Interview: Jeremy Allison

Samba has been around for a very long time, and it has become one of the most important projects in the FOSS world. At FOSDEM 2007 you can learn all about Samba3, Samba4 and the outlook for the coming years from none less than Jeremy Allison.

What do you hope to accomplish by talking about Samba?

Hopefully to entertain people :-). I'd also like to get people enthusiastic about hacking on Samba. It really is a very important project to help Linux be interoperable with Windows.

We vaguely remember reading a quote of Andrew Tridgell where he said that in the end, rsync (the protocol) would prove to be much more important than samba. Do you share this view? :-)

Probably so.... Andrew is usually right :-).

Probably several millions of devices have shipped with Samba functionality. How does that make you feel?

I don't think much about it one way or another. The problem for me is that they're always using an old version of Samba and Samba to me is perpetually broken as we're always fixing bugs :-). I'm just thankful they work at all :-).

Apart from the bugs... What are Samba's main strengths compared to Microsoft's offerings -- other than the license and cross-platform benefits?

We're faster and more robust against failures. Plus we're infinitely configurable - if you want to do anything out of the ordinary you need to use Samba to do it.

Do you feel Samba has been beneficial in any way to Microsoft?

A Microsoft employee wanted to get Microsoft to support Samba on other platforms. I thought that was a great idea but it never flew. Samba has certainly allowed Microsoft networks to be viewed as "interoperable" in a way they really shouldn't be :-).

You've described SMB as a "not very clean" protocol (to put it mildly). Which protocol is "nicer" or better for network file access?

Maybe it's [my] old age but I'm getting fonder of CIFS/SMB as I hack on it. With the UNIX extensions (which I'll cover in my talk) it's becoming a useful protocol for UNIX to UNIX file sharing.

What's the status of Samba version 4 currently?

Samba4 is our "research" branch of the code, to allow us to test out new technologies. It's going well.

We understand that Samba4 has an LDAP store. What's the advantage over a separate LDAP component?

That's a sore point :-). I was never a fan of that decision, but I understand why it was done. It's necessary to discover what is needed to serve as an AD LDAP server, but personally I'd rather [have] OpenLDAP look after that code in the long run.

How is your time spread between Samba 4, and the existing Samba 3?

I mainly add torture tests to Samba4 and then back-port Samba4 code to Samba3 which is the production release.

And how many people are working on samba professionaly?

Around 10 or so.

Not bad... Speaking of professions -- how's life at Google?

Fun and interesting. Life inside is very different from the way it's perceived outside :-). All the publicity makes Google look like a vacation resort, but actually it's full of people working very, very hard :-).

Fun, interesting, hard work... That sounds a bit like FOSDEM then :-)

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