Samba Overview

No doubt you have heard this software mentioned recently and wondered what is Samba? What can it do for my organization? Samba is a utility package that runs on a non-Windows based operating system that allows clients access to files and printers using the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol. Windows for Workgroups, Windows 9x, and Windows NT systems all have the SMB protocol built in. No other software is needed. Once a connection has been established, clients can send commands (SMBs) to the server that allow them to access shares, open files, read and write files, and generally do all the sort of things that you want to do with a file system. However, in the case of SMB, these things are done over the network.

Samba initially was written for Unix but has since been ported to many other operating systems, including MPE/iX. The port of Samba was done through the efforts of Lars Appel, an HP engineer in Germany. The initial port is considered unsupported shareware, however, Hewlett Packard has supported it since MPE/iX 6.0.

What does this really mean? It means that you can publish shared directories on your HP 3000 that Windows based clients on your network can map to. Files can be generated with applications on your HP 3000 and PCs can access them directly. You can view and edit source files on your HP with your favorite text editor or word processor. You can write Cobol programs to do heavy-duty processing on data from a PC application. All without copying or transferring the data. In short, Samba allows you to view files on your HP 3000 as if they were files on the local hard drive or any other Windows based server.

Other ways you can use Samba include copying data from workstations to the HP 3000 for tape archival. Or you can provide access to data via an interface other than a terminal emulator, eliminating a number MPE logons thus limiting the number of users logged on against your MPE user license.

Don’t think, however, that you can use Samba to completely replace a file server. The performance of Samba compared to the performance of a file server is not great. They have distinctively different purposes. A file server is designed specifically to open large numbers of files quickly and provide access to those files to end-users. The file system is designed more for speed, less for dependability. MPE on the other hand is designed to protect data and the file system at all costs, with considerable performance penalties to open. FOPEN is still the most expensive intrinsic to call in terms of CPU time. This is the price we pay for a powerful, robust, and most importantly reliable file system.

Samba/iX won’t replace your file servers. However it will give your MPE system considerable network exposure. Along with TCP/IP and POSIX compliance, Samba is just another example of how the HP 3000 is a viable platform in the Open Systems arena.