LinuxWorld preview: Samba4 makes Active Directory Linux-friendlier

In this preview of Gerald Carter's LinuxWorld session, the Samba Team member dishes on progress with Samba 4.0, Active Directory domains and his work with Centeris.

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Linux administrators need not fear using Microsoft Active Directory (AD) with Linux server distributions like SUSE and Red Hat, says Samba developer Gerald Carter. With the new Samba4's help, marrying AD and Linux will give admins "a single point to choke for authorizing who does what."

Attending LinuxWorld in New York next week? See Gerald Carter at his session on Samba:
Merging /etc/group and "Domain Users": How to Unify Authorization Models between Windows and Unix.

Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 10:15 a.m.

Next week, Samba Team member Carter will give a workshop on Samba4 and AD at LinuxWorld Open Solutions Summit 2007 in New York City. In this exclusive interview with SearchOpenSource.com, Carter previews that session, talking about the new features in Samba4 and why using Active Directory with Linux will remove integration, migration and interoperability barriers.

SearchOpenSource.com: What is the key point you'll make in your session at the LinuxWorld Open Solutions Summit next week?

Gerald Carter: Essentially there are two camps dealing with accounts. There's the normal Unix way of using local fields or LDAP directory servers, and then under Windows domains you have control of local accounts on machine and domain accounts. With Samba and its Windows NT 4 equivalency group, we mixed and matched the features of each.

When you talk about mixing and matching Unix, Linux and Windows accounts, what does that mean for IT administrators?

Carter: I'll use an example. Suppose I set up secure shell (SSH). The administrator will have domain administration, root accounts, maybe a couple of other miscellaneous local accounts. If all of a sudden a new person comes into the company and needs to be able to log into SSH, the administrator will create a Windows domain account, and all they'll have to do is add them into the Linux box. Same thing if they have local accounts on a box; all they'll have to do is add that local box to that group. The mixing and matching of Linux and Active Directory gives us a single point to choke for authorizing who does what. This approach reduces the number of things administrators have to change to gain access to resources.

Why is Samba an important topic for IT pros to understand?

Carter: Everybody struggles with integrating Windows and Linux. There is a sort of fear, at least on the Unix side, that they won't be able to do the things they're used to doing. They don't want to give up some of the server control that they were hired to do in the first place. Samba allows administrators to get into a domain, to leverage it and still retain enough local control to be able to add users in administrative groups without having to put in a support ticket. Normally, IT staff for Linux and Unix and Windows are separated. There's this idea of not wanting to give up complete control.

More on Samba, Active Directory:
Samba team showcases changes to version 4.0

Samba's Andrew Bartlett: Samba4 to bring Active Directory 'streamlining'

A Samba technology preview was released last Wednesday. What are the most important features in this release?

Carter: I think it would help to clarify the significance of the TP. Samba developers today work on two parallel branches. Samba4 is a resource-sorted branch. Even though the preview drops, they are just snapshots of the research. The main focus of research going on in 4.0 is clusters and Active Directory domain control, and those features with continue to mature and improve. As they do, we will continue to pull them back and into the prod releases. Whether it is TP4 or 40, essentially we're talking about getting technology out there in the hands of people interested in looking at it.

A lot of things aren't there yet in 4.0, which really prevents someone from running this code. Because of the way other projects have done things in the past, people say this code base [in 4.0] is what is definitely going to evolve into the final release. But, my guess is it will be a hybrid of what we have in production today, plus [4.0's AD domain services]. Once domain control is mature, we'll carve it out of the code base.

The other exciting feature is the clustering stuff. Once we have easy-to-set-up file clusters and the ability to set up four-way clusters and scale performance, it will have the ability to change the system file server landscape that we see today. We've tried in past, but [Samba Team member Andrew Tridgell] is now making a lot of progress at IBM on cluster TDB work that will help.

Will there be a Samba walkthrough for new users at LinuxWorld?

Carter: The talk itself will discuss the concept and include several demos. It's about practical usage -- showing users the kind of work we do with it. People will get an idea of how to extrapolate and apply that knowledge to their own environments.

Could you explain the relationship between companies like Centeris Corp. and projects like Samba?

Carter: I joined Centeris in December 2005 because of the Samba work they were doing. The commercial work that we do with Samba [at Centeris] and with other open source projects, wherever feasible, we try and push those products upstream to the community. Centeris can get things faster to market. They have access to a lot of quality assurance, which is an area where many open source projects can struggle. A lot of the times, a commercial team can throw money at testing resources. Centeris gets the open source software model, even though it is a commercial vendor.

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