We've discussed sharing filesystems via SMB a few times. SMB lets you access files shared by a Windows system after jumping through only half a dozen loops. Sharing files with another Unix system is much, much simpler. FreeBSD supports the Unix standard Network File System out of the box. NFS intimidates many junior system administrators, but it's really quite simple once you know what's going on.
Each NFS connection works on a client-server model. One computer is the server and offers filesystems to other systems. This is called "NFS exporting," and the filesystems offered are called "exports." The clients can mount server exports in a manner almost identical to that used to mount local filesystems.
One interesting thing about NFS is its statelessness. You can reboot a server and the client won't crash. It won't be able to access files on the server's export while the server is down, but once it returns, you'll pick up right where things left off. Other network file sharing systems are not so resilient.
In this discussion, we're going to link multiple FreeBSD to 4-STABLE systems. Each NFS implementation is slightly different. You will find minor NFS variations between Solaris, Linux, BSD, and other Unixes. NFS should work between them all, but it might require the occasional tweak. If you have problems interoperating with some other Unix, check the freebsd-net mailing list archive; the issue has almost certainly been discussed there.
Let's configure some systems for NFS. Both server and clients require NFS support in the kernel, but the various NFS commands dynamically load the appropriate module into the kernel. FreeBSD's generic kernel supports NFS, but if you customize your kernel and don't like loading file system support as a module, be sure your kernel configuration includes:
First of all, we have the server side. You can enable basic NFS exports with the following rc.conf options:
Portmap provides, as you might guess, a mapping service for network
ports. Different exports and clients require unique network ports.
Clients ask portmap which port they should connect to for their actual
nfs_server_enable option starts nfsd and mountd. mountd
just listens for incoming NFS requests on assorted high-numbered
network ports, and makes these port numbers available to portmap.
When clients talk to portmap and mountd, nfsd actually handles their
Once you reboot, your server should show something like the following
sockstat(1) output. This shows that server-side NFS is
running more or less properly. If you don't see something resembling
/var/log/messages for log messages indicating your
# sockstat -4 USER COMMAND PID FD PROTO LOCAL ADDRESS FOREIGN ADDRESS root rpc.stat 77 3 udp4 *:1011 *:* root rpc.stat 77 4 tcp4 *:1022 *:* root nfsd 70 3 tcp4 *:2049 *:* root mountd 68 3 udp4 *:1023 *:* root mountd 68 5 tcp4 *:1023 *:* daemon portmap 66 3 udp4 *:111 *:* daemon portmap 66 4 tcp4 *:111 *:*
Your client won't show any special
sockstat output before network
shares are mounted, but a
ps -ax will display several nfsiod
Now that your systems are prepared to handle NFS, we need to tell the
server which directories it can export. We could just export the
entire server, but that's not generally a good thing. Clients should
have little or no need to remote-mount the server's root filesystem,
for example. Define allowed exports in the
/etc/exports file. This
file has a separate line for each hard-drive partition on the server.
Each line has up to three components:
Each combination of clients and server disk partition can only have
one line in the exports file. This means that if
/usr/home are on the same partition, they must be exported in the same
line to any one client. You don't have to export the entire partition,
mind you; you can just as easily share out a single directory within a
partition. This directory must be a true path, and it must not contain either
symlinks or double or single dots (i.e., ".."). If I wanted to export
my home directory to every host on the Internet, I could use an
/etc/exports line that consisted entirely of this:
We have no options and no host restrictions. Now that we've edited the exports file, we have to tell mountd to re-read it.
killall -1 mountd
Any problems will appear in
/var/log/messages. For example, when I
was first testing this, I had a single entry in
/home/mwlucas. It was about this time that I learned that
/etc/exports cannot contain symlinks. FreeBSD puts user home
/usr/home and uses a symlink to create the
directory. The error log gave me a warning like this:
Jan 24 07:13:35 server mountd: bad exports list line /home/mwlucas
This told me where the problem was; identifying the problem was my job.
Now, over on the client side, I create the directory
I want to NFS-mount my home directory on the server onto this
directory. This looks almost exactly like a standard mount(8)
command. mount takes two arguments: the physical device you're using
and the mount point. In this case, our physical device is a remote
server and the exported filesystem:
# mount server:/usr/home/mwlucas serverhome #
Once this finishes, test your mount with
Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Avail Capacity Mounted on
/dev/ad0s1a 99183 67411 23838 74% /
/dev/ad0s1f 5186362 3873110 898344 81% /usr
/dev/ad0s1e 198399 21211 161317 12% /var
procfs 4 4 0 100% /proc
server:/usr/home/mwlucas 34723447 3886523 28059049 12% /usr/home/mwlucas/serverhome
One thing to note is that NFS uses the same usernames on each side of the connection. My files are owned by mwlucas on the server, so they are owned by mwlucas on the client. This can be a problem on a large network where users have root on their own machines. To create a central repository of authorized users, consider Kerberos or NIS. On a small network, or on a network with limited administrators, this usually isn't a problem.
Looking at the contents of
$HOME/serverhome, we see that the files are
mostly owned by mwlucas, with the occasional file owned by root.
Those files shouldn't be there, really; I have some root-owned .png
files that are screenshots of terminal windows that I took for my
book. Since I happen to be thinking about it, I'll remove them.
