Microsoft Contributes Open Source Code to Samba

Microsoft has contributed a patch to the open-source Samba file and print services project.

Microsoft has contributed code to the open-source Samba project under the GPLv3 license.

As first reported here, Microsoft has contributed a source code patch to the open-source Samba file and print system. Samba has been around since 1992 as a set of file and print services for clients using the SMB/CIFS (Server Message Block/Common Internet File System) protocol, such as all versions of DOS and Windows, OS/2, Linux and many others. It is an important component to seamlessly integrate Linux/Unix servers and desktops into Active Directory environments.

As such, Microsoft has not always been friendly to Samba. Indeed, as history shows, Microsoft has not always been kind to open source and still has its issues with certain aspects of the open-source world. But the software giant has made great strides such as initiating a strategic effort to work better with the open-source community, opening an Open Source Technology Center and launching CodePlex, a site for hosting open-source projects.

In an Oct. 10 post to the Samba technical mailing list, Stephen Zarkos, a program manager in Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center, said Microsoft had submitted source code patches to Samba. Zarkos said:

""Earlier this year we had an intern working with us to implement a proof of concept for extended protection (channel and service binding) for Firefox and Samba. To enable this scenario on the client side, we were able to use libraries available on Windows and contribute code to the Mozilla team to make this all work. On the Linux side, however, Firefox utilizes Samba for NTLM [NT LAN Manager] authentication and so he also built some patches for Samba to enable this scenario.""

The patch is significant in that Microsoft has had a tense relationship with Samba in the past. In fact, Microsoft has been working with Samba as a result of a court battle that Microsoft lost.

In December 2007, the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF), a group created by the Software Freedom Law Center, signed an agreement with Microsoft to receive the protocol documentation needed to fully interoperate with the Microsoft Windows workgroup server products and to make them available to Free Software projects such as Samba. Microsoft was required to make this information available to competitors as part of the European Commission's March 24th 2004 decision in the antitrust lawsuit, after losing their appeal against that decision on September 17th 2007. However, the PFIF had to pay Microsoft 10,000 Euros.

A 2007 Samba Team press release on the agreement said:

"After paying Microsoft a one-time sum of 10,000 Euros, the PFIF will make available to the Samba Team under non-disclosure terms the documentation needed for implementation of all of the workgroup server protocols covered by the EU decision. Although the documentation itself will be held in confidence by the PFIF and Samba Team engineers, the agreement allows the publication of the source code of the implementation of these protocols without any further restrictions."

So the cooperation, though forced, goes back some years. In a post on the Samba site, Chris Hertel, a member of the Samba team, said:

""A few years back, a patch submission from coders at Microsoft would have been amazing to the point of unthinkable, but the battles are mostly over and times have changed. We still disagree on some things such as the role of software patents in preventing the creation of innovative software; but Microsoft is now at the forefront of efforts to build a stronger community and improve interoperability in the SMB world."Most people didn't even notice the source of the contribution. That's how far things have come in the past four-ish years. ...but some of us saw this as a milestone, and wanted to make a point of expressing our appreciation for the patch and the changes we have seen.""

As Hertel notes, four years ago this would have been a big deal. Today it was so significant that Microsoft put an intern on it.