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Microsoft Agrees to Release Work Group Protocols 143

Posted by Zonk
from the kind-of-a-big-deal(tm) dept.
UnknowingFool writes "Groklaw is reporting that the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF) has signed an agreement with Microsoft to release their protocols relating to Windows Work Group Server. The Foundation agrees to pay MS $10,000, and the agreement does not cover patents. This agreement apparently was made to somewhat satisfy the EU Commission complaints. With PFIF's objective to aid open source, this agreement means that the Samba Team may finally get the information they need to fully interoperate with Windows AD servers."
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Microsoft Agrees to Release Work Group Protocols

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  • by microbee (682094) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:25PM (#21771600)
    that EU did something the US government couldn't.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:41PM (#21771856)
      Couldn't or wouldn't? When they were under pressure earlier this decade, Microsoft spent a lot of money lobbying/buying off US state and federal governments, creating fake "grass roots" campaign sites and paying for press releases from pro-corporate lobbyist groups such as the cato institute (source1 [sourcewatch.org] source2 [zdnet.com]).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      that EU did something the US government wouldn't.

      There, fixed it for ya.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805)
      I'd like to think that the EU has a better system for dealing with monopolies although at the same time I can't help but wonder if the fact that Microsoft isn't based there had a lot to do with it. in either case, good job EU! The only thing better would be if they actually had the power to give Microsoft more than a slap on the wrist and used that power if/when Microsoft starts giving anyone trouble.
      • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @07:31PM (#21772606)

        I'd like to think that the EU has a better system for dealing with monopolies although at the same time I can't help but wonder if the fact that Microsoft isn't based there had a lot to do with it.

        This might apply for a case within a given EU member state, since politicians can play on anti-americanism, but not so much for EU posts. The EU commission has enforced antitrust regulation against numerous european countries over the past decade. If anything they seem to have gone out of their way to give MS huge amounts of leniency and extra time.

        • by elgaard (81259)
          Exactly.

          The original european verdict against Microsoft (not the resent appeal verdict)
          even mentioned the case against Swedish Tetra Pak as an example of a company that was using a monopoly in one area to gain an unfair advantage in another (septic/aseptic packaging).
          Tetra Pak got a Euro 75 million fine in 1991.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2007 @08:05PM (#21773018)
      You seem to imply that there is some difference between the US Government and MicroSoft.
      Truly, the only thing more tightly integrated with Windows than Internet Explorer is the Justice Department.
      Was that my outside voice?
  • Are you sure about that? Workgroup is often designated as software separate from their Enterprise or Domain integrated stuff. Are you sure that releasing their workgroup protocols includes Active Directory access?
    • by Jeremy Allison - Sam (8157) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:46PM (#21771906) Homepage
      Yes it includes all AD protocols.

      Jeremy.
      • But what would you know? :)

      • Thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DrYak (748999) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @10:10PM (#21774416) Homepage
        Just to say thank you for all your work.
      • by Bert64 (520050)
        How about the proprietary protocols used by exchange and such?
        And what about sharepoint? does that rely on any proprietary protocols?
        • by weicco (645927)

          And what about sharepoint? does that rely on any proprietary protocols?

          Yes! Everytime I access our corporate Sharepoint site I have to use at least PPP, Ethernet, IP, TCP and HTTP protocols not to mention about IPSEC and IKE. God I hate that Microsoft!

        • by Allador (537449)
          Mostly just WebDAV.

          The only possible thing in there is the auto-login you get if you use IE from a machine on the same domain as your sharepoint server.

          So for example, in FireFox, Sharepoint works fine ... but you get prompted for a login. On IE, you dont get prompted, it just handles it behind the scenes for you (using MS-CHAP v2 I assume, though thats just speculation).

