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    Podcasts Bring the Sounds of SNIA’s Storage Developer Conference to Your Car, Boat, Train, or Plane!

    May 26th, 2016

    SNIA’s Storage Developer Conference (SDC) offers exactly what a developer of cloud, solid state, security, analytics, or big data applications is looking  for – rich technical content delivered in a no-vendor bias manner by today’s leading technologists.  The 2016 SDC agenda is being compiled, but now yousdc podcast pic can get a “sound bite” of what to expect by downloading  SDC podcasts via iTunes, or visiting the … Continue reading


    The Advantages of NFSv4.1

    February 19th, 2013

    In a previous blog post Why NFSv4.1 and pNFS are Better than NFSv3 Could Ever Be, some of the issues with NFSv3 that made it difficult to implement as a WAN based or data center wide protocol were discussed. The question then becomes; why not move to NFSv4 instead of NFSv4.1? Isn’t that a bigger leap from NFSv3?

    Well, practical experience and some issues with NFSv4 made NFSv4.1 a necessity; for one, it introduces the key concept of sessions, and provides a foundation for pNFS (parallel NFS) which we’ll discuss in a later blog post. And all the features of NFSv4 were carried over into NFSv4.1, since it was a minor version update; there’s little more to do to take advantage of NFSv4.1, so that’s where your focus evaluation and implementation should be.

    TCP for Transport

    NFSv3 supports both TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol), and UDP is sometimes employed (for those applications that support it) because it is perceived to be lightweight and faster in comparison to TCP.

    The downside of UDP is that it’s connectionless (that is, stateless) and an unreliable protocol. There is no guarantee that the datagrams will be delivered in any given order to the destination host — or even delivered at all — so applications must be specifically designed to handle missing, duplicate or incorrectly ordered data. UDP is also not a good network citizen; there is no concept of congestion or flow control, and no ability to apply quality of service (QoS) criteria.

    The NFSv4 specification requires that any transport used provides congestion control. The easiest way to do this is via TCP. By using TCP, NFSv4 clients and servers are able to adapt to known frequent spikes in unreliability on the Internet; and retransmission is managed in the transport layer instead of in the application layer, greatly simplifying applications and their management on a shared network.

    NFSv4 also introduces strict rules about retries over TCP in contrast to the complete lack of rules in NFSv3 for retries over TCP. As a result, if NFSv3 clients have timeouts that are too short, NFSv3 servers may drop requests. NFSv4 uses the timers that are built into the connection-oriented transport.

    Network Ports

    To access an NFS server, an NFSv3 client must contact the server’s portmapper to find the port of the mountd server. It then contacts the mount server to get an initial file handle, and again contacts the portmapper to get the port of the NFS server. Finally, the client can access the NFS server.

    This creates problems for using NFS through firewalls, because firewalls typically filter traffic based on well-known port numbers. If the client is inside a firewalled network, and the server is outside the network, the firewall needs to know what ports the portmapper, mountd and nfsd servers are listening on. The mount server can listen on any port, so telling the firewall what port to permit is not practical. While the NFS server usually listens on port 2049, sometimes it does not. While the portmapper always listens on the same port (111), many firewall administrators, out of excessive caution, block requests to port 111 from inside the firewalled network to servers outside the network. As a result, NFSv3 is not practical to use through firewalls. (Aside from which, without security, it’s risky too.)

    NFSv4 uses a single port number by mandating the server will listen on port 2049. There are no “auxiliary” protocols like statd, lockd and mountd required as the mounting and locking protocols have been incorporated into the NFSv4 protocol. This means that NFSv4 clients do not need to contact the portmapper, and do not need to access services on floating ports.

    As NFSv4 uses a single TCP connection with a well-defined destination TCP port, it traverses firewalls and network address translation (NAT) devices with ease, and makes firewall configuration as simple as configuration for HTTP servers.

