0.3 The CIFS Community

0.3 The CIFS Community

Microsoft's implementations are the de facto CIFS standards. This is no surprise, as the SMB protocol was originally developed by IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and 3Com specifically for MS-DOS and PC-DOS. It is Microsoft's current massive dominance in the desktop world, however, that makes the CIFS marketplace worthwhile. Several companies earn their money by selling CIFS client and server software, or fileserver hardware with CIFS support. Without complete documentation, these third-party vendors might be forced to rely only on their own reverse-engineering or on licensed derivations of Microsoft's own implementations. This would reduce the " commonality " of CIFS and, given Microsoft's dominant market share, could have a negative impact on competitors ' ability to compete .

Fortunately, there is a lot of communication within the CIFS community. There is also a renegade band of coders known as the Samba Team. Since 1991, they have been gathering information and implementing their own CIFS server, called Samba. (Note how the letters "s," "m," and "b" appear in sequence in the Samba name . Cool, eh?) Samba is published as Open Source under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Samba Team members typically share what they learn, and have even been known to write a little documentation now and again. Samba is included with most distributions of Linux and several commercial Unix flavors as well.

Samba has generated a few related projects, including SMB client filesystems for Linux, AmigaOS, and other platforms. There is also Richard Sharpe's libsmbclient , the Samba-TNG project, the jCIFS project, and this book.

0.3.1 Visiting the Network Neighborhood

On most days, members of the CIFS community can be found hanging out on Microsoft's CIFS mailing list, the Samba-Technical mailing list, or the jCIFS mailing list. In addition to these virtual geek caf s there is the mostly-annual CIFS conference. In the past it has been sponsored by such luminary organizations as EMC, Microsoft, Network Appliance, SCO, and the Storage Networking Industry Association. The conference provides an opportunity for CIFS developers to meet each other face-to-face, swap stories, whine, and (best of all) test their products with & against everyone else's. If you are serious about implementing CIFS, we'll see you there.

Service Network GmbH is the primary sponsor of yet another conference of interest. The first Samba eXPerience (aka sambaXP) was held in G ttingen, Germany, in April of 2002. It was very successful, and has become an annual event. While it is specific to Samba and related Open Source implementations (Samba-TNG, jCIFS, etc.), the information exchanged is valuable to anyone interested in CIFS networking.

0.3.2 Community Collaborations

It should also be noted that an effort, organized at one of the CIFS conferences and lead by the S torage N etwork I ndustry A ssociation (SNIA), has been underway within the CIFS community to draft an "open" CIFS reference with input from many interested parties. Version 1.0 of the SNIA CIFS Technical Reference has been released and is available on the SNIA web site. For more information, poke around the SNIA CIFS Working Group web pages.

0.4 Audience

This book is aimed at developers who want to add CIFS compatibility to their products. It will also be very helpful to network and system administrators who need to understand the curious things that CIFS does on the wire, in the server, and at the desktop. In addition, there is empirical evidence which suggests that the Internet security community (both the light and the dark sides) is keenly interested in the (mis)behavior of the CIFS suite. This is a technical book, and knowledge of programming and TCP/IP networking is assumed. The protocol descriptions, however, start with the basics and build up, so very little previous knowledge of CIFS is expected.

For the programmer, there are several code examples. They have all been tested under Debian GNU/Linux, but you may need to do a little work to get them to run elsewhere. The code is intended to be illustrative rather than functional. It works, but it is not production-quality. That's okay, since part of the purpose of this book is to help you write your own codeif that's where your interests lie. If you don't care about source code you can safely skip much of it. Those who do like source can find additional examples at http://ubiqx.org/libcifs/.

A certain amount of SMB/CIFS protocol information has been available since the early days, but finding the important bits typically involves digging through detailed technical references, protocol specifications, packet dumps, web pages, whitepapers, source code, and mailing list archives. That's a lot of work, and a nuisance, and annoying. As a result, CIFS development has become an arcane art practiced by an elite few... and that's a darned shame.

This book attempts to solve this problem by selectively digging through the muck and presenting the uncovered gems in a coherent form, thus making the CIFS suite more accessible to more people.