          Now, the fancy AJAX and interactive javascript scripting works _much_ better on IE than FireFox, but I'm not sure that falls under 'propr
          • Actually, if you set up Sharepoint using host headers (vhosts or whatever), IE *won't* automatically log you in - the site is no longer within the intranet zone, so you have to explicitly set the site up in the Trusted Sites zone, and also turn on the automatic login if you are using IE7. As for the protocol used, its either kerberos or NTLM, dependant on the server configuration.
            • by Allador (537449)

              so you have to explicitly set the site up in the Trusted Sites zone, and also turn on the automatic login if you are using IE7
              Assuming they arent rogue sharepoint sites, you just push those settings out via group policy, and make it easy on yourself.
    • THis is only worth anything so long as MS does not "innovate" and "extend" the protocol and break compatability.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by calebt3 (1098475)
        That's how they are going to implement the "Extinguish" part of their plan. Release a new version (always incompatible w/it's predecessor) every week/month until Samba can no longer afford to keep buying the new specs. Does the agreement apply to future versions as well?

        ...
        ...
        ...
        ... I guess it is a good thing after all that corporations don't upgrade as fast as the software world moves.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jabuzz (182671)
          How are they going to do that without breaking the millions of clients in their existing install base? Besides Microsoft are simple not that agile in software releases. It took five years to ship Vista, and there is a similar gap between Server 2003 and 2008.

          If they did somehow manage to suddenly become agile and do these releases then it would bring squeals of protest from their clients. Sorry you cannot update your machine over the network to the new networking standards as we have already upgrade the ser
          • by Allador (537449)

            Apart from fedorated directories what extra does Sever 2008 bring in the fileserver/domain controller space? As far as I am aware nothing.

            The typical evolutionary improvements.

            IIS7 (big improvement, though not AD/File-server)
            Hypervisor built in
            Continued to add security features to the OS & kernel
            More group policy control and settings
            Much more modular install (server core stuff)
            Branch office server improvements (replication, mgmt)

            One of the biggest ones I think for a DC or file server is the 'server core' approach. Gives you the ability to install a slimmer server OS than in the past, up to and including no GUI (just powershell). This c

            • by j-pimp (177072)

              One of the biggest ones I think for a DC or file server is the 'server core' approach. Gives you the ability to install a slimmer server OS than in the past, up to and including no GUI (just powershell). This can be a benny for keeping your file-servers or DCs as simple as possible.

              I havent read up on all the details, but since 2003-R2 they've really been putting in some nice features for branch-office server scenarios. And finally an NTFRS/DFS replication system that doesnt suck the big one.

              I'm not sure if I'd go with a GUIless DCs, at least not for a while. There is simply too much gui based stuff out there, and GDI is integrated into everything. So I don't see much size or performance benifit and I do see alot of headaches.

              Yes I'm sure I could manage a guiless domain controller, but it would be pretty vanilla. Also, If I decided to deploy some gui admin tool domain wide, I'd want it on the DCs. I think I'd start with web or SQL servers for production GUIless windows boxes.

          • How are they going to do that without breaking the millions of clients in their existing install base?

            Two words: Automatic Updates. Microsoft could change the protocol and push it out as a security update, much as AOL did during the battle between AIM and Trillian.

            Apart from fedorated directories what extra does Sever 2008 bring in the fileserver/domain controller space?

            "Fedorated"? "Sever"? Is this something designed to chop off the heads of Red Hat employees?

  • How could Microsoft pass up that offer!?
    • by Plug (14127)
      It's actually 10,000 Euro. That's a $14,333.65 windfall for the Redmond current account!
    • by EvilRyry (1025309)
      It's not so much a price as its worth to Microsoft as much as it is a fee to keep the protocol out of the hands of the average Joe. It's a move mostly aimed at open source I'd imagine.
      • by Allador (537449)
        Not really. The PFIF's sole purpose is to pay MS and then give access to that information to open-source developers.

