functions of a Windows server by providing file and print sharing plus user authentication to Windows client computers. By copying a directory of shared folders, printers and users from an existing server - known as Active Directory - a Samba server can become an essentially free network server. In addition, to using less computing resources, Samba 4 can seamlessly copy Active Directory from the main Windows server. Users of earlier versions usually had to set up the users by editing a text file.
Companies cannot completely eliminate Windows servers because the initial user information still needs to be created on an actual Windows server. However, Samba can take over after it copies the Active Directory information. In fact, this was demonstrated when Andrew Tridgell, the creator of Samba, copied Active Directory from a Windows server to a Samba box at a recent Linux conference in New Zealand. Tridgell then turned off the original server and had Windows clients connect to the Linux server.
The preview release weighs in at seven megaBytes and can be downloaded from samba.org. Samba 4 is being developed in parallel with Samba 3 and there is no word on its final release date. Developers warn people that it is not ready to be placed in a production environment. Printing is not currently supported and there are issues with certain passwords. "Samba 4 is currently not yet in a state where it is usable in production environments," according to the Samba website.