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Applies to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP4

29 Sharing File Systems with NFS

Distributing and sharing file systems over a network is a common task in corporate environments. The well-proven network file system (NFS) works together with NIS, the yellow pages protocol. For a more secure protocol that works together with LDAP and may also use Kerberos, check NFSv4. Combined with pNFS, you can eliminate performance bottlenecks.

NFS with NIS makes a network transparent to the user. With NFS, it is possible to distribute arbitrary file systems over the network. With an appropriate setup, users always find themselves in the same environment regardless of the terminal they currently use.

Important: Need for DNS

In principle, all exports can be made using IP addresses only. To avoid time-outs, you need a working DNS system. DNS is necessary at least for logging purposes, because the mountd daemon does reverse lookups.

29.1 Terminology

The following are terms used in the YaST module.


A directory exported by an NFS server, which clients can integrate it into their system.

NFS Client

The NFS client is a system that uses NFS services from an NFS server over the Network File System protocol. The TCP/IP protocol is already integrated into the Linux kernel; there is no need to install any additional software.

NFS Server

The NFS server provides NFS services to clients. A running server depends on the following daemons: nfsd (worker), idmapd (user and group name mappings to IDs and vice versa), statd (file locking), and mountd (mount requests).


Parallel NFS, a protocol extension of NFSv4. Any pNFS clients can directly access the data on an NFS server.

29.2 Installing NFS Server

The NFS server software is not part of the default installation. If you configure an NFS server as described in Section 29.3, “Configuring NFS Server” you will automatically be prompted to install the required packages. Alternatively, install the package nfs-kernel-server with YaST or zypper.

Like NIS, NFS is a client/server system. However, a machine can be both—it can supply file systems over the network (export) and mount file systems from other hosts (import).

29.3 Configuring NFS Server

Configuring an NFS server can be done either through YaST or manually. For authentication, NFS can also be combined with Kerberos.

29.3.1 Exporting File Systems with YaST

With YaST, turn a host in your network into an NFS server—a server that exports directories and files to all hosts granted access to it. The server can also provide applications to all members of a group without installing the applications locally on each and every host.

To set up such a server, proceed as follows:

Procedure 29.1: Setting Up an NFSv3 Server
  1. Start YaST and select Network Services › NFS Server; see Figure 29.1, “NFS Server Configuration Tool”. You may be prompted to install additional software.

    NFS Server Configuration Tool
    Figure 29.1: NFS Server Configuration Tool
  2. Activate the Start radio button.

  3. If a firewall is active on your system (SuSEfirewall2), check Open Ports in Firewall. YaST adapts its configuration for the NFS server by enabling the nfs service.

  4. Leave the Enable NFSv4 check box disabled.

  5. Click Enable GSS Security if you need secure access to the server. A prerequisite for this is to have Kerberos installed on your domain and to have both the server and the clients kerberized. Click Next.

  6. Click Add Directory in the upper half of the dialog to export your directory.

  7. If you have not configured the allowed hosts already, another dialog for entering the client information and options pops up automatically. Enter the host wild card (usually you can leave the default settings as they are).

    There are four possible types of host wild cards that can be set for each host: a single host (name or IP address), netgroups, wild cards (such as * indicating all machines can access the server), and IP networks.

  8. Click Finish to complete the configuration. Exporting for NFSv4 Clients

For a fixed set of NFSv4 clients, there are two types of directories that can be exported—directories that act as pseudo root file systems and those that are bound to some subdirectory of the pseudo file system. This pseudo file system acts as a base point under which all file systems exported for the same client set take their place. For a client or set of clients, only one directory on the server can be configured as pseudo root for export. For this client, export multiple directories by binding them to some existing subdirectory in the pseudo root.

For example, suppose that the directory /exports is chosen as the pseudo root directory for all the clients that can access the server. Then add this into the list of exported directories and make sure that the options entered for this directory include fsid=0. If there is another directory, /data, that also needs to be NFSv4 exported, add this directory also to the list. While entering options for this, make sure that bind=/exports/data is in the list and that /exports/data is an already existing subdirectory of /exports. Any change in the option bind=/target/path, whether addition, deletion, or change in value, is reflected in Bindmount Targets.

