Tests by IT Week Labs show the latest version of the open-source Samba file and print server software is 2.5 times faster than Windows Server 2003 in the same role.
The news comes as many firms are grappling with the consequences of Microsoft ending support for NT4, coupled with uncertainty about when Microsoft will next update Windows. The performance difference between Windows Server 2003 and Samba 3 has increased dramatically compared with Samba 2 and Windows 2000 Server.
Samba provides file and print services to Windows PCs. It enables a Linux or Unix server to work as a file server for client PCs running Windows software. The new version also introduces support for Microsoft's Active Directory for allocating and controlling user access rights.
Samba 3's scalability is as impressive as its performance. While Windows performance scales up well initially, it then drops off quickly as more clients access the server. In contrast, Samba 3 offered excellent throughput up to the limit of our test, conducted on a low-spec Intel server.
Consequently, firms could save money on licence fees, and on hardware, by using Samba instead of Windows servers. IT consultant Alan Munday, who recommends Samba to his clients, said the resulting saving was a key consideration for firms.
Munday is already using version 3 at some smaller sites. However, he was dismissive of Active Directory. "I'm not [interested in the new Active Directory features] because the primary focus for my smaller clients is to migrate away from their ageing NT servers."