    Mounts and Automounter

    The automounter daemons and the utilities on different flavors of UNIX and Linux are capable of identifying different NFS versions. However, using the automounter will require at least port 111 to be permitted through any firewall between server and client, as it uses the portmapper.

    This is undesirable if you are extending the use of NFSv4 beyond traditional NFSv3 environments, so in preference the widely available “mirror mount” facility can be used. It enhances the behavior of the NFSv4 client by creating a new mountpoint whenever it detects that a directory’s fsid differs from that of its parent and automatically mounts filesystems when they are encountered at the NFSv4 server .

    This enhancement does not require the use of the automounter and therefore does not rely on the content or propagation of automounter maps, the availability of NFSv3 services such as mountd, or opening firewall ports beyond the single port 2049 required for NFSv4.

    Internationalization Support; UTF-8

    Yes, those funny characters outside of US-ASCII are supported. In a welcome recognition that it set no longer provides the descriptive capabilities demanded by languages with larger alphabets or those that use an extensive range of non-Roman glyphs, NFSv4 uses UTF-8 for file names, directories, symlinks and user and group identifiers. As UTF-8 is backwards compatible with 7 bit encoded ASCII, any names that are 7 bit ASCII will continue to work.

    Compound RPCs

    Latency in a wide area network (WAN) is a perennial issue, and is very often measured in tenths of a second to seconds. NFS uses Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs) to undertake all its communication with the server, and although the payload is normally small, meta-data operations are largely synchronous and serialized. Operations such as file lookup (LOOKUP), the fetching of attributes (GETATTR) and so on, make up the largest percentage by count of the average traffic load on NFS.

    This mix of a typical NFS set of RPC calls in versions prior to NFSv4 requires each RPC call is a separate transaction over the wire. NFSv4 avoids the expense of single RPC requests and the attendant latency issues and allows these calls to be bundled together. For instance, a lookup, open, read and close can be sent once over the wire, and the server can execute the entire compound call as a single entity. The effect is to reduce latency considerably for multiple operations.

    Delegations

    Servers are employing ever more quantities of RAM and flash technologies, and very large caches in the orders of terabytes are not uncommon. Applications running over NFSv3 can’t take advantage of these caches unless they have specific application support. With increasing WAN latencies doing every IO over the wire introduces significant delay.

    NFSv4 allows the server to delegate certain responsibilities to the client, a feature that allows caching locally where the data is being accessed. Once delegated, the client can act on the file locally with the guarantee that no other client has a conflicting need for the file; it allows the application to have locking, reading and writing requests serviced on the application server without any further communication with the NFS server. To prevent deadlocking conditions, the server can recall the delegation via an asynchronous callback to the client should there be a conflicting request for access to the file from a different client.

    Migration, Replicas and Referrals

    For broader use within a datacenter, and in support of high availability applications such as databases and virtual environments, copying data for backup and disaster recovery purposes, or the ability to migrate it to provide VM location independence are essential. NFSv4 provides facilities for both transparent replication and migration of data, and the client is responsible for ensuring that the application is unaware of these activities. An NFSv4 referral allows servers to redirect clients from this server’s namespace to another server; it allows the building of a global namespace while maintaining the data on discrete and separate servers.

    Sessions

    Perhaps one of the most significant features of NFSv4.1 is the introduction of stateful sessions. Sessions bring the advantages of correctness and simplicity to NFS semantics. In order to improve on the correctness of NFSv4, NFSv4.1 sessions introduce “exactly-once” semantics.
    Servers maintain one or more session states in agreement with the client; they maintain the server’s state relative to the connections belonging to a client. Clients can be assured that their requests to the server have been executed, and that they will never be executed more than once.

    Sessions extend the idea of NFSv4 delegations, which introduced server-initiated asynchronous callbacks; clients can initiate session requests for connections to the server. For WAN based systems, this simplifies operations through firewalls.

    Security

    An area of great confusion, many believe that NFSv4 requires the use of strong security. The NFSv4 specification simply states that implementation of strong RPC security by servers and clients is mandatory, not the use of strong RPC security. This misunderstanding may explain the reluctance of users from migrating to NFSv4 due to the additional work in implementing or modifying their existing Kerberos security.

