Network Working Group S. Shepler
Request for Comments: 3530 B. Callaghan
Obsoletes: 3010 D. Robinson
Category: Standards Track R. Thurlow
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
M. EislerD. Noveck
Network Appliance, Inc.
April 2003 Network File System (NFS) version 4 Protocol
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2003). All Rights Reserved.
The Network File System (NFS) version 4 is a distributed filesystem
protocol which owes heritage to NFS protocol version 2, RFC 1094, and
version 3, RFC 1813. Unlike earlier versions, the NFS version 4
protocol supports traditional file access while integrating support
for file locking and the mount protocol. In addition, support for
strong security (and its negotiation), compound operations, client
caching, and internationalization have been added. Of course,
attention has been applied to making NFS version 4 operate well in an
This document replaces RFC 3010 as the definition of the NFS version
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].
1.1. Changes since RFC 3010
This definition of the NFS version 4 protocol replaces or obsoletes
the definition present in [RFC3010]. While portions of the two
documents have remained the same, there have been substantive changes
in others. The changes made between [RFC3010] and this document
represent implementation experience and further review of the
protocol. While some modifications were made for ease of
implementation or clarification, most updates represent errors or
situations where the [RFC3010] definition were untenable.
The following list is not all inclusive of all changes but presents
some of the most notable changes or additions made:
o The state model has added an open_owner4 identifier. This was
done to accommodate Posix based clients and the model they use for
file locking. For Posix clients, an open_owner4 would correspond
to a file descriptor potentially shared amongst a set of processes
and the lock_owner4 identifier would correspond to a process that
is locking a file.
o Clarifications and error conditions were added for the handling of
the owner and group attributes. Since these attributes are string
based (as opposed to the numeric uid/gid of previous versions of
NFS), translations may not be available and hence the changes
o Clarifications for the ACL and mode attributes to address
evaluation and partial support.
o For identifiers that are defined as XDR opaque, limits were set on
o Added the mounted_on_filed attribute to allow Posix clients to
correctly construct local mounts.
o Modified the SETCLIENTID/SETCLIENTID_CONFIRM operations to deal
correctly with confirmation details along with adding the ability
to specify new client callback information. Also added
clarification of the callback information itself.
o Added a new operation LOCKOWNER_RELEASE to enable notifying the
server that a lock_owner4 will no longer be used by the client.
o RENEW operation changes to identify the client correctly and allow
for additional error returns.
o Verify error return possibilities for all operations.
o Remove use of the pathname4 data type from LOOKUP and OPEN in
favor of having the client construct a sequence of LOOKUP
operations to achieive the same effect.
o Clarification of the internationalization issues and adoption of
the new stringprep profile framework.
1.2. NFS Version 4 Goals
The NFS version 4 protocol is a further revision of the NFS protocol
defined already by versions 2 [RFC1094] and 3 [RFC1813]. It retains
the essential characteristics of previous versions: design for easy
recovery, independent of transport protocols, operating systems and
filesystems, simplicity, and good performance. The NFS version 4
revision has the following goals:
o Improved access and good performance on the Internet.
The protocol is designed to transit firewalls easily, perform well
where latency is high and bandwidth is low, and scale to very
large numbers of clients per server.
o Strong security with negotiation built into the protocol.
The protocol builds on the work of the ONCRPC working group in
supporting the RPCSEC_GSS protocol. Additionally, the NFS version
4 protocol provides a mechanism to allow clients and servers the
ability to negotiate security and require clients and servers to
support a minimal set of security schemes.
o Good cross-platform interoperability.
The protocol features a filesystem model that provides a useful,
common set of features that does not unduly favor one filesystem
or operating system over another.
o Designed for protocol extensions.
The protocol is designed to accept standard extensions that do not
compromise backward compatibility.
1.3. Inconsistencies of this Document with Section 18
Section 18, RPC Definition File, contains the definitions in XDR
description language of the constructs used by the protocol. Prior
to Section 18, several of the constructs are reproduced for purposes
of explanation. The reader is warned of the possibility of errors in
the reproduced constructs outside of Section 18. For any part of the
document that is inconsistent with Section 18, Section 18 is to be
1.4. Overview of NFS version 4 Features
To provide a reasonable context for the reader, the major features of
NFS version 4 protocol will be reviewed in brief. This will be done
to provide an appropriate context for both the reader who is familiar
with the previous versions of the NFS protocol and the reader that is
new to the NFS protocols. For the reader new to the NFS protocols,
there is still a fundamental knowledge that is expected. The reader
should be familiar with the XDR and RPC protocols as described in
[RFC1831] and [RFC1832]. A basic knowledge of filesystems and
distributed filesystems is expected as well.
1.4.1. RPC and Security
As with previous versions of NFS, the External Data Representation
(XDR) and Remote Procedure Call (RPC) mechanisms used for the NFS
version 4 protocol are those defined in [RFC1831] and [RFC1832]. To
meet end to end security requirements, the RPCSEC_GSS framework
[RFC2203] will be used to extend the basic RPC security. With the
use of RPCSEC_GSS, various mechanisms can be provided to offer
authentication, integrity, and privacy to the NFS version 4 protocol.
Kerberos V5 will be used as described in [RFC1964] to provide one
security framework. The LIPKEY GSS-API mechanism described in
[RFC2847] will be used to provide for the use of user password and
server public key by the NFS version 4 protocol. With the use of
RPCSEC_GSS, other mechanisms may also be specified and used for NFS
version 4 security.
To enable in-band security negotiation, the NFS version 4 protocol
has added a new operation which provides the client a method of
querying the server about its policies regarding which security
mechanisms must be used for access to the server's filesystem
resources. With this, the client can securely match the security
mechanism that meets the policies specified at both the client and
1.4.2. Procedure and Operation Structure
A significant departure from the previous versions of the NFS
protocol is the introduction of the COMPOUND procedure. For the NFS
version 4 protocol, there are two RPC procedures, NULL and COMPOUND.
The COMPOUND procedure is defