03.29.07

The Samba Project Still Affected by the Novell/Microsoft Deal

Posted in Europe, Google, Interoperability, Law, Novell, Patents, Protocol, Red Hat, Samba, Servers at 10:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Several Samba developers have left Novell in protest. Most recently is was Günther Deschner, a Samba developer who has recently decided to leave Novell and join Red Hat. What sounded inaccurate at first seems to gradually become a reality. This latest departure follows Jeremy Allison’s departure, which we covered back in December. He later joined Google where he is seemingly happy and productive as he continues to write some ZDNet columns while carrying on with the Samba newsletter (and also coding, of course).

As observers, one of the main concerns is the implicit (and sometimes explicit) mentioning of patent infringements in Samba, without disclosure of specifics. It is natural to imagine that the developers’ stance on this issue is sometimes filled with and fuelled by anger. Does anyone, other than the mis- and less informed customers, actually perceive these allegations as legitimate? To make matters worse, what happens when people are driven into fear by marketing people, who use this as a weapon (or conversely — a selling point)?

Several developers in the GNU/Linux community have compared the effect of the Microsoft/Novell deal to that of SCO’s lawsuits. Some believe the situation could even escalate to action in court. In response to this, several community initiatives were born, including ShowUsTheCode. Does anybody believe that action in court would be more damaging than a state of so-called ‘cold war’ which leads to fear, uncertainty, and doubt? SCO, after all, has lost its venom after many of its claims got dropped and discarded. Sometimes the unknown, just like darkness, has a stronger impact. It later turned out that SCO ‘stole’ Linux code, just like Microsoft ‘stole’ BSD code.

In a fairly recent interview with LinuxWorld, Jeremy Allison said he had been informed of clients/user who hand over ‘protection money’. Large companies that use Linux may be approached by Microsoft and asked to pay for the use of software such as Samba. Has any of our readers had any experience with such incidents? As it verges the litigious boundaries of extortion (with legal implications), have you heard of or seen anything? What would your advice be to companies who find themselves in this position?

SMB2 is said to be bringing new challenges, which a gradual uptake of Windows Vista will inevitably lead to. Have a look at this:

The Microsoft Zombie Army will force Samba out of the Enterprise

Vista is to ship with a new version of SMB, called SMB2. At minute 40 in this FLOSS Weekly podcast, Jeremy Allison of Samba talks of behavior that will flood the network with 1500 packets just to do a network file delete. This will turn Vista computers into a DOS (Denial of Service) attack upon Samba based computers on the network.

[...]

‘In the section of the interview from around 33m30s to 39m00 Jeremy Allison reports how he was told that the Microsoft team implementing SMB2 were ordered to “f**k with Samba”.’

Does anyone believe that interoperability efforts were deliberately being sabotaged or curtailed in the past? Will Novell be able to address the issue of frequently-changing, out-of-date, or hidden APIs? Is complete documentation being delivered, as recently promised owing to the 2004 European ruling? At the moment, small businesses are barred access to the market. One delay just follows another while market saturation is being lost, which leads to monoculture (and yet another case of monopoly abuse). Europe is concerned about this and Novell makes it even harder to combat this abuse.

One of the things that are considered the most important next step for Samba (technical aspects of the project or otherwise) is the ability to mimic the rather dynamic Windows network protocols. Since these are not standardised (surely not in an open and free fashion), this leads to legal traps. Fortunately, Europe chose to describe the protocols in question as “too trivial to be patentable”. Therefore development continues and it looks rather encouraging.

Samba 3 preview release behaves more like Windows

[...]

The latest code changes and improvements to Samba 3.0.25 weren’t overly dramatic, said the project’s release manager, but the subtle changes do push things along toward a scheduled production release in early April.

What is worth mentioning is that some of these protocols are derivative of Open Source code (prior art springs to one’s mind), or at least equivalents with proprietary ‘extensions’. Some of these extensions brought more harm than good because — being closed — they arguably facilitated back doors, to be later accessed by the wrong people. These have led to damages that could be estimated at billions of dollars in damages.

We are yet to see how the Novell/Microsoft deal is going affect Microsoft’s legal battles in Europe. We have already witnessed some of its effects, but Novell has not been mentioned explicitly. More particularly, we are yet to see how issues which revolve around servers and communications get treated and addressed, and to what extent the deal plays a role. Surely, this so-called ‘interoperability’ deal did no good to Samba, which is all about interoperability.

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A Single Comment

  1. Ian said,

    March 30, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Gravatar

    “Does anyone believe that interoperability efforts were deliberately being sabotaged or curtailed in the past? Will Novell be able to address the issue of frequently-changing, out-of-date, or hidden APIs?”

    I’m not a believer that Microsoft, from a technical standpoint, would purposely break things with SMB2 out of spite or because of some underhanded policy. This isn’t a defense for Microsoft, because they have been known to have shady business practices in the past; however I don’t think they would break compatibility to spite Linux rather because they don’t have to worry about Linux compatibility for the most part.

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