System News
Sun Opens NFS, Funds Linux NFSv4
Releases Rights to NFS Trademark
February 2, 2000,
Volume 22, Issue 1

Sun made three important announcements as part of its ongoing efforts to advance the Internet through open standards:

  • Sun is releasing the source code for a key component of the Network File System (NFS) protocol under the new Sun Industry Standards Source License.

  • Sun will double the level of funding it began last year for a University of Michigan project to develop a Linux implementation of NFS version 4.

  • Sun will release its rights to the NFS trademark.

The Network File Sharing System (NFS) file access protocol -- originally introduced by engineers at Sun Microsystems in 1985 -- allows users the convenience of accessing and sharing remote files across the network. The key component of NFS that Sun is releasing to the open source community is known as Transport Independent Remote Procedure Call protocol, or TI-RPC. TI-RPC is one of the foundations of NFS, and a key component of the security advancements in version 4. TI-RPC provides technology that allows developers to create efficient, network-scalable client-server applications.

University of Michigan Project Funding

To enable wide adoption of the standard, Sun is developing a reference implementation for the Solaris Operating Environment, and has granted an endowment to the University of Michigan's Center for Information Technology Integration to produce an enterprise-quality reference implementation for Linux. The university is building the NFS version 4 reference implementation on the basis of the existing Linux NFS Version 3 implementation. Prototypes are available for download at

"While others try to make the network a system of individual pieces of ownership, Sun is investing real resources to ensure we're able to talk to one another regardless of what sort of computer we use," said Peter Honeyman, Director, Center for Information Technology Integration at the University of Michigan. "That helps fulfill the promise of the Internet and the World Wide Web and allows us and other organizations to focus on creating better technology rather than fighting proprietary code battles."

NFS Version 4

The NFS standard, which Sun created and turned over to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), enables diverse operating environments to access and share remote files across the network. NFSv4 improves on four areas of the standard: security, performance, interoperability and Internet access. To provide strong security for NFS v4, implementations of the protocol must provide for the use of Kerberos V5 and Public Key Infrastructures through the use of the Low Infrastructure Public Key, LIPKEY; dynamic client response to changes on NFS servers; namespaces that are compatible across all platforms; client file caching that provides for good performance via the Internet while maintaining performance in the traditional LAN environment; and compound operations to minimize the number of connections necessary per transfer.

Sun Industry Standards Source License

The Sun Industry Standards Source License promotes the adoption of industry standards by making Sun source code available to both traditional and open source developers. With this new license, developers may modify and distribute source code and derived binaries freely. Furthermore, developers can choose to keep their modifications confidential or make them public. The license has requirements designed to prevent divergence from the standard referenced in the license. If developers deviate from the standard they must provide a public description and a public reference implementation of those deviations. This allows commercial vendors to integrate and extend the technology covered under the license into their products without the need to disclose their proprietary implementations, provided they adhere to the terms of the license.

The Sun Industry Standards Source License is designed to meet the requirements of the Open Source Definition as articulated by the Open Source Initiative ( Sun has submitted the license to the Open Source Initiative for their consideration.

TI-RPC and the Developer Community

Sun intends to make the source code to TI-RPC available to developers within 30 days. This code will be downloadable from the Solaris Developer Connection (

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