    Security is increasingly important as NFSv4 makes data more easily available over the WAN. This feature was considered so important by the IETF NFS working group that the security specification using Kerberos v5 was “retrofitted” to the NFSv2 and NFSv3 specifications.

    Graphic for Advantages of NFS

    Although access to an NFS filesystem without strong security such as provided by Kerberos is possible, across a WAN it should really be considered only as a temporary measure. In that spirit, it should be noted that NFSv4 can be used without implementing Kerberos security. The fact that it is possible does not make it desirable! A fuller description of the issues and some migration considerations can be found in the SNIA White Paper “Migrating from NFSv3 to NFSv4”.

    Many of the practical issues faced in implementing robust Kerberos security in a UNIX environment can be eased by using a Windows Active Directory (AD) system. Windows uses the standard Kerberos protocol as specified in RFC 1510; AD user accounts are represented to Kerberos in the same way as accounts in UNIX realms. This can be a very attractive solution in mixed-mode environments.

    In the next post, we’ll discuss one of the primary features of NFSv4.1; pNFS, or parallelized NFS, and some of the new work being done in support of NFSv4.2.
    FOOTNOTE: Parts of this blog were originally published in Usenix ;login: February 2012 under the title The Background to NFSv4.1. Used with permission.


    The Advantages of NFSv4.1

    February 19th, 2013

    In a previous blog post Why NFSv4.1 and pNFS are Better than NFSv3 Could Ever Be, some of the issues with NFSv3 that made it difficult to implement as a WAN based or data center wide protocol were discussed. The question then becomes; why not move to NFSv4 instead of NFSv4.1? Isn’t that a bigger leap from NFSv3?

    Well, practical experience and some issues with NFSv4 made NFSv4.1 a necessity; for one, it introduces the key concept of sessions, and provides a foundation for pNFS (parallel NFS) which we’ll discuss in a later blog post. And all the features of NFSv4 were carried over into NFSv4.1, since it was a minor version update; there’s little more to do to take advantage of NFSv4.1, so that’s where your focus evaluation and implementation should be.

    TCP for Transport

    NFSv3 supports both TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol), and UDP is sometimes employed (for those applications that support it) because it is perceived to be lightweight and faster in comparison to TCP.

    The downside of UDP is that it’s connectionless (that is, stateless) and an unreliable protocol. There is no guarantee that the datagrams will be delivered in any given order to the destination host — or even delivered at all — so applications must be specifically designed to handle missing, duplicate or incorrectly ordered data. UDP is also not a good network citizen; there is no concept of congestion or flow control, and no ability to apply quality of service (QoS) criteria.

    The NFSv4 specification requires that any transport used provides congestion control. The easiest way to do this is via TCP. By using TCP, NFSv4 clients and servers are able to adapt to known frequent spikes in unreliability on the Internet; and retransmission is managed in the transport layer instead of in the application layer, greatly simplifying applications and their management on a shared network.

    NFSv4 also introduces strict rules about retries over TCP in contrast to the complete lack of rules in NFSv3 for retries over TCP. As a result, if NFSv3 clients have timeouts that are too short, NFSv3 servers may drop requests. NFSv4 uses the timers that are built into the connection-oriented transport.

    Network Ports

    To access an NFS server, an NFSv3 client must contact the server’s portmapper to find the port of the mountd server. It then contacts the mount server to get an initial file handle, and again contacts the portmapper to get the port of the NFS server. Finally, the client can access the NFS server.

    This creates problems for using NFS through firewalls, because firewalls typically filter traffic based on well-known port numbers. If the client is inside a firewalled network, and the server is outside the network, the firewall needs to know what ports the portmapper, mountd and nfsd servers are listening on. The mount server can listen on any port, so telling the firewall what port to permit is not practical. While the NFS server usually listens on port 2049, sometimes it does not. While the portmapper always listens on the same port (111), many firewall administrators, out of excessive caution, block requests to port 111 from inside the firewalled network to servers outside the network. As a result, NFSv3 is not practical to use through firewalls. (Aside from which, without security, it’s risky too.)

    NFSv4 uses a single port number by mandating the server will listen on port 2049. There are no “auxiliary” protocols like statd, lockd and mountd required as the mounting and locking protocols have been incorporated into the NFSv4 protocol. This means that NFSv4 clients do not need to contact the portmapper, and do not need to access services on floating ports.

    As NFSv4 uses a single TCP connection with a well-defined destination TCP port, it traverses firewalls and network address translation (NAT) devices with ease, and makes firewall configuration as simple as configuration for HTTP servers.

    Mounts and Automounter

    The automounter daemons and the utilities on different flavors of UNIX and Linux are capable of identifying different NFS versions. However, using the automounter will require at least port 111 to be permitted through any firewall between server and client, as it uses the portmapper.

    This is undesirable if you are extending the use of NFSv4 beyond traditional NFSv3 environments, so in preference the widely available “mirror mount” facility can be used. It enhances the behavior of the NFSv4 client by creating a new mountpoint whenever it detects that a directory’s fsid differs from that of its parent and automatically mounts filesystems when they are encountered at the NFSv4 server .

    This enhancement does not require the use of the automounter and therefore does not rely on the content or propagation of automounter maps, the availability of NFSv3 services such as mountd, or opening firewall ports beyond the single port 2049 required for NFSv4.

    Internationalization Support; UTF-8

    Yes, those funny characters outside of US-ASCII are supported. In a welcome recognition that it set no longer provides the descriptive capabilities demanded by languages with larger alphabets or those that use an extensive range of non-Roman glyphs, NFSv4 uses UTF-8 for file names, directories, symlinks and user and group identifiers. As UTF-8 is backwards compatible with 7 bit encoded ASCII, any names that are 7 bit ASCII will continue to work.

    Compound RPCs

    Latency in a wide area network (WAN) is a perennial issue, and is very often measured in tenths of a second to seconds. NFS uses Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs) to undertake all its communication with the server, and although the payload is normally small, meta-data operations are largely synchronous and serialized. Operations such as file lookup (LOOKUP), the fetching of attributes (GETATTR) and so on, make up the largest percentage by count of the average traffic load on NFS.

    This mix of a typical NFS set of RPC calls in versions prior to NFSv4 requires each RPC call is a separate transaction over the wire. NFSv4 avoids the expense of single RPC requests and the attendant latency issues and allows these calls to be bundled together. For instance, a lookup, open, read and close can be sent once over the wire, and the server can execute the entire compound call as a single entity. The effect is to reduce latency considerably for multiple operations.

    Delegations

    Servers are employing ever more quantities of RAM and flash technologies, and very large caches in the orders of terabytes are not uncommon. Applications running over NFSv3 can’t take advantage of these caches unless they have specific application support. With increasing WAN latencies doing every IO over the wire introduces significant delay.

    NFSv4 allows the server to delegate certain responsibilities to the client, a feature that allows caching locally where the data is being accessed. Once delegated, the client can act on the file locally with the guarantee that no other client has a conflicting need for the file; it allows the application to have locking, reading and writing requests serviced on the application server without any further communication with the NFS server. To prevent deadlocking conditions, the server can recall the delegation via an asynchronous callback to the client should there be a conflicting request for access to the file from a different client.

    Migration, Replicas and Referrals

    For broader use within a datacenter, and in support of high availability applications such as databases and virtual environments, copying data for backup and disaster recovery purposes, or the ability to migrate it to provide VM location independence are essential. NFSv4 provides facilities for both transparent replication and migration of data, and the client is responsible for ensuring that the application is unaware of these activities. An NFSv4 referral allows servers to redirect clients from this server’s namespace to another server; it allows the building of a global namespace while maintaining the data on discrete and separate servers.