# su # cd serverhome # rm usersetup.png override rw-r--r-- root/mwlucas for usersetup.png? y rm: usersetup.png: Permission denied #
But I'm root! Why would it not let me delete a file?
I'm root on the client, but not on the server. The server doesn't
trust root on other machines to execute commands as root on the
server. It does trust usernames, however. NFS has a special option
for handling root; you can map requests from root to any other
username. For example, you might say that all requests from "root" on
a client will run as "nfsroot" on the server. With careful use of
groups, you could allow this nfsroot user to have limited access to
things. Use the
-maproot option to map root to another user.
This is my home network and I don't have other users, however, so I can just trust the client. In this case, I map NFS root requests to uid 0, aka root. Here's the new exports file.
I have to restart mountd again. Since NFS is stateless, old mounts
remain in effect. On the client, I'm even in the same directory;
restarting mountd didn't affect my client at all. The
So, what if I want to export another directory on the same partition?
For example, suppose I want to export
/usr/src to my laptop to save
space on the hard drive? List the other directories in
right after the first exported directory, separated by a space. While
I'm at it, I could also NFS-mount
/usr/obj. This way, I could run
make buildworld on my fast machine and run
make installworld on
my slow laptop, greatly accelerating upgrades. My
looks like this:
/usr/home/mwlucas /usr/src /usr/obj -maproot=0
There are no identifiers between the components of the line. Yes, it
would be easier to read if we could put each shared directory on its
own line, but we can't; they're all on the same partition. The
FreeBSD team could rewrite this so that it had more structure, but
/etc/exports would be incompatible with that from any other
Unix. Restart mountd and mount these filesytems:
# mount server:/usr/obj /usr/obj # mount server:/usr/src /usr/src
My client filesystems now look like this:
# df Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Avail Capacity Mounted on /dev/ad0s1a 99183 67411 23838 74% / /dev/ad0s1f 5186362 3873110 898344 81% /usr /dev/ad0s1e 198399 21212 161316 12% /var procfs 4 4 0 100% /proc server:/usr/obj 34723447 3886485 28059087 12% /usr/obj server:/usr/src 34723447 3886485 28059087 12% /usr/src #
buildworld on my laptop takes two hours; on the server, it takes
thirty minutes. I ran a
make buildworld and a
earlier on the server; if I wanted the same kernel, I could just go
/usr/src and type
make installkernel && make installworld &&
mergemaster, and the FreeBSD built on my server would be installed on
To make things slightly more difficult, my home system is on a cable
modem. I'm using one of FreeBSD's built-in firewalls to protect the
system, but it would be nice to add some security into NFS itself.
You can easily restrict NFS mounts by IP address, allowing only
certain clients to mount an exported share. Just specify the host
name or IP address at the end of the partition's
My client has an IP address of 192.168.1.200, so my
looks like this:
/usr/home/mwlucas /usr/src /usr/obj -maproot=0 192.168.1.200
This quickly becomes very convenient for upgrades. What's nice is
that you can also build ports on the server, and install them on the
client, by exporting
/usr/ports. This is starting to get a little
ridiculous, however; eventually,
/etc/exports will have entries for
almost every directory in
/usr. I might as well export the whole of
/usr and get it over with. This isn't that great, either, because I
want to mount the exported directories at different places. The
exported ports tree should go over
/usr/ports, for example, but I
don't want my server's home directory overwriting mine. Fortunately,
there's an easy solution. The
-alldirs option allows you to export a
partition, and all the directories beneath it. You must specify a
partition when you use
alldirs. Multiple options are separated by a
/usr -alldirs,maproot=0 192.168.1.200
Now I hup mountd again, and all of
/usr can be exported and mounted
separately. For example, I still had
/usr/obj NFS-mounted. Quick tests with
ls show that they're still there,
still accessible, and still serving files, even though I've completely
redone the way they're exported. I can mount arbitrary directories
from the server's
Finally, here's a tip on NFS performance. By default, FreeBSD uses conservative NFS mounting options. These work well when trying to interoperate with other Unixes; everybody speaks the lowest common denominator. You can use mount options to augment NFS performance but reduce interoperability somewhat. These options aren't necessary when you're working with one or two clients, but as your NFS installation grows, you'll find them helpful. They may or may not work with other operating systems; it depends on what those OSs support.
First of all, NFS runs over UDP by default. The
tells the client to request a mount over TCP.
Then we want to make the mount interruptible. This means that if the
server goes away, for any reason, client programs that are trying to
access the export can be interrupted. Otherwise, the client will
continue trying to access the export until the filesystem times out.
Set this with the
NFS comes in many versions. The latest one in wide use is Version 3.
You can request this with the
Finally, you have the size of read and write requests. The defaults
are rather small, being well suited to networks of the early nineties.
You can set the read and write size to more modern values with the
-w options. 32768 is a good value for both.
So, putting this all together, I want to mount my exports in the following way.
# mount -o tcp,intr,nfsv3,-w=32768,-r=32768 server:/usr/home/mwlucas serverhome
This will give me close-to-optimal performance with minimal effort. Further fine-tuning NFS requires testing various options with your particular network equipment.
Now that I have NFS running at home, I find myself mounting from one machine to others for just about any reason. It's well worth the minor trouble to set up.
Michael W. Lucas
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