Microsoft: Start Preparing for SMB1's Demise

Windows Server still recognizes the venerable protocol, but support is dwindling, Microsoft warns.

SMB1 protocol

Server Message Block version 1 (SMB1) is being phased out, and organizations that are still relying on the protocol may have a tough time implementing upcoming Windows technologies, cautions Microsoft.

SMB is a network file sharing protocol that enables shared access to remote servers and their resources, such as files. Unable to handle large data sizes well along with new features added to Microsoft's NTFS file system, the company introduced SMB2 in the Windows Server 2008 operating system.

Now, SMB1's days are numbered, but it should come as no surprise to IT watchers following the evolution of Windows Server, according to Jose Barreto, a principal program manager on Microsoft's File Server and Clustering team. "We already added SMB1 to the Windows Server 2012 R2 deprecation list in June 2013," he said in a company blog post. "That does not mean it's fully removed, but that the feature is 'planned for potential removal in subsequent releases.'"

One reason to start preparing for SMB1's demise is Windows Server 2003's impending support deadline. "The last supported Windows operating system that can only negotiate SMB1 is Windows Server 2003," he said. "All other currently supported Windows operating systems (client and server) are able to negotiate SMB2 or higher."

Microsoft is pulling support on the 12-year-old server operating system (OS) on July 14. While many organizations have already kicked off the migration process, a recent Spiceworks survey discovered that some holdouts may be facing security, software compatibility and compliance risks when the deadline expires.

Like old server software, SMB1 is a victim of technological progress at Microsoft. And the company is signaling that its time is running out, despite the aging protocol's inclusion in modern Windows OSes. SMB1 is an optional component in Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 8.1 and the upcoming Windows 10 OS, scheduled to be released later this year.

"If you are a systems administrator and you manage IT infrastructure that relies on SMB1, you should prepare to remove SMB1," advised Barreto. "Once Windows Server 2003 is gone, the main concern will be third party software or hardware like printers, scanners, NAS devices and WAN accelerators." New hardware and software should be validated for "at least SMB2, preferably SMB3," he suggested. IT departments saddled with SMB1-only gear and software are advised to contact their vendors for possible updates.

Software and hardware vendors themselves may have to revisit their product strategies, added Barreto. "If you are a software or hardware manufacturer that has a dependency on the SMB1 protocol, you should have a clear plan for removing any such dependencies," he stated. "Your hardware or software should be ready to operate in an environment where Windows clients and servers only support SMB2 or SMB3."

Despite its longevity, SMB1 may be here today, gone tomorrow. Acknowledging that SMB1 continues to work in most environments, he said that "the fact that the feature is deprecated is a warning that it could go away at any time."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...