That shift can now take place; Samba 4 has been released.
This means that enterprise customers - 80 percent of whom use Microsoft's Active Directory for authentication - now have the freedom to use a non-Windows server environment and yet enjoy all the benefits of Active Directory.
After 10 years of painstaking work, the team announced overnight in a media release that theSamba 4 comprised an LDAP directory server, Heimdal Kerberos authentication server, a secure Dynamic DNS server, and implementations of all necessary remote procedure calls for Active Directory.
In short, it provided everything that was needed to serve as an Active Directory Compatible Domain Controller for all versions of Microsoft Windows clients currently supported by Microsoft, including the recently released Windows 8.
Under an agreement reached in December 2007, Microsoft has to provide details about every one of its network protocols which are used to work with Windows Server to a newly formed body, the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation.
"The Samba Team would like acknowledge the documentation help and interoperability testing by Microsoft engineers that made our implementation interoperable," it said.
"Active Directory is a mainstay of enterprise IT environments, and Microsoft is committed to support for interoperability across platforms," Thomas Pfenning, director of development, Windows Server, was quoted as saying in the media release. "We are pleased that the documentation and interoperability labs that Microsoft has provided have been key in the development of the Samba 4.0 Active Directory functionality."
The 2007 agreement was reached after nearly a decade of wrangling; Samba developers Tridgell, Jeremy Allison and Volker Lendecke, with the help of some intrepid investigators from the European Union, wrested a deal with Microsoft that specifies that every one of Microsoft's network protocols which are used to work with Windows Server would be provided to the newly formed Protocol Freedom Information Foundation.
The three Samba geeks got involved in Sun Microsystem's 1998 complaint to the European Commission over Microsoft's refusal to provide the necessary documentation so that Sun could create software that could work seamlessly with Microsoft Active Directory.
The complaint was filed after Microsoft said nay to a request from Sun for this information - despite the fact that Microsoft has to provide such information due to the anti-trust laws in place.
The media release said Samba 4 included the first free software implementation of Microsoft's SMB2.1 file serving protocol and also an initial implementation of SMB3.
It provided industry-leading scalability and performance as a clustered SMB2/SMB/CIFS file server, using the project's "clustered tdb" (ctdb) technology which was also available as free software.
Additionally, there is an improved winbind, which means Samba 4 file servers can easily integrate into existing Active Directory services as member servers. Both Microsoft Active Directory and Samba 4.0 Active Directory Compatible servers are supported.
The release said Samba 4.0 had been tested using the project's widely accepted smbtorture test suite, created by the Samba Team to test Samba itself and now used by most of the companies writing SMB3/SMB2/SMB/CIFS file server software to test their own products. "We also regularly test interoperability with other major vendors at plug-fest events to make sure Samba 4.0 deployments work correctly with existing customer equipment," it added.
On the security side, Samba is one of 11 open source projects that leading software integrity vendor Coverity has certified as "secure" and has reached Coverity "Integrity Rung 2" certification.