[Samba] Horrible Linux/Samba vs Windows political battle - can you help?

Nathan Vidican nvidican at wmptl.com
Tue Sep 20 13:36:08 GMT 2005

We are a large Tool and Die facility in Canada, our network hosts multiple 
segments connected via private fiber, and wireless building-building bridges. 
We have around 70 office computers including an engineering department 
dealing with large 3D and 2D CAD/die designs and CNC files. Our second plant 
houses a dedicated MySQL server, which logs and maintains records to/from an 
automated production line (robotics). We have been for some years now 
depending on FreeBSD on our servers. While it's not Linux, it does share a 
common open-source regime and does utilize many of the same apps. For now, 
let's put the FreeBSD vs. Linux discussion off to the side, as we're 
basically the same in terms of running samba. I'll give you a bit of the 
history, as we migrated slowly into the open-source world, largely due to 
sceptism in the same manor as you're encountering now, except in our case - 
it was our company's president who was the advocate of Microsoft's stuff.

We started here about six years ago with a single 486 40mhz PC to run sendmail 
and nat forwarding for internet access. The little 486 got to the point where 
we were transferring absurd amounts of data over it, yet it never actually 
gave out on us, (for software reasons anyhow). That little 486 proved to our 
management, that FreeBSD had a viable existence on our network. Later that 
year when a large power surge baked the hardware on the machine, and the 
office had to go without for a friday afternoon... you'd have thought we took 
away the office lighting or something. That Saturday morning we were given 
top-priority to build/get some replacement up fast.

Needless to say a new machine VERY quickly replaced the old one, with a little 
more hardware-power the very next day. At this point we'd still have been 
relying on Novell Netware for our file/print services. The use of the FreeBSD 
machine began to grow though. It seems that with new hardware resources 
available, we could and wanted to do more.

With each new idea, and with each new request to IT, we found new uses for our 
FreeBSD box, from MySQL and Apache, to embeded apps written using mod_perl on 
our intranet... to squid and some custom apps for monitoring and limiting 
internet access. With each new application however, the machine became more 
and more taxed. This machine was a single AMD K6-350mhz machine with 768megs 
of Ram, and though it started with less, ended with an 80GB, a 60GB, and a 
20GB ATA disk. This machine is still in service today, allthough it has new 
drives and updated software installed - it is our squid proxy/accelerating 
machine. Needless to say... a new box has since replaced it.

Earlier this year, we evaluated a Microsoft-Based Server solution, utilizing 
Windows 2003 Server Platform. The hardware requirements on the email side of 
things alone were insane. Exchange wanted a minimum of 2GB ram, and some 
pretty heavy cpus on a machine totally dedicated to nothing else but email, 
(as the old creed goes 'NT can be good at any ONE thing'). So our end 
solution would have required three new servers and still relied upon our 
gateway/firewall on the FreeBSD box. The hardware cost alone being close to 
double that of our current situation. The other drawback (obviously) was 
cost; we were looking at licensing costs from $40,000.00 upwards to 
$100,000.00 if we included maintenance/upgrades for 3 years. Yet oddly 
enough, cost was not the biggest reason we neglected to run with Windows 
Server, or at least not the biggest one. Bear in mind it was our company 
president who was the Microsoft Advocate in our case.

In the end, we gave the decision to our President, with our strong advice to 
take the money we'd have to put into licensing costs and instead put it into 
better hardware and an all-around network upgrade, and save the larger 
portion for other business needs. The management type always like to be told 
they can save money for other needs - even if money's not the issue... it 
will be at some point. Our primary reasons for open-source/samba vs. windows 

#1 - We simply could not run the same processes nor do things the same way we 
have been in the same ways, with Windows. Procedures would be forced to 
change, capability and ability would be limited to the scope which Microsoft 
sets out. In our case this included a lot of custom email routing, while 
possible with Exchange... took a LOT more work to do.

#2 - Custom programming. A large portion of the database-driven apps we 
created and utilize here everyday are run over the company intranet and we 
written making use of many great open-source utilities which are simply 
unavailable as such on windows, (in some cases, there are proprietary or 
commercial versions of products which could be adapted to work, but why adapt 
something else to work when you already have something that DOES work). Even, 
if we were to completely re-write everything we had, it would have to be 
written in a language Microsoft had not yet finalized (.net), or with one 
they intend to wien-out (VB6/ASP/COM)... so why spend time to antiquate 

#3 - Backup and recovery. Our current situation lends itself to some 
redundancy we could not acquire with Microsoft Server 2003 without having yet 
more licenses and server hardware. We currently mirror a little over 100GB of 
data from one server to the other and maintain both samba config files and 
slave copies of the LDAP tree on both machines. Given some sort of 
catastrophic event where we were to lose an entire server, one command-line 
later and no one in the office would even have to know. When we approached 
Microsoft with this problem, they pointed us towards a backup-licensed server 
option wherein we could legitimately use our license on a completely separate 
server and have it there waiting to be powered up in the event of such a 
failure. Problem then of course being that we'd have to power this thing up 
all the time to update it's data/configuration and maintain/purchase yet 
another server. 

#4 - Hardware cost, as noted above... the 'Microsoft Way' simply requires more 
resources to do the same thing. Our server load remains under 10% most of the 
time, spiking at peak times to as high as 40%, given published and 
reccomended requirements for our given load, there's simply no-way Microsoft 
Server could do that.

In the end, with our President's blessing, we went with two home-brewed dual 
AMD opteron-based boxen with RAID storage facilities and plenty of room for 
growth. The requirement was for each of the two servers to be able to take 
over for the other in the event of an outage, to act as domain controllers 
with single-sign-on and roaming profiles, and to be able to 
maintain/build-upon all of our current custom applications. We were also 
aiming for a little over a terabyte of redundant networked and backed-up 
storage, (which we managed to accomplish). We've been running now for a 
little over a year with (knock-on-wood) very good success. 

At current, all file/print services are served using samba, an LDAP tree 
replaces Microsoft's Active Directory, with the load independently shared 
between two servers - either one capable of taking over for each other in a 
heartbeat if need be. These two new servers, lent us to re-utilizing the 
old(er) server hardware for other purposes and we've since offset out 
proxy/internet traffic to a dedicated machine running squid, (our old 
mail/everything server), and we still maintain our firewall/router on 
FreeBSD. This gives us room to grow, which is ALWAYS a selling point, as no 
one really wants to put money into a solution that's not going to last a 

Don't get me wrong, your situation and needs obviously vary from our own, but 
given the nature of your request, I hope our experiences may help you to 
disuade your boss dismissing an open-source (this case linux)-based solution. 

Nathan Vidican
nvidican at wmptl.com
Windsor Match Plate & Tool Ltd.

On Monday 19 September 2005 19:49, Gregory A. Cain wrote:
> h CAD or BIM software, who is using Linux as your
> server software, I would sure be appreciative it if you could write a
> testimonial for me to help me convince my boss that migrating from Linux
> to MS would be a horrible mistake.

More information about the samba mailing list