Giving Samba its due

Jack Wallen offers up some healthy praise to a tool often overlooked in the accolade department. Can you think of a tool more deserving of open source love than Samba?

Recently, I have covered Samba in numerous articles (for various sites) and have had to take advantage of its power for a few clients. During this time I realized that I don't remember if I had ever actually given Samba (and the Samba development team) the praise they so deserve. So I thought I would finally take a moment to make sure everyone was aware of Samba and what exactly it means to Linux.

I think I can say this pretty simply: If not for Samba, Linux wouldn't be where it is today.

How can I say that? How can I give so much credit for the rise of Linux to one application? How can I not? Samba is the bridge built to bring together all systems. Samba is the great unifier, the great pacifier, the "one," the "way." Or, to put it in plain terms, Samba is the tool that allows Linux, Windows, and Mac to communicate to one another. That's why this tool belongs at the top of the heap of open source tools (licensed under the GPL). If it weren't for Samba, Linux wouldn't talk to Windows and Windows and Mac wouldn't talk to Linux.

Think about it. If the development team never created Samba, do you think either Microsoft or Apple would have developed a tool to allow their operating systems to communicate with Linux? I'm thinking no. Samba, and Samba alone, allows this functionality.

In modern Linux desktops you can right-click a folder and share that folder out as easily as you can in Windows. From the perspective of someone who has used Linux for a long, long time...that feat is amazing. That feat makes Linux accessible. That feat makes Linux viable.

But what is Samba?

Samba is a re-implementation of the SMB/CIFS. SMB was originally developed at IBM in order to turn the DOS local file access protocol into a network-able tool. Microsoft then got a hold of the protocol and then merged it with the LAN Manager tool. Microsoft continued adding features to starting with Windows for Workgroups. In 1996 Microsoft initiated a rename of SMB to CIFS (Common Internet File System) and added even more features. SMB had become incredibly important for networking operating systems. Even prior to this (in 1992) the Samba team was developed in order to reverse-engineer SMB in order for use with non-Microsoft operating systems.

Today Samba is used world-wide by all sizes and types of users and businesses. It has won plenty of awards (including an award to Andrew Tridgell from the Google O'Reilly Open Source Hall of Fame Awards), yet Samba remains humbly in the background connecting different operating systems together day in and day out.

And that's just it. So often, in the world of techno-media, what gets the bulk of the accolades is that which is right in front of us - the things we can see and use with such obviousness it hurts. GNOME, KDE, GIMP, Ubuntu, Compiz, Linux - you know, the things you hear about every day. That is all fine and good so long as those tools that have become such a necessity (as to make Linux as popular and large as it is) get their due. And that is why I am, today, singing the praise of Samba. It's not because I wanted to show you some cool trick or configuration you can do with Samba. We all know those exist (in huge amounts). We all know our businesses wouldn't, in many cases, be using Linux if it were not for Samba.

Today, for no other reason than it absolutely deserves it, I am praising Samba. I use it. I need it. I am grateful for it. And, besides, it's about time I gave Samba its due.

What about you? Where have you deployed Samba? Has this tool saved your skin? Let's all join in and give Samba the props it deserves.