Samba 4.0: What Happens Next?

After almost seven years in development, Samba 4.0 was officially released in late 2012, adding Active Directory domain controller features to the popular interoperable file server solution. So what happens now?

Samba drums picture from Shutterstock

During the server administration mini-conference at in Canberra, longtime Samba team contributor Andrew Bartlett gave a presentation on what works well in Samba 4.0 and what can be expected in future releases. The release of Samba 4.0 ended a prolonged period in which two versions effectively co-existed: the stable but more limited Samba 3.6 release and the more feature-rich but still-in-development Samba 4.0.

Bringing those two code bases together was a contributing factor to the long period before Samba 4.0 could officially be released, Bartlett said. “Part of the reason for the delay was that we had to get it back together.”

The other reason for the delay was the inherent complexity of fully supporting the Active Directory domain controller specification and requirements. There are still limitations in the current version which the Samba team wants to eventually eliminate. For instance, right now only Sambas’s own LDAP server can be used; OpenLDAP isn’t an option.

A bigger restriction is the lack of support for complex domain structures. “We don’t have trusted domain support yet,” Bartlett said. “It’s one domain, one forest; we don’t even support sub-domains.” Fixing that is a goal for a future version, as is improving performance in large (above 10,000 users) environments and adding .

The newness of the release means a lack of easy-to-install packages. “You have to install it from the source tarball,” Bartlett said.

Despite the new features, Bartlett emphasised that Samba 4.0 would continue to work for sites which wanted more basic integration between Windows Server systems and other platforms, via the classic domains feature (a label which Bartlett said the Samba development team chose because it was “the name that sucked the least” out of the potential labels). The delayed release also meant that basic features have been thoroughly tested. “People really are using it; people have been using it for years.”

A single Samba machine can be used both as a general file server and as a domain controller, though Bartlett recommends separating those functions onto different machines in most scenarios. “If you’re big enough that you’re complaining about this, you really should split them.”

Lifehacker’s World Of Servers sees me travelling to conferences around Australia and around the globe in search of fresh insights into how server and infrastructure deployment is changing in the cloud era. This week, I’m in Canberra for, paying particular attention to the server administration mini-conference and sessions on virtualisation and best practice.