In order to set up the server to export directories for NFSv4 clients, use the the general guideline in Procedure 29.1, “Setting Up an NFSv3 Server”, but change the following steps:

  1. Check Enable NFSv4 in the first dialog.

  2. Enter the appropriate NFSv4 domain name in the first dialog.

    Make sure the name is the same as the one in the /etc/idmapd.conf file of any NFSv4 client that accesses this particular server. This parameter is for the idmapd daemon that is required for NFSv4 support (on both server and client). Leave it as localdomain (the default) if you do not have any special requirements.

    After clicking Next, the dialog that follows has two sections. The upper half consists of two columns named Directories and Bindmount Targets. The service will become available immediately.

  3. Click Add Directory in the upper half of the dialog to export your directory and confirm with Ok.

  4. Enter your hostnames in the Host Wild Card textfield and options.

    In Options textfield, include fsid=0 in the comma-separated list of options to configure the directory as pseudo root. If this directory needs to be bound to another directory under an already configured pseudo root, make sure that a target bind path is given in the option list with bind=/target/path.

    The Bindmount Targets column is not a directly editable column, but instead summarizes directories and their nature.

  5. Click Finish to complete the configuration. NFSv3 and NFSv2 Exports

Make sure that Enable NFSv4 is not checked in the initial dialog before clicking Next.

The next dialog has two parts. In the upper text field, enter the directories to export. Below, enter the hosts that should have access to them. There are four types of host wild cards that can be set for each host: a single host (name or IP address), netgroups, wild cards (such as * indicating all machines can access the server), and IP networks.

This dialog is shown in Figure 29.2, “Exporting Directories with NFSv2 and v3”. Find a more thorough explanation of these options in man exports. Click Finish to complete the configuration.

Exporting Directories with NFSv2 and v3
Figure 29.2: Exporting Directories with NFSv2 and v3 Coexisting v3 and v4 Exports

NFSv3 and NFSv4 exports can coexist on a server. After enabling the support for NFSv4 in the initial configuration dialog, those exports for which fsid=0 and bind=/target/path are not included in the option list are considered v3 exports.

Consider the example in Section, “Exporting for NFSv4 Clients”. If you add another directory, such as /data2, using Add Directory then in the corresponding options list do not mention either fsid=0 or bind=/target/path, this export acts as a v3 export.


Automatic Firewall Configuration

If SuSEfirewall2 is active on your system, YaST adapts its configuration for the NFS server by enabling the nfs service when Open Ports in Firewall is selected.

29.3.2 Exporting File Systems Manually

The configuration files for the NFS export service are /etc/exports and /etc/sysconfig/nfs. In addition to these files, /etc/idmapd.conf is needed for the NFSv4 server configuration. To start or restart the services, run the command rcnfsserver restart. This also starts the rpc.idmapd if NFSv4 is configured in /etc/sysconfig/nfs. The NFS server depends on a running RPC portmapper. Therefore, also start or restart the portmapper service with rcrpcbind restart. Exporting File Systems with NFSv4

NFSv4 is the latest version of NFS protocol available on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Configuring directories for export with NFSv4 differs slightly from previous NFS versions. /etc/exports

The /etc/exports file contains a list of entries. Each entry indicates a directory that is shared and how it is shared. A typical entry in /etc/exports consists of:

/shared/directory   host(option_list)

For example:


Here the IP address is used to identify the allowed client. You can also use the name of the host, a wild card indicating a set of hosts (*.abc.com, *, etc.), or netgroups (@my-hosts).

The directory which specifies fsid=0 is special. It is the root of the file system that is exported, sometimes referred to as the pseudo root file system. This directory must also have the crossmnt for correct operation with NFSv4. All other directories exported via NFSv4 must be mounted below this point. If you want to export a directory that is not within the exported root, it needs to be bound into the exported tree. This can be done using the bind= syntax.

In the example above, /data is not within /export, so we export /export/data, and specify that the /data directory should be bound to that name. The directory /export/data must exist and should normally be empty.