        It does keep it out of the hands of hobby or low-end commercial developers, but not open source ones.
  • Telling someone the punchline of a joke after they beat you to it.
    • Re:That's akin to (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:47PM (#21771922)
      That's the point I'm a little confused about. I fully understand that Samba decided to continue propping up the EC's prosecution (after all the other witnesses...ahem...changed their minds about testifying) of Microsoft as a matter of principle as the victim of a crime (rather than necessarily to be compensated in any way), but, I am assuming (even though they didn't pay for it themselves) this information must be worth something to them still (despite how well Samba currently works) and the PFIF apparently thinks it is worth 10 000 (which might be donated to the Samba developers for reverse engineering or something instead). Maybe someone with knowledge of Samba development (rather than the legal cases) fill me in on what they need from this data.
      • Re:That's akin to (Score:5, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @10:05PM (#21774380) Journal
        Maybe someone with knowledge of Samba development

        You'll be disappointed. They don't use Lisp.

        Most importantly though,

        Under the agreement, Microsoft is required to make available and keep current a list of patent numbers it believes are related to the Microsoft implementation of the workgroup server protocols
        That means Microsoft must tell Samba which patents apply to the protocols, and keep telling them. The developers will be able to avoid any patent traps.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          > That means Microsoft must tell Samba which patents apply to the protocols, and keep telling them. The developers will be able to avoid any patent traps.

          Those patents apply only in the US.

          Hello from EU by the way ;) Believe or not, Novell/MS deal was like godsent boost for Linux here. As we don't have braindead software patents here - stuff like Mono (+ those "evil" patented apis) and OpenXML support etc, do only good here.

          Shame that you guys there have to suffer from software patents ;) Even i
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sepluv (641107)
            Actually, in practice, we do have quite a lot of software patents on the books, they just aren't legally valid. That doesn't stop lawyers, judges, the European Patent Office and member state's government (especially those that wish to cosy other to the US) trying to enforce them illegally.

            Even if EU would approve software patents later it wouldn't really matter

            It would. The proposed directive the European Patent Office and European Commission where trying to get through that was defeated by the Europea

  • by russ1337 (938915) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:41PM (#21771852)
    Good news for Samba. Still listening to that audio link, but it's interesting that the Samba team aren't allowed to release the information they receive, just use it for developing OSS.

    I'm sure Microsoft will use this in their 'we support open source' campaign. (I've always reckoned Microsoft should release the code for their unsupported OS's such as Windows 3.11)

    Doesn't cross license patent's, but Microsoft does have to provide a full list the patents that they believe Samba infringes. This allows Samba guys to code around it. Good news for them.
    • by calebt3 (1098475) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:47PM (#21771912)

      I've always reckoned Microsoft should release the code for their unsupported OS's such as Windows 3.11
      The OSs may be unsupported, but the code is still used.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      >> (I've always reckoned Microsoft should release the code for their unsupported OS's such as Windows 3.11)

      How could they? They still use the damn code!
    • by dlevitan (132062)

      I'm sure Microsoft will use this in their 'we support open source' campaign. (I've always reckoned Microsoft should release the code for their unsupported OS's such as Windows 3.11)

      This'll never happen. Even if they completely change the codebase. Think about how many bugs there are in the Windows codebase that haven't been discovered yet. Think about how many of those bugs probably pertain to the design of the code (and may well be carried over into a completely different codebase). What would happen if MS released the Windows ME codebase as open source? The 1.5% of users out there still using Windows 98/Me are probably going to be hacked in about 5 minutes and Windows 2000/XP/Vista

      • by AnyoneEB (574727)

        I know this sounds like a troll, but, seriously: do you really believe any of those 1.5% of users still running Windows 9x/ME aren't rooted already?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Kihaji (612640)
          Actually, I bet none of them are for a couple of reasons. 1) These are machines that do very little if anything on a network. They are usually those boxes that sit in "mom's office" for her to do home accounting, and if they are on the net, they do email and some web with very very old browsers. And 2)Thier libraries are so old that the attack vectors modern virus/worms use just don't exist.
    • Not: "Microsoft does have to provide a full list the patents that they believe Samba infringes."

      Rather: MS must provide a full list of all patents that apply to this work.

      That Samba infringes is only FUD. (But insightful FUD).
    • The shell company and the subcontracted developers (Samba etc) cannot release the documentation.