    Sessions

    Perhaps one of the most significant features of NFSv4.1 is the introduction of stateful sessions. Sessions bring the advantages of correctness and simplicity to NFS semantics. In order to improve on the correctness of NFSv4, NFSv4.1 sessions introduce “exactly-once” semantics.
    Servers maintain one or more session states in agreement with the client; they maintain the server’s state relative to the connections belonging to a client. Clients can be assured that their requests to the server have been executed, and that they will never be executed more than once.

    Sessions extend the idea of NFSv4 delegations, which introduced server-initiated asynchronous callbacks; clients can initiate session requests for connections to the server. For WAN based systems, this simplifies operations through firewalls.

    Security

    An area of great confusion, many believe that NFSv4 requires the use of strong security. The NFSv4 specification simply states that implementation of strong RPC security by servers and clients is mandatory, not the use of strong RPC security. This misunderstanding may explain the reluctance of users from migrating to NFSv4 due to the additional work in implementing or modifying their existing Kerberos security.

    Security is increasingly important as NFSv4 makes data more easily available over the WAN. This feature was considered so important by the IETF NFS working group that the security specification using Kerberos v5 was “retrofitted” to the NFSv2 and NFSv3 specifications.

    Graphic for Advantages of NFS

    Although access to an NFS filesystem without strong security such as provided by Kerberos is possible, across a WAN it should really be considered only as a temporary measure. In that spirit, it should be noted that NFSv4 can be used without implementing Kerberos security. The fact that it is possible does not make it desirable! A fuller description of the issues and some migration considerations can be found in the SNIA White Paper “Migrating from NFSv3 to NFSv4”.

    Many of the practical issues faced in implementing robust Kerberos security in a UNIX environment can be eased by using a Windows Active Directory (AD) system. Windows uses the standard Kerberos protocol as specified in RFC 1510; AD user accounts are represented to Kerberos in the same way as accounts in UNIX realms. This can be a very attractive solution in mixed-mode environments.

    In the next post, we’ll discuss one of the primary features of NFSv4.1; pNFS, or parallelized NFS, and some of the new work being done in support of NFSv4.2.
    FOOTNOTE: Parts of this blog were originally published in Usenix ;login: February 2012 under the title The Background to NFSv4.1. Used with permission.


    Ethernet Storage Forum – 2012 Year in Review and What to Expect in 2013

    December 20th, 2012

    As we come to a close of the year 2012, I want to share some of our successes and briefly highlight some new changes for 2013. Calendar year 2012 has been eventful and the SNIA-ESF has been busy. Here are some of our accomplishments:

    • 10GbE – With virtualization and network convergence, as well as the general availability of LOM and 10GBASE-T cabling, we saw this is a “breakout year” for 10GbE. In July, we published a comprehensive white paper titled “10GbE Comes of Age.” We then followed up with a Webcast “10GbE – Key Trends, Predictions and Drivers.” We ran this live once in the U.S. and once in the U.K. and combined, the Webcast has been viewed by over 400 people!
    • NFS – has also been a hot topic. In June we published a white paper “An Overview of NFSv4” highlighting the many improved features NFSv4 has over NFSv3. A Webcast to help users upgrade, “NFSv4 – Plan for a Smooth Migration,” has also been well received with over 150 viewers to date.  A 4-part Webcast series on NFS is now planned. We kicked the series off last month with “Reasons to Start Working with NFSv4 Now” and will continue on this topic during the early part of 2013. Our next NFS Webcast will be “Advances in NFS – NFSv4.1 and pNFS.” You can register for that here.
    • Flash – The availability of solid state devices based on NAND flash is changing the performance efficiencies of storage. Our September Webcast “Flash – Plan for the Disruption” discusses how Flash is driving the need for 10GbE and has already been viewed by more than 150 people.

    We have also added to expand membership and welcome new membership from Tonian and LSI to the ESF. We expect with this new charter to see an increase in membership participation as we drive incremental value and establish ourselves as a leadership voice for Ethernet Storage.

