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March 22, 1999 Issue

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Samba 2.0: A License To Kill NT?

Samba teaches new steps to Windows file serving.

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols & Eric Carr, Sm@rt Reseller

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Who needs an NT license? Not us! We tap into Windows' file and print service by running The Samba Group's Samba 2.0.x on Linux or other Unix systems.

Samba enables users to use file and print services on a Unix machine exactly as if they were on an NT system, by employing Windows' own Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. The Samba program also empowers Unix users to utilize resources on NT domains even when Unix compatibility programs (such as Network File System gateways) aren't installed.

Samba version 2.0.x implements NT's domain-authentication protocols. Simply put, besides excelling at file and print, a Samba-powered Linux system now works as an NT primary domain controller (PDC) or as a member of an existing NT domain or workgroup.

What it can't do, in version 2.0.3, is run as a backup domain controller (BDC) ... yet. Samba developers are working to remedy that missing link by the forthcoming version 2.0.5.

But can it really do all that it's claimed to do? You bet. We tested Samba 2.0.2 and 2.0.3 on two different networks and found that both versions worked well ... once we got them installed.

On our benchmark network using SuSE 5.3, we faced multiple error messages indicating that the Samba 2.0.2 binary installation had failed.The brute-force approach worked: We installed the package using the rpm" force" directive. After that, everything went well. On our other test network, running Pacific HiTech's Turbo Linux 3.01, the installation went so smoothly with its Interactive Package Management, we had to run Samba before we believed it had been installed.

SambaInstallation is all well and good, but how does Samba perform compared to NT? Outstandingly.

The results, however, were almost identical to those in our earlier Linux vs. NT shootout. The real difference in Samba mark two is its increased interoperability with NT domains, not performance.

If it's performance you're after, though, our informal tests with a Pentium-compiled Samba running on the Pentium-enabled, out-of-the-box Turbo Linux showed speed gains in excess of 50 percent over untuned Linux. Do your customers want more server speed?

The Samba Web Administration Tool (Swat) enables you to give your clients speedy throughput in a hurry. Before, the configuration process was: Edit the smb.conf file, restart Samba, check for correct operation and repeat that process until done. Say goodbye to all that. The Swat tool gives you a clean, Web-browser-enabled interface for editing and viewing configuration settings and operational information. It's a giant step forward in easing Samba's configurability and maintainability.

Even if your customers seem to have dug their heels into the Microsoft camp, Samba's one-two punch of far faster SMB file and print services without Microsoft licensing fees makes it an option that must be considered. For basic Server Message Block file and print serving, Samba can't be beat. No ifs, ands or buts.

Samba 2.0.2
The Samba Group
MSRP: Free

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