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I have an old Samba 3 + LDAP server installed that needs to be rebuilt. I'm weighting my options, and Windows Server seems too expensive at the moment, and Samba 4 appeared to be a nice option, coupled with the last Bind 9 that can dynamically add the computers to the DNS.

I have about 30 workstations, so I still consider it a small network.

My questions are:

  1. Is Samba 4 stable enough for production? It seems as if the Samba team is too cautious on when to call their version final, or even beta, as compared with other open source projects.
  2. What Linux distribution would you recommend to set it up? I usually use Ubuntu Server, but may use another one if installing / maintaining Samba 4 is better on that one.
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

As a suffering admin of a Samba 3 domain, I am desperate to upgrade to Samba 4.

However until it is formally released, it just isn't worth the risk of upgrading. If it's for a couple of computers or home, then fine. If it's for an organisation that will lose money from computer downtime then don't do it - the risks are just too great.

To quote the official Samba FAQ:

Can I use Samba 4 on my production server right now?

No. Samba 4 is still under heavy development. Samba 4 is not due to replace Samba 3 soon. Many of the required core features are present, but the code is still alpha and user tools as well as some core features are still missing.

Edit (December 2012)

Since Samba 4 has been (finally!) officially released, I guess the answer has changed to probably yes - if you are not the early adopter type then you may want to wait until a few more people are using it, but the reasons I listed above are no longer relevant.

Now that it's 'stable', it's probably good to ask the question; aside from stability what issues are there compared to AD on Windows - see Samba 4 or Active Directory

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I'm still debating the issue... I want to get out of Samba 3 so badly... I may end up with a Windows domain after all, even though I'm not too happy of the license fee attached to it. – pgb Mar 18 '11 at 14:17
@pgb: they have went from alpha to RC through beta during, basically, this summer. I wouldn't call that "too cautious". If they keep this speed up, I'd say we will see gold release before 1Q2013 end. I'd go for Samba3+LDAP deployment now, and experimenting with Samba4. 30 stations is manageable without a domain, but it depends on users. – Hubert Kario Sep 21 '12 at 1:36
We are currently using Samba3 + LDAP, but since that server is due for an updated, I wanted to throw in Samba4 as well and get rid of the standalone LDAP server. – pgb Sep 21 '12 at 13:29

The new Zentyal 3 (based on Ubuntu 12.04) is using Samba4 beta ( I don't think it has upgrade to the RC release of samba4 yet) and seems quite stable. They offer official paid support and claim that Canonical supports Zentyal 3 as well.

I have done tests with it and am quite pleased. I haven't run into any show stoppers testing, but I also haven't had any suckers ask me to set it up on their network yet either. As always, your mileage may vary, but honestly, Samba4 seems quite stable right now.

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samba4 is not stable. It is working and that is great but if you look at CHANGELOGS you will see many features are still being introduced on Release Candidates. Yes if you have a small environment you most likely won't even notice but for larger deployments... – Andre de Miranda Oct 10 '12 at 12:35
Does anyone have experiences with Zentyal? Is it something to recommend? – pgb Nov 28 '12 at 20:55
I have quite a bit of experience with it. I have been using zentyal3 on one server now for a while. It has it quirks and their forums can be hit and miss, but for the most part everything just works. – senorsmile Nov 29 '12 at 1:01

If you really need a solid directory server, it is worth it to purchase one, at the very least you can point to a license and support agreement if the, ahem, hits the fan.

Despite being primarily a "Windows guy", I believe Red Hat and Novell both offer supported LDAP servers. In the past when quoting Red Hat I've noticed their prices are on par with Microsoft's (take that how you will) and Novell was cheaper, but this was some years ago.

If you guys get an Open Value License with Microsoft, you can split the price of Windows Server over 3 years, and you get the benefit of the option of a maintenance subscription afterward. Other vendors have their own intricate licensing schemes so you'll have to navigate those on your own.

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The prices all depend on your configuration: RHEL is per socket while Microsoft licensing is usually dominated by CAL cost. Sometimes even going for AD over Samba on Debian or CentOS will have lower TCO. And I say this as a "Linux guy". – Hubert Kario Sep 21 '12 at 0:58

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