    As we move into 2013, we expect two hot trends to continue – the broader use of file protocols in datacenter applications, and the continued push toward datacenter consolidation with the use of Ethernet as a storage network. In order to better address these two trends, we have modified our charter for 2013. Our NFS SIG will be renamed the File Protocol SIG and will focus on promoting not only NFS, but also SMB / CIFS solutions and protocols. The iSCSI SIG will be renamed to the Storage over Ethernet SIG and will focus on promoting data center convergence topics with Ethernet networks, including the use of block and file protocols, such as NFS, SMB, FCoE, and iSCSI, over the same wire. This modified charter will allow us to have a richer conversation around storage trends relevant to your IT environment.

    So, here is to a successful 2012, and excitement for the coming year.


    Why NFSv4.1 and pNFS are Better than NFSv3 Could Ever Be

    December 18th, 2012

    NFSv4 has been a standard file sharing protocol since 2003, but has not been widely adopted; party because NFSv3 was “just good enough”. Yet, NFSv4 improves on NFSv3 in many important ways; and NFSv4.1 is a further improvement on that. In this post, I explain the how NFSv4.1 is better suited to a wide range of datacenter and HPC use than its predecessor NFSv3 and NFSv4, as well as providing resources for migrating from NFSv3 to NFSv4.1. And, most importantly, I make the argument that users should, at the very least, be evaluating and deploying NFSv4.1 for use in new projects; and ideally, should be using it wholesale in their existing environments.

    The background to NFSv4.1
    NFSv2 (specified in RFC-1813, but never an Internet standard) and its popular successor NFSv3 was first released in 1995 by Sun. NFSv3 has proved a popular and robust protocol over the 15 years it has been in use, and with wide adoption it soon eclipsed some of the early competitive UNIX-based filesystem protocols such as DFS and AFS. NFSv3 was extensively adopted by storage vendors and OS implementers beyond Sun’s Solaris; it was available on an extensive list of systems, including IBM’s AIX, HP’s HP-UX, Linux and FreeBSD. Even non-UNIX systems adopted NFSv3; Mac OS, OpenVMS, Microsoft Windows, Novell NetWare, and IBM’s AS/400 systems. In recognition of the advantages of interoperability and standardization, Sun relinquished control of future NFS standards work, and work leading to NFSv4 was by agreement between Sun and the Internet Society (ISOC), and is undertaken under the auspices of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

    In April 2003, the Network File System (NFS) version 4 Protocol was ratified as an Internet standard, described in RFC-3530, which superseded NFSv3. This was the first open filesystem and networking protocol from the IETF. NFSv4 introduces the concept of state to ameliorate some of the less desirable features of NFSv3, and other enhancements to improved usability, management and performance.

    But shortly following its release, an Internet draft written by Garth Gibson and Peter Corbett outlined several problems with NFSv4; specifically, that of limited bandwidth and scalability, since NFSv4 like NFSv3 requires that access is to a single server. NFSv4.1 (as described in RFC-5661, ratified in January 2010) was developed to overcome these limitations, and new features such as parallel NFS (pNFS) were standardized to address these issues.

    Now NFSv4.2 is now moving towards ratification. In a change to the original IETF NFSv4 development work, where each revision took a significant amount of time to develop and ratify, the workgroup charter was modified to ensure that there would be no large standards documents that took years to develop, such as RFC-5661, and that additions to the standard would be an on-going yearly process. With these changes in the processes leading to standardization, features that will be ratified in NFSv4.2 (expected in early 2013) are available from many vendors and suppliers now.

    Adoption of NFSv4.1
    Every so often, I and others in the industry run Birds-of-a-Feather (BoFs) on the availability of NFSv4.1 clients and servers, and on the adoption of NFSv4.1 and pNFS. At our latest BoF at LISA ’12 in San Diego in December 2012, many of the attendees agreed; it’s time to move to NFSv4.1.