When clients mount from this server, they just mount servername:/ rather than servername:/export. It is not necessary to mount servername:/data, because it will automatically appear beneath wherever servername:/ was mounted. /etc/sysconfig/nfs

The /etc/sysconfig/nfs file contains a few parameters that determine NFSv4 server daemon behavior. It is important to set the parameter NFS4_SUPPORT to yes. NFS4_SUPPORT determines whether the NFS server supports NFSv4 exports and clients. /etc/idmapd.conf

Every user on a Linux machine has a name and ID. idmapd does the name-to-ID mapping for NFSv4 requests to the server and replies to the client. It must be running on both server and client for NFSv4, because NFSv4 uses only names for its communication.

Make sure that there is a uniform way in which usernames and IDs (uid) are assigned to users across machines that might probably be sharing file systems using NFS. This can be achieved by using NIS, LDAP, or any uniform domain authentication mechanism in your domain.

The parameter Domain must be set the same for both, client and server in the /etc/idmapd.conf file. If you are not sure, leave the domain as localdomain in the server and client files. A sample configuration file looks like the following:


Verbosity = 0 
Pipefs-Directory = /var/lib/nfs/rpc_pipefs
Domain = localdomain


Nobody-User = nobody
Nobody-Group = nobody

For further reference, read the man page of idmapd and idmapd.conf; man idmapd, man idmapd.conf. Starting and Stopping Services

After changing /etc/exports or /etc/sysconfig/nfs, start or restart the NFS server service with rcnfsserver restart. After changing /etc/idmapd.conf, reload the configuration file with the command killall -HUP rpc.idmapd.

If the NFS service needs to start at boot time, run the command chkconfig nfsserver on. Exporting File Systems with NFSv2 and NFSv3

This section is specific to NFSv3 and NFSv2 exports. Refer to Section, “Exporting for NFSv4 Clients” for exporting with NFSv4.

Exporting file systems with NFS involves two configuration files: /etc/exports and /etc/sysconfig/nfs. A typical /etc/exports file entry is in the format:

/shared/directory   host(list_of_options)

For example:


Here, the directory /export is shared with the host with the option list rw,sync. This IP address can be replaced with a client name or set of clients using a wild card (such as *.abc.com) or even netgroups.

For a detailed explanation of all options and their meaning, refer to the man page of exports (man exports).

After changing /etc/exports or /etc/sysconfig/nfs, start or restart the NFS server using the command rcnfsserver restart.

29.3.3 NFS with Kerberos

To use Kerberos authentication for NFS, GSS security must be enabled. Select Enable GSS Security in the initial YaST NFS Server dialog. You must have a working Kerberos server to use this feature. YaST does not set up the server but just uses the provided functionality. If you want to use Kerberos authentication in addition to the YaST configuration, complete at least the following steps before running the NFS configuration:

  1. Make sure that both the server and the client are in the same Kerberos domain. They must access the same KDC (Key Distribution Center) server and share their krb5.keytab file (the default location on any machine is /etc/krb5.keytab). For more information about Kerberos, see Chapter 6, Network Authentication with Kerberos.

  2. Start the gssd service on the client with rcgssd start.

  3. Start the svcgssd service on the server with rcsvcgssd start.

For more information about configuring kerberized NFS, refer to the links in Section 29.5, “For More Information”.

29.4 Configuring Clients

To configure your host as an NFS client, you do not need to install additional software. All needed packages are installed by default.

29.4.1 Importing File Systems with YaST

Authorized users can mount NFS directories from an NFS server into the local file tree using the YaST NFS client module. Proceed as follows:

Procedure 29.2: Importing NFS Directories
  1. Start the YaST NFS client module.

  2. Click on Add in the NFS Shares tab. Enter the hostname of the NFS server, the directory to import, and the mount point at which to mount this directory locally.

  3. Enable Open Port in Firewall in the NFS Settings tab if you use a Firewall and want to allow access to the service from remote computers. The firewall status is displayed next to the check box.

  4. When using NFSv4, make sure that the check box Enable NFSv4 is selected and that the NFSv4 Domain Name contains the same value as used by the NFSv4 server. The default domain is localdomain.

  5. Click OK to save your changes.

The configuration is written to /etc/fstab and the specified file systems are mounted. When you start the YaST configuration client at a later time, it also reads the existing configuration from this file.

