[TUHS] RFS was: Re: UNIX of choice these days?

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Thu Sep 28 10:39:54 AEST 2017

I'll weigh on this since my office mate at Sun was the Sun RFS guy (Howard
Chartok, great guy, Mr swapfs, I still remember a long discussion we had
outside of Antonio's nuthouse in Palo Alto about how to tie different
swap files to process groups so we could do better at pagin/pageout,
but I digress.  I should write up that discussion though, it's still
useful today).

>From what I remember, RFS worked well in a homogeneous environment.  It
passed structs in binary across the wire.

NFS was based on Sun's RPC stuff that marshalled and unmarshalled the
data.  So it worked with little ints and big ints and Intel byte order
and everyone else's byte order.  RFS not so much.  The RPC stuff is 
actually pretty sweet, I built something I called RPC vectors on top
of it, Ron will remember that, but I digress again.

It's important to note, when talking about NFS, that there was Sun's NFS
and everyone else's NFS.  Sun ran their entire company on NFS.  /usr/dist
was where all the software that was not part of SunOS lived, it was an
NFS mounted volume (that was replicated to each subnet).  It was heavily
used as were a lot of other things.  The automounter at Sun just worked,
wanted to see your buddies stuff?  You just cd-ed to it and it worked.

Much like mmap, NFS did not export well to other companies.  When I went
to SGI I actually had a principle engineer (like Suns distinguished
engineer) tell me "nobody trusts NFS, use rcp if you care about your
data".  What.  The.  Fuck.  At Sun, NFS just worked.  All the time.
The idea that it would not work was unthinkable and if it ever did
not work it got fixed right away.

Other companies, it was a checkbox thing, it sorta worked.  That was
an eye opener for me.  mmap was the same way, Sun got it right and 
other companies sort of did.

On Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 04:13:07PM -0700, Kevin Bowling wrote:
> I guess alternatively, what was interesting or neat, about RFS, if
> anything?  And what was bad?
> On Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 4:11 PM, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> > On Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 7:01 PM, Kevin Bowling <kevin.bowling at kev009.com>
> > wrote:
> >>
> >>
> >> What were the market forces or limitations that led to NFS prevailing?
> >
> > Sun pretty much gave it away.   It was simple and 'good enough.'
> >
> > The Issue was it not a real UNIX file system and did not support full UNIX
> > semantics.   For a lot of things (like program development) that was usually
> > ok.  It also exposed a lot a issues in user code - things like programs that
> > never bothered to check for errors returns (like fclose).
> >
> > So bad things happened for a long time in a lot of code (silent holes in
> > your SCCS files that did get detected until months later).
> >
> > But to Sun and NFS's credit, it solved a problem that was there and was
> > cheap and so folks used it.
> >
> > Clem

Larry McVoy            	     lm at mcvoy.com             http://www.mcvoy.com/lm 

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