    While there have been many advances and improvements to NFS, many users have elected to continue with NFSv3. NFSv4.1 is a mature and stable protocol with many advantages in its own right over its predecessors NFSv3 and NFSv2, yet adoption remains slow. Adequate for some purposes, NFSv3 is a familiar and well understood protocol; but with the demands being placed on storage by exponentially increasing data and compute growth, NFSv3 has become increasingly difficult to deploy and manage.

    In essence, NFSv3 suffers from problems associated with statelessness. While some protocols such as HTTP and other RESTful APIs see benefit from not associating state with transactions – it considerably simplifies application development if no transaction from client to server depends on another transaction – in the NFS case, statelessness has led, amongst other downsides, to performance and lock management issues.

    NFSv4.1 and parallel NFS (pNFS) address well-known NFSv3 “workarounds” that are used to obtain high bandwidth access; users that employ (usually very complicated) NFSv3 automounter maps and modify them to manage load balancing should find pNFS provides comparable performance that is significantly easier to manage.

    So what’s the problem with NFSv3?
    Extending the use of NFS across the WAN is difficult with NFSv3. Firewalls typically filter traffic based on well-known port numbers, but if the NFSv3 client is inside a firewalled network, and the server is outside the network, the firewall needs to know what ports the portmapper, mountd and nfsd servers are listening on. As a result of this promiscuous use of ports, the multiplicity of “moving parts” and a justifiable wariness on the part of network administrators to punch random holes through firewalls, NFSv3 is not practical to use in a WAN environment. By contrast, NFSv4 integrates many of these functions, and mandates that all traffic (now exclusively TCP) uses the single well-known port 2049.


    Plus, NFSv3 is very chatty for WAN usage; and there may be many messages sent between the client and the server to undertake simple activities, such as finding, opening, reading and closing a file. NFSv4 can compound these operations into a single RPC (Remote Procedure Call) and reduce considerably the back-and-forth traffic across the network. The end result is reduced latency.

    One of the most annoying NFSv3 “features” has been its handling of locks. Although NFSv3 is stateless, the essential addition of lock management (NLM) to prevent file corruption by competing clients means NFSv3 application recovery is slowed considerably. Very often stale locks have to be manually released, and the lock management is handled external to the protocol. NFSv4’s built-in lock leasing, lock timeouts, and client-server negotiation on recovery simplifies management considerably.

    In a change from NFSv3, these locking and delegation features make NFSv4 stateful, but the simplicity of the original design is retained through well-defined recovery semantics in the face of client and server failures and network partitions. These are just some of the benefits that make NFSv4.1 desirable as a modern datacenter protocol, and for use in HPC, database and highly virtualized applications.
    NFSv3 is extremely difficult to parallelise, and often takes some vendor-specific “pixie dust” to accomplish. In contrast, pNFS with NFSv4.1brings parallelization directly into the protocol; it allows many streams of data to multiple servers simultaneously, and it supports files as per usual, along with block and object support through an extensible layout mechanism. The management is definitely easier, as NFSv3 automounter maps and hand-created load-balancing schemes are eliminated and, by providing a standardized interface, pNFS ensures fewer issues in supporting multi-vendor NFS server environments.

    Next post; the Advantages of NFSv4.1

    FOOTNOTE: Parts of this blog were originally published in Usenix ;login: February 2012 under the title The Background to NFSv4.1. Used with permission.


    pNFS Advances

    December 12th, 2012

    Building an industry standard is a series of incremental steps – from the original concept through ratification, followed by education and promotion, and ultimately to the development of an ecosystem of solutions. For a number of years the SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum (ESF) has been successfully advocating and promoting the NFSv4.1 standard and pNFS extensions.

    Today, we welcome the open-pnfs.org community in its goal of extending the work of the SNIA ESF in promoting pNFS and NFSv4.1. Open-pNFS adds to the progression from standard to solution, by focusing and highlighting the commercial products coming to market and the maturation of the ecosystem.