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LISA 2000 Abstract

Fokstraut and Samba - Dealing with Authentication and Performance Issues On A Large Scale Samba Service

Robert Beck & Steve Holstead, University of Alberta


At the University of Alberta, we have approximately 55,000 user id's using central services authenticated by Kerberos. We use AFS for central file service. We use Samba to provide Windows compatible access to much of our central file service. Samba contains a number of useful features for Microsoft Windows compatibility, including a kludge to deal with the problem of Windows sending an all uppercase version of a user's password. We observed that when Windows connects to a share, it frequently attempts many incorrect passwords repeatedly before trying the correct one. This created a very heavy authentication load on our central Samba service when users would connect every morning and authenticate. We observed this load and noticed that most of our problems were caused by repeated attempts to authenticate, and the high cost of checking these attempts.

To help reduce the load due to authentication, we implemented FOKSTRAUT, a set of modifications to Samba to cache recent password failures and successes in a DBM database built by the Samba server as it runs. By caching the recent failures we avoid expensive re-checks of the (many) other passwords Windows likes to send us. We also cache the correct case of the real password, and by doing so we avoid the expensive overhead of ``cracking'' an all uppercase password When Windows decides to send one. We also use FOKSTRAUT to cache the NT and LanMan password hashes of a users password once we see a successful authentication. This then allows us to use the newer Windows NT password hash after the user has connected once, without having to centrally convert and maintain a large SMB password file, and while maintaining the ability of our server to access services such as AFS which can not be authenticated against using the Windows password hash alone. Performance on our service has been drastically improved since the implementation of FOKSTRAUT.

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Last changed: 16 Jan. 2002 ml
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