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NFS is pretty old file sharing technology for UNIX based system and storage systems. However, it suffers from performance issues. NFSv4.1 address data access issues by adding a new feature called parallel NFS (pNFS) - a method of introducing Data Access Parallelism. The end result is ultra fast file sharing for clusters and high availability configurations.

The Network File System (NFS) is a stalwart component of most modern local area networks (LANs). But NFS is inadequate for the demanding input- and output-intensive applications commonly found in high-performance computing -- or, at least it was. The newest revision of the NFS standard includes Parallel NFS (pNFS), a parallelized implementation of file sharing that multiplies transfer rates by orders of magnitude.

In addition to pNFS, NFSv4.1 provides Sessions, Directory Delegation and Notifications, Multi-server Namespace, ACL/SACL/DACL, Retention Attributions, and SECINFO_NO_NAME.

Fig.01: The conceptual organization of pNFS - Image credit IBM

Fig.01: The conceptual organization of pNFS - Image credit IBM

According to wikipedia:

The NFSv4.1 protocol defines a method of separating the meta-data (names and attributes) of a filesystem from the location of the file data; it goes beyond the simple name/data separation of striping the data amongst a set of data servers. This is different from the traditional NFS server which holds the names of files and their data under the single umbrella of the server. There exists products which are multi-node NFS servers, but the participation of the client in separation of meta-data and data is limited. The NFSv4.1 client can be enabled to be a direct participant in the exact location of file data and avoid solitary interaction with the single NFS server when moving data.

The NFSv4.1 pNFS server is a collection of server resources or components; these are assumed to be controlled by the meta-data server.

The pNFS client still accesses a single meta-data server for traversal or interaction with the namespace; when the client moves data to and from the server it may be directly interacting with the set of data servers belonging to the pNFS server collection.

More information about pNFS

  1. Scale your file system with Parallel NFS
  2. Linux NFS Overview, FAQ and HOWTO Documents
  3. NFSv4 delivers seamless network access
  4. Nfsv4 Status Pages
  5. NFS article from the Wikipedia