29.4.2 Importing File Systems Manually

The prerequisite for importing file systems manually from an NFS server is a running RPC port mapper. Start it by entering rcrpcbind start as root. Then remote file systems can be mounted in the file system like local partitions using mount:

mount host:remote-pathlocal-path

To import user directories from the nfs.example.com machine, for example, use:

mount nfs.example.com:/home /home Using the Automount Service

The autofs daemon can be used to mount remote file systems automatically. Add the following entry in the your /etc/auto.master file:

/nfsmounts /etc/auto.nfs

Now the /nfsmounts directory acts as the root for all the NFS mounts on the client if the auto.nfs file is filled appropriately. The name auto.nfs is chosen for the sake of convenience—you can choose any name. In auto.nfs add entries for all the NFS mounts as follows:

localdata -fstype=nfs server1:/data
nfs4mount -fstype=nfs4 server2:/

Activate the settings with rcautofs start as root. In this example, /nfsmounts/localdata, the /data directory of server1, is mounted with NFS and /nfsmounts/nfs4mount from server2 is mounted with NFSv4.

If the /etc/auto.master file is edited while the service autofs is running, the automounter must be restarted for the changes to take effect with rcautofs restart. Manually Editing /etc/fstab

A typical NFSv3 mount entry in /etc/fstab looks like this:

nfs.example.com:/data /local/path nfs rw,noauto 0 0

NFSv4 mounts may also be added to the /etc/fstab file. For these mounts, use nfs4 instead of nfs in the third column and make sure that the remote file system is given as / after the nfs.example.com: in the first column. A sample line for an NFSv4 mount in /etc/fstab looks like this:

nfs.example.com:/ /local/pathv4 nfs4 rw,noauto 0 0

The noauto option prevents the file system from being mounted automatically at start up. If you want to mount the respective file system manually, it is possible to shorten the mount command specifying the mount point only:

mount /local/path

Note, that if you do not enter the noauto option, the initialization scripts of the system will handle the mount of those file systems at start up.

29.4.3 Parallel NFS (pNFS)

NFS is one of the oldest protocols, developed in the '80s. As such, NFS is usually sufficient if you want to share small files. However, when you want to transfer big files or large numbers of clients want to access data, an NFS server becomes a bottleneck and significantly impacts on the system performance. This is due to files quickly getting bigger, whereas the relative speed of your Ethernet just has not fully kept up.

When you request a file from a normal NFS server, the server looks up the file metadata, collects all the data and transfers it over the network to your client. However, the performance bottleneck becomes apparent no matter how small or big the files are:

  • With small files most of the time is spent collecting the metadata

  • With big files most of the time is spent on transfering the data from server to client

pNFS, or parallel NFS, overcomes this limitation as it separates the file system metadata from the location of the data. As such, pNFS requires two types of servers:

  • A metadata or control server which handels all the non-data traffic

  • One or more storage server(s) which hold(s) the data

The metadata and the storage servers form a single, logical NFS server. When a client wants to read or write, the metadata server tells the NFSv4 client which storage server to use to access the file chunks. The client can access the data directly on the server.

SUSE Linux Enterprise supports pNFS on the client side only. Configuring pNFS Client With YaST

Proceed as described in Procedure 29.2, “Importing NFS Directories”, but click the pNFS (v4.1) check box and optionally NFSv4 share. YaST will do all the necessary steps and will write all the required options in the file /etc/exports . Configuring pNFS Client Manually

Refer to Section 29.4.2, “Importing File Systems Manually” to start. Most of the configuration is done by the NFSv4 server. For pNFS, the only difference is to add the minorversion option and the metadata server MDS_SERVER to your mount command:

mount -t nfs4 -o minorversion=1 MDS_SERVER MOUNTPOINT

To help with debugging, change the value in the /proc file system:

echo 32767 > /proc/sys/sunrpc/nfsd_debug
echo 32767 > /proc/sys/sunrpc/nfs_debug

29.5 For More Information

In addition to the man pages of exports, nfs, and mount, information about configuring an NFS server and client is available in /usr/share/doc/packages/nfsidmap/README. For further documentation online refer to the following Web sites:

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