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Samba Praises Microsoft Open Source Effort

Microsoft recently got plaudits from a member of the Samba team for going open source on a patch.

The Oct. 10 patch improved the Samba core code and was submitted under the open source GNU General Public License. Chris Hertel of Samba said in a post that two Microsoft developers got permission from Microsoft to issue the patch code under the GPL open source license. That marked a "milestone" of sorts for open source relations and Microsoft, according to Hertel.  

"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," Hertel wrote in the post. "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 [Server Message Block] world."

Samba is a free interoperability solution for Unix/Linux servers and Windows-based clients. Specifically, it supports file and print services on clients using Microsoft's Server Message Block/Common Internet File System (SMB/CIFS) protocols. Microsoft's patch improved Linux client interoperability and was released under GPL2+ licensing, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

"The patch to the Samba code enables Linux clients to better interoperate with Microsoft Windows in mixed source environments," the Microsoft spokesperson indicated via e-mail on Friday. "Contributed under GPL2+, the patch is an individual contribution made by Stephen Zarkos in line with Samba policies in place at the time." Zarkos is a program manager at Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab in Redmond, Wash.

A ZDNet blog claims that Samba is "an old Microsoft enemy" and that Microsoft was forced by a European antitrust action to "open its network protocols to Samba in 2007." A history published by the Free Software Foundation Europe cites a 2004 European Commission decision that involved a server interoperability complaint by Sun Microsystems. However, the FSFE's history also noted that Samba had presented before the EC in a 2003 hearing on the case.

Microsoft now has a team devoted to open source interoperability led by Jean Paoli and Gianugo Rabellino. Following antitrust regulatory actions in Europe and in the United States, Microsoft rolled out an "interoperability pledge" in February of 2008 that opened up some of its documentation and APIs for product interoperability. The documentation part of this interoperability effort was overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice, but this DoJ final judgment scrutiny ended on May 12.

Microsoft struck a controversial Windows interoperability and licensing deal with Novell over its SuSE Linux Enterprise operating system in November 2006, and that deal has was renewed in July of this year after Attachmate acquired Novell. These deals took place even after Microsoft claimed that open source software violated 235 of Microsoft patents. In recent years, Microsoft's legal team has mostly attempted to prove that claim by suing hardware vendors using the open source Linux-based Android mobile operating system.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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