Stroll around a Linux business conference with John H. Terpstra and you'll hear him greeted as "Mr. Samba." Terpstra, co-founder of the Samba team, is indeed a Samba guru, but he's also got strong Linux and open source implementation chops, gained from his grass-roots work as an IT consultant. In this SearchEnterpriseLinux.com interview, he puts forth the best ways to use Samba-3 today, reveals new and upcoming developments in Samba-3 and Samba-4, and explains why the first businesses to adopt open source software will get a leg up on the competition. He also warns businesses not to be or do business with Mr. Scrooge, but more on that later.
What's ahead for Samba-3, and what's coming in Samba-4?
John H. Terpstra: Samba-3 development and support will continue until at least 2008. Over that time it will be given the ability to integrate more seamlessly with Windows Active Directory and its clients. Remote management features will be further expanded, and a new remote procedure call infrastructure will replace the current one. Additional facilities being added will assist sites that have specific Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.
The myriad of new technologies in Samba-4 will be back-ported to Samba-3, thus narrowing the gap between the two versions. Samba-4 will ship within the next year and will live alongside Samba-3 for a long time. Both versions will strive to reduce resource requirements and improve efficiency.
Documentation improvements will also continue to be made, with greater focus on support of deployment and with a lesser focus on the nuts and bolts in its internals.
Generally, would you call Samba-3 the glue that holds a multiple operating system environment together?
Terpstra: Certainly. Samba-3 is supported on all Unix platforms, on OpenVMS, on MVS, on NetWare, portable data units and numerous other systems. Without Samba, many people would not be able to access their data. Above all, Samba gives the business user a real choice of methods for solving Windows file and print infrastructure problems.
Who cares what is the best operating system platform? What matters is solving a business problem in the best way possible. Samba does that with minimal publicity and without challenging the user's productivity.
What are the primary capabilities of Samba-3 that every admin should learn to exploit to the fullest?
Terpstra: Samba-3.0.0 supported unicode characters, secure channel communication and digital sign-n-seal support. It included a new password back-end capability, as well as new group handling.
The release of Samba-3.0.11 introduced Windows privileges, thus permitting the assignment of administrative privileges to normal users and groups, in [a similar] manner to Windows NT/2000/2003. Also, Samba-3 has support for LDAP [Lightweight Directory Access Protocol] directories and has the scalability to meet the needs of very large corporations.
In short, Samba-3 is the most secure Windows file and print server available today, and it can scale to meet particularly complex needs. The second edition of the book, Samba-3 by Example, demonstrates how this product can be deployed and managed efficiently. It provides step-by-step instructions for entire network configurations, not just for Samba.
Could you name a couple of other Samba-3 features that have a niche and are only used in those niches?
Terpstra: Not really. Samba-3 is the file and print platform of choice for very small networks, right through to the largest multi-location global enterprise network.
Samba-3 updates since September 2003 have been built on the stable platform of Samba 3.0.0 by progressively providing all the features they [users] have most asked for. Samba-3.0.20 now delivers improved remote manageability, improved security, improved ease of use and improved ability to scale to the needs of the world's largest organizations.
Samba-3 is used in network-attached storage devices and aligned kindred products. It is the engine behind many consumer and business marketplace goods. Samba-3 is shipped with all Unix and Linux operating system distributions. It just quietly goes about its business while the rest of the world delights in arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
For businesses, what is adopting Linux the first step toward?
Terpstra: Linux is a first step toward organizational independence from single-vendor IT sources. Any business that wants to achieve IT independence can choose an open source solution-based architecture.
Linux and open source software is a choice for greater business ethics. It is a first step toward redefinition of the IT services market. It is a first step to securing a better future for our children, who will comprise the next generation of IT managers.
How can IT shops prepare their IT infrastructures to take advantages of open source products that are here today and will come tomorrow?
Terpstra: Those companies that invest in development of their IT infrastructures are in the best position to obtain financial gains from new markets and from new methods of doing business. The early majority gains a disproportionately high return on investment compared with the late majority.
Now is the time to prototype and pilot existing technologies. You will discover that alternative solutions are not the same as those they replace. It makes no sense to replace like with like. You will discover that open source solutions are often richer in features that are demanded for common use.
How can IT shops make the absolute most of the open source software opportunities that exist for their companies today?
Terpstra: IT shops can best utilize open source software by becoming more involved in the development and deployment process.
We have seen great strides made in the development of the KDE and GNOME desktop environments over the past two years. This has happened because many companies have stepped up their level of interest and commitment to open source software. Many are now sharing the costs of developing the applications and application tools they need to function more efficiently.
By his nature, Scrooge hoards but does not invest. Scrooge is not a happy camper, because he thinks the world wants his ill-gotten gains. Businesses are learning to cooperate and to serve each others needs more effectively in an open world. Open source software will increasingly make obvious the true nature of the Scrooge mentality.
So roll up your organizational sleeves, get involved and contribute to the well-being of your local community. That is how open source development ultimately works. It maximizes local community employment and development opportunities.
What impact on Linux and open source software could the Scrooges of the world have?
Terpstra: The only possible impediment to Linux and open source adoption will be legislatively or litigiously driven fear, uncertainty and doubt caused by organizations that have lost the ability to innovate and to satisfy their customers' wants and needs in a cooperatively knit service relationship. These organizations use anti-competitive measures to arrest the development of the IT industry and to hold back the development of society as a whole.
As I said earlier, any business that wants to achieve IT independence can choose an open source solution-based architecture. Don't do business with companies that practice unethical and illegal business practices in the marketplaces of this world.
Terpstra is the author of two new books, Samba-3 by Example: Practical Exercises to Successful Deployment, 2nd Edition and The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition. He is also president of the IT consulting firm Primastasys Inc.