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Making NFS Work On Your Network


By Jeff Ballard  Stepping back and examining the Network File System (NFS) to give it a comprehensive overview is by no means an easy task. There is a wide range of uses for NFS, as well as a wide range of knowledge about what NFS does and what NFS can do. NFS is ubiquitous in a Unix system and often you can be using NFS without knowing it.

Unix systems today are nearly inseparable from NFS. Every different variety of Unix comes with its own version of NFS. While many things vary from Unix vendor to Unix vendor, NFS support is almost always very solid across all Unix varieties. While it is not the only file access protocol out there, NFS remains the most often used. Other file access protocols such as AFS (Andrew File System), and DFS (Distributed File System) are not used widely, and are most often only available from third-party vendors.


History
In the beginning, NFS started out like many projects on the Internet today--in the back room as a pet project. NFS was started by a group of engineers at Sun Microsystems in the early eighties. That was when microprocessors had just become available and people were starting to venture away from minicomputers and mainframes. While there was relatively large amounts of computing power at every desktop, storage was still extremely expensive. Large storage options were still only available on the minis and mainframes. To move your data among these environments was awkward, and by no means transparent. NFS was developed to be integrated into the system so that the end users would not have to manually transfer their files, and a native interface would be presented.

Finally released in 1984 by Sun Microsystems corporation, NFS was designed to be a stateless file access protocol that could be used across potentially unreliable networks. It was revised in 1985 to version 2.0, the most common file access protocol in use today. This was standardized by RFC 1094 in 1987. As time went on, and needs changed, it became apparent that a new features were needed. So, in 1995, version 3.0 was proposed, providing many key features.




Jeff Ballard can be reached at jballard@nwc.com



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Related Links

NFS: Hunting For A Cross-Platform File System

NFS Gateway Products For NT: A New Spin On NFS To The Desktop

Unix To NT, NT To Unix: NFS Connectivity Options Galore For Windows NT

Hardware-Based NFS Servers: Built For Prime-Time Speed



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