Thursday, April 24, 2008

Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS)

Like NFS, DFS employs a tree structure for file systems. A directory that is being imported by a client is attached at a point somewhere in the local file system, where it is then made available to applications as if the directory and its files were local.

The Windows Server family (both 2000 and 2003 versions) includes DFS as an integral part of the operating system. The interface is written as a snap-in to the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) tool, making administration a simpler process. A wizard prompts you through setting up a DFS root, and from there on out you can add, modify, or remove directory paths from the DFS tree. Paths represented in the DFS tree can come from one or more servers on the network. A tree is not bound by a single host.

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In Windows NT 4.0, directory replication allowed you to create copies of directories on multiple systems, keeping them in sync. This functionality was replaced in Windows 2000 Server with Distributed File System (though it is also possible to download DFS for Windows NT 4.0). DFS is now included as a part of modern Windows operating systems. DFS allows you to move away from the \ \server\

sha rename concept to one based on the domain. Instead of having to remember (or browse and find) on which server a particular file share is hosted, you can use DFS to create shares that are global to the domain. That is, if you're a member of the domain, you can specify the share as \ \domainname\ share. DFS also allows for replication. This means that you can have more than one copy of the data being shared, but only have to use the global domain-wide share name to connect. This provides for some fault tolerance. If a server goes down that happens to host a replica of a share, then the other servers that contain copies of the share can be connected to by users. Note that this does not provide any kind of failover if a server crashes. The user can, however, restart her work by reconnecting to the share. The connection will be made to another replica of the file share.

Important terms to understand when dealing with DFS are listed here:

  • Root—A server can have only one root installed. It is just about the same thing as a file share, with a few differences, which will become apparent shortly.
  • DFS link—Under the root you create DFS links. These are links to file shares that will be available under the root you have created. This means you can create a single root yet place multiple shared directories under the root so that only one file share connection is necessary. If not, users would have to connect to each directory as a separate file share.
  • Replica—You can create shares that replicate the data in other shares. This can be done to provide for both load balancing and a degree of fault tolerance.

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