It’s a long story and a complicated arrangement, but the developers of the open-source Samba file-sharing (aka work group server) software finally have access to the Microsoft protocol information promised in both the US and EU antitrust settlements. In a nut shell:
The legendary Jeremy Allison (of Samba fame) has resigned from Novell in protest over the Microsoft-Novell patent agreement, which he calls “a mistake” which will be “damaging to Novell’s success in the future.”
His main issue with the deal, though, is “that even if it does not violate the letter of the licence, it violates the intent of the GPL licence the Samba code is released under, which is to treat all recipients of the code equally.” He leaves the company at the end of this month. He explained why in a message sent to several Novell email lists, and the message included his letter to management:
“Whilst the Microsoft patent agreement is in place there is *nothing* we can do to fix community relations. And I really mean nothing,” Allison wrote. “Until the patent provision is revoked, we are pariahs….Unfortunately the time I am willing to wait for this agreement to be changed …has passed, and so I must say goodbye.”
You can read Allison’s full letter by following the link. Mary Jo Foley has a brief email interview with Allison that reveals that he is going to Google.
Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse and AIG Technologies today became some of the first customers to tap the benefits of the recently announced collaboration between Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. on interoperability between Microsoft Windows and Linux. Under three separate customer agreements, Microsoft will deliver to each company SUSE Linux Enterprise subscription certificates, allowing these customers to take advantage of the Microsoft and Novell agreement. Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and AIG Technologies, which is a member company of American International Group Inc., highlighted the benefits of interoperability, the patent cooperation agreement and the road map for bidirectional virtualization solutions as the deciding factors in their choice.
Recall that Microsoft paid Novell for the certificates and “Microsoft may use, resell or distribute them over the term of the agreement, allowing customers to redeem a single or multi-year subscription for upgrades, updates and technical support from Novell.” There was no word on the financial details of the arrangements with the three customers.
The pernicious unelected bureaucrats of the European Union really ought to look into using Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes as their pin-up girl. When she isn’t coming on as a scolding schoolmarm, she runs an interminable process that makes a sieve look tight with her as the head blabbermouth:
The European Union’s Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said on Thursday she could see no way around fining U.S. software giant Microsoft for breaching the bloc’s antitrust rules.
Asked by reporters whether Microsoft would be fined for breaching competition rules, Kroes said she could not imagine another way.
So much for the integrity of the proceedings. I also imagine that the scent of big bucks in the offing must be like blood in the water to the perennially penurious functionaries in Brussels. More junkets ahead!
But as long as I am passing out brickbats, Microsoft surely deserves a few for their clumsy approach to dealing with the Eurocrats. The European Commission’s March 2004 judgement against Microsoft was amazingly sparse in the set of nits they decided to pick:
As regards tying, Microsoft is required, within 90 days, to offer to PC manufacturers a version of its Windows client PC operating system without WMP. The un-tying remedy does not mean that consumers will obtain PCs and operating systems without media players. Most consumers purchase a PC from a PC manufacturer which has already put together on their behalf a bundle of an operating system and a media player. As a result of the Commission’s remedy, the configuration of such bundles will reflect what consumers want, and not what Microsoft imposes.
As regards interoperability, Microsoft is required, within 120 days, to disclose complete and accurate interface documentation which would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers. This will enable rival vendors to develop products that can compete on a level playing field in the work group server operating system market. The disclosed information will have to be updated each time Microsoft brings to the market new versions of its relevant products.
Microsoft deftly fixed the first one by shipping Windows XP N without Windows Media Player and pricing it the same as regular Windows XP. Then they sat back and had a good laugh while nobody cared.
However, on the second remedy, Microsoft managed to fumble the ball. Microsoft claims they didn’t really know what the Commission wanted until a hearing in April of this year, but there’s a general belief that Microsoft was stiff arming the bureaucrats and got caught. In the press I have seen theories that this was because it meant revealing the “crown jewels” and that Microsoft might even be better off paying the $2.5 million a day fine rather than complying. Sorry, but I’m not buying it.
Work group serving means file and printer sharing with the associated identity and authorization management and that was reverse engineered long ago by the Samba team who only have some arcana in Active Directory left to duplicate because they won’t license the protocols made available under the US antitrust settlement or recently offered by Microsoft to placate the EU too. Anyone who cares to can implement a Samba “work group server” for Windows clients which, if not completely seamless, is at least functional, so it seems to me that the crown jewels were mostly on display already. Admittedly, Microsoft is making some enhancements to the base SMB protocols in Longhorn Server that they would have had to reveal, but I hardly think that they are critical competitive factors.
Of course, there’s another theory that Microsoft set a crew of monkeys to typing to generate the original 12,000 page document rejected by the Commission (subscription required, excerpts here), which gains credibility from the similar problems that Microsoft had in the USA and the current rush effort to create a new document for the EU. If that’s the case, then the current contretemps is even less understandable.
Microsoft’s objective should be to make this problem go away. If they can sweet talk the authoritarian regime in China into cracking down on software piracy, they ought to be able to handle the bureaucratic regime in Europe. Think of it as a cost of doing business.
A next-generation test version of the open-source Samba file-sharing software has been made available, with features emulating Microsoft’s Active Directory ID management software.
The popular Samba suite is an implementation of Microsoft’s SMB (Server Message Block)/CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol that allows other operating systems to emulate or interoperate with Windows for the purposes of sharing files or printing.
The new version of the software was released Wednesday in conjunction with a speech on the subject by Australia-based Samba creator Andrew Tridgell at the Linux.conf.au conference in New Zealand.
The point being that Samba, and open source development projects in general, will not license Microsoft source under the terms established for the US source code licensing:
After struggles with the U.S. Justice Department, Microsoft made Windows client protocols available in the U.S. as directed. But the way it implemented licensing agreements was to charge a royalty on each product shipped using the protocols. The move effectively prevented the inclusion of the protocols in open-source code, since the General Public License that governs Linux, Samba, and other open-source code prohibits including anything that requires a royalty payment, Allison says.
Allison says Microsoft’s cooperation with the Samba development team ended in 1999 as Linux’ popularity became a threat in the server market. Now the team accomplishes compatibility with Windows systems through “network analysis”–a more-elegant term than “reverse engineering,” which used to be used to describe Samba’s ability to achieve compatibility.
As for the latest version of Samba, Joshua Wulf reports:
They put in their own LDAP server because of non-standard Microsoft fields, including Security Descriptors, that wouldn’t work well with the MIT LDAP server or Fedora Directory Server.
The Vampire migration tool now has “longer fangs”, and can take over an Active Directory domain. Tridge demonstrated sucking the life out of a Windows 2003 PDC in one click, importing all its user and machine information using SWAT. He then restarted bind on his Samba 4 server, changed the server role to PDC in smb.conf (this will be automatic in the final release), shut down the Windows PDC, and then logged into the domain with an XP client using the new Samba 4 server as the PDC. This elicited suitable oohs and aahs from the audience.
Microsoft has introduced a new protocol – SMB2 – with the latest Vista technology preview, and the boys on the Samba team are having more fun than they’ve had since the 90′s reverse-engineering it, and they have released their implementation, in Samba 4 technology preview, before Microsoft. Booyakasha!
It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, the EC does with the Microsoft source license offer.