In the late 1990s, Microsoft published the specifications of the protocols they were using at that time for file and printer sharing. Based on these publications, the Common Internet File System (CIFS) was defined, and the Samba project team could start its work of providing a free service that offers file and print services to Microsoft clients.
Since the late 1990s, many things have changed. Most important, Microsoft networking has changed a lot. Since 1998, however, Microsoft hasn't published the specifications of its networking protocols again. That is why the Samba team since then had to do its work by means of reverse engineering; in other words, the team had to analyze all the new functionality added by Microsoft networking components and then try to build something that works. Sometimes the members of the Samba team succeed quickly; at other times, the job doesn't go as quickly. For example, at the time of this writing, there still is no decent alternative for the Microsoft Active Directory Domain Controller server. The Samba server offers much functionality, though, and since it was a clean development cycle, it often is even faster than the original Microsoft protocols. Also, since it has been ported to many different operating systems, it is used in all environments. A SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with a Samba server installed is a good replacement for a Windows NT Server. In combination with an LDAP server, it can even offer a good alternative for a Windows 2000 or 2003 server with Active Directory. Be aware, however, that the options to integrate Samba in an Active Directory network are limited; as of the 3.xversions, Samba cannot be used as a domain controller, only as a member server in an Active Directory environment.
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