      BUT, they can create a reference implementation with normal source code comments and release that without any limits. This will effectively document the protocols. The hoi polloi just can't read Microsoft's documentation directly.

      And if the documentation is incorrect, there are recourses.
      And if patents come into play, there are recourses.
      And if the documentation gets out of date, there are recourses.
      And if you re
    • "I'm sure Microsoft will use this in their 'we support open source' campaign."

      Well, for the first time they'll be encoraging interoperability. What is the problem of them bragging about something that is true?

      It is much better than bragging about something that isn't, like they use to do.

  • I am somewhat dubious, but this /could/ mean that I may finally be able to convince my workplace to adopt more linux workstations. I for one will work on samba if the allusions made by the summary are true. I say this because, all other issues aside, Windows interoperability really is an issue where I work.
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:56PM (#21772026) Homepage

    Taking a quick look at the agreement, it looks like PFIF can't release the documentation to the public. So, as a user of Samba, if I find a bug in Samba's handling of the protocols, how do I fix it? If I have to rely on the "Samba Team" to fix the problem, this isn't much better than source-available proprietary software---I'm still tied to a single vendor.

    Let's be serious, they're still confidential, proprietary protocols, aren't they? Way to go, Microsoft.

    • by Jeremy Allison - Sam (8157) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @07:00PM (#21772064) Homepage
      They way it will work is as follows. We'll read the docs and work on creating client-side test cases and embedding them into Samba4 smbtorture. Once that's in place, any competent engineer can create the server-side implementation without having to have access to the actual docs. We need the test cases anyway (remember, untested code is broken code), so this is the way we've been going about doing things anyway. This should just open up new protocols and new protocol areas to implementation by others.

      Jeremy.
    • Since this is Slashdot where no one ever reads the original article I will repost my Groklaw comments here:

      1) PFIF should try to produce at least one reference implementation of each
      protocol that is heavily commented and designed to be clear and straightforward
      rather than fast and efficient. These can serve as documentation for those who
      cannot or will not sign the NDA.

      2) A group (completely seperate from and independent of PFIF) should be formed
      to "inverse engineer" the above-mentioned reference implementat
  • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:58PM (#21772038) Journal

    If the licensed documentation is under non-disclosure terms, but the source code is still freely distributable....

    what's the point to the documentation not being disclosable?

    Talk about pointless legalese...

    • by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @07:27PM (#21772542)
      I suppose so proprietary software developers have to pay them the 10 000 again (or pay Samba for a non-GPL license), although an X11-style licensed free software project could, of course, get the documents gratis from the PFIF making that situation moot.

      However, the more fundemental reason is that Microsoft's European lawyers need something that they can tell Ballmer they haven't backed down on in their fight with the EC to avoid any coniciosesiation* incidents.

      * chair throwing

      • by aj50 (789101)
        Could a proprietary software developer not do something similar, have one employee document the protocol from the samba source and have another implement it again from that documentation?
        Given the effort involved, it might be easier to pay MS $10000...
  • Am I going to be able to run a Linux based Domain Controller? Is my Samba box going to be able to publish Active Directory compatible ACLs for the shares it hosts? Is nmap now going to tell me that Samba boxes are Win2K3 servers?!?! ;)
    • by dave562 (969951)
      The title should have been, "What does this mean in the real world?" Grammar Nazi's please pardon me.
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @08:07PM (#21773038)
      Samba has been developed without the actual documentation of the protocols. The team has done a remarkable job of reverse-engineering them as much as possible. The end result is that Samba is mostly compatible with Windows servers and clients. But there have been some missing pieces because the protocols haven't been open. For example Samba can operate in an Active Directory (AD) domain but cannot be used as a primary AD server. It could be used to make a Linux Primary Domain Controller though.
    • Am I going to be able to run a Linux based Domain Controller?

      Samba has allowed Linux/Unix boxes to be a Primary Domain Controller for a while.

      Is my Samba box going to be able to publish Active Directory compatible ACLs for the shares it hosts?

      Yes I think it does but I'm not an expert.

