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File System Design for an NFS File Server Appliance

Date

January 24, 2000

Author

Dave Hitz, James Lau, and Michael Malcolm

This paper describes WAFL (Write Anywhere File Layout) and how WAFL uses Snapshots to eliminate the need for file system consistency checking after an unclean shutdown. 

Network Appliance Corporation recently began shipping a new kind of network server called an NFS file server appliance, which is a dedicated server whose sole function is to provide NFS file service. The file system requirements for an NFS appliance are different from those for a general-purpose UNIX system, both because an NFS appliance must be optimized for network file access and because an appliance must be easy to use. 

This paper describes WAFL (Write Anywhere File Layout), which is a file system designed specifically to work in an NFS appliance. The primary focus is on the algorithms and data structures that WAFL uses to implement Snapshots™, which are read-only clones of the active file system. WAFL uses a copy-on-write technique to minimize the disk space that Snapshots consume. This paper also describes how WAFL uses Snapshots to eliminate the need for file system consistency checking after an unclean shutdown. 

In Proceedings of the USENIX Winter 1994 Technical Conference

Resources

A copy of the paper is attached to this posting. A copy of a technical report (better formatting of the paper) is attached to the posting file-system-design.pdf