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SUN MICROSYSTEMS OUTLINES FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR ITS OPEN NETWORK COMPUTING, NFS

Sun Microsystems developers, in London last month to beat the drum about Network File System at a seminar held by European distributor The Instruction Set Ltd of North London, took the opportunity to outline a series of future developments. Open Network Computing is the new name coined to emphasise that Network File System is part of a growing family of network services, and new products in development include an IBM MVS version of the Network File System, and the immi-nent beginnings of generalised support for diskless workstations to be followed with a full release with Version 4.0 in mid-1988; the latter release will also include protocol extensions to improve support for heterogeneous networks and Remote Procedure Call encryption for secure networking. Initial moves to a standard method for diskless workstation support, due at the end of the year, will provide the server side allowing diskless Suns to use any NFS server and will include a Manual of Operations for detailing how other clients will handle operations when initially booting up. That and the full diskless client software added with the 4.0 release will obsolete the Network Disk protocol currently used by diskless workstations for non-NFS op-erations like booting and paging. Sally Ahnger, project leader at Sun’s portable NFS group, also outlined further services in the pipeline built on the File System and its underlying XDR and RPC mechanisms. Due by the end of 1987 is an Automounter, which will, as the name suggests, automatically mount and unmount file systems when needed and provide a super-root facility for mounting all exported file systems from a given server. Sun is also planning a licence broker – one of the networking services proposed by the Apollo-originated Network Computing Forum – which should ease the problems of using licensed software products in a network enviornment by controlling their use by clients. The company is also considering – but has no product plans currently – a name service that would reduce the knowledge required to access data from remote systems, allowing clients simply to ask for a service or file by name without specifying the server system. Proposed Services include allowing clusters of servers to be defined where a group of machines could appear as one server to the rest of the network; within the cluster, a gateway machine could route service requests to machines designated as compute or print servers. So far, Sun’s decision to use the unreliable connectionless UDP protocol as the transport for NFS – a decision that provided an eight-fold performance increase over using connection-oriented protocols, according to the company – has restricted NFS to local area networks where Sun has relied on the stability of underlying Ethernet products to provide a reasonable level of service. The company is facing con-siderable technical problems attempting to extend support to wide area networks, and the approach being explored is to encapsulate UDP packets within a connection oriented protocol for transmission over wide area networks; however it’s difficult to do it in a recoverable fashion according to Ms Ahnger. Sun’s efforts to proliferate Open Network Computing among non-Unix enviornments have already resulted in versions for VAX/VMS, PC-DOS and even Texas Instruments and Symbolics Lisp machines, and Sun has now started work on an MVS version, expected to appear end of October 1988. The initial version is likely to include NFS and its underlying RPC and XDR protocols providing read-only access to VSAM files, according to Ahnger – and will use Sun’s IBM channel adaptor which allows workstations to appear as IBM peripherals. VM/CMS version A VM/CMS version is still under discussion and likely to follow later. And there’s a two-pronged development on the Macintosh front – the University of Michigan developed a Mac NFS, the rights to which are owned by Apple until early next year and although Ms Ahnger would not be specific, Sun appears to be eyeing the thing as a product. Meanwhile, its acquisition of Centram, develo

per of the TOPS distributed system for IBM Personals and Apple Macs, has provided the basis for merging NFS and TOPS facilities, and Sun says it is particularly interested in adding NFS protocols to the TOPS user interface. And what about OS/2? Well, Sun wasn’t shedding a great deal of light on the subject, beyond saying that the company was keeping up with local network manager developments.

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CBR Staff Writer

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