      Is nmap now going to tell me that Samba boxes are Win2K3 servers?!?! ;)

      I'm not sure but that is probably not a good thing. ;)

      • Primary Domain Controllers died with NT4. As of server 2000, the concept of "primary" was removed and everything was made multi-master.

        To that end, no, samba has not been able to *fully* function as a "domain controller" - as that is a separate technology from that of a "primary domain controller." They share some characteristics, but they are not the same thing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by joeytmann (664434)
          Well there are the FSMO roles, and the one I think he is referring to is the PDC Emulator role, which there can be only one.
          • by dave562 (969951)
            Will they ever be able to fill FSMO roles? How about providing NETLOGON share functionality to permit the replication of group policy objects and logon scripts? I imagine that Microsoft will probably draw the line some where. I doubt that they'd let a third party have all of the knowledge required to produce an Active Directory domain.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Ajehals (947354)
              I would assume since the EU is aiming to make it possible for third parties to interoperate with Microsoft products (IIRC this is intended to mitigate the negative effects of Microsoft's monopoly whilst providing an opportunity for competition) that Microsoft 'letting'

              a third party have all of the knowledge required to produce an Active Directory domain.

              isn't really an issue, the intent is to try to make it possible and in doing so make it possible for anyone interested to produce a node (for want of a better word) that can provide an/or utilise services made available within a domain.

              Micr

        • Unless I am very much mistaken (I have only recently taken over administration of a companies AD infrastructure), one of your Active Directory Domain Controllers (usually the first one in the domain) is more important than any of the others, and must be treated as such in disaster recovery scenarios. If it dies, the AD suffers.

          But that's only what I have surmised from about a months worth of hands on experience and nothing else - anyone care to correct me (please?!)?
  • Merry Xmas, happy new years etc.

  • Ok (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rrohbeck (944847) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @07:59PM (#21772964)
    Now can we do the same thing for the Outlook/Exchange protocol?
  • This makes a mixed environment more accessible and I imagine with Microsoft seeing that they are having to deal with many solutions not of their own that they'd treat this as a playing nice in the sandbox. Customers are tolerant but if they can find a compelling solution that saves them money I think Microsoft is wise to put this in so as to stem such customer defections.
  • As with the original EU descision, i am somewhat disappointed.

    The WSPP protocols dont covery enough. And to be honest, things like smb/ad should be FORCED into an open standard when they're a dominant player in the market (and used as leverage for even more monopolism).

    On top of that, it should have covered many more protocols, the exchange protocols for starters.

    Really very disappointed in this descision and AT for going out making it sound like a win.
  • This is fine and good but I was under the impression the Samba team had reverse-engineered a lot of protocols to get where they are. Can they not do the same with Active Directory too? Is it a patent or legal issue or is it actually a technical hurdle?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ledow (319597)
      Yeah, they can do the same, so long as they follow the well-established clean-room procedure, as they have done previously and are still doing. And the current (and next) Samba already has a lot of AD in it, just not stuff that's useful to managing networks like Group Policy etc. which IS covered by this agreement. AD auth is already in most samba's distributed. However, if you want to work out all the corner cases, all the undocumented stuff etc. then you need specs. Or else you can spend (literally) a
  • Its pretty funny that Novell cant make their products work against AD. They have this agreement with Microsoft and it sure looks like pure vapour.

    Samba seems the only way that Novell can make for example Open Enterprise work as an AD controller. This is in my mind pretty funny considering they are supposedly in an interoperability agreement with Microsoft.

    What i think happened was that Novell was given a large wad of money to shut up and pretend that Microsoft is working togheter with others in the industry
  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Friday December 21, 2007 @08:54AM (#21777752)
    Great! Now maybe someone in OSS can figure out how to route Netbeui!

    What!?

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday December 21, 2007 @03:29PM (#21782914)
    ...a Microsoft press release announced the replacement for Windows Work Group Server, Windows Team-Up. Among its enhancements will be an all-new protocol which Microsoft claims will be more efficient and powerful than its predecessor.

    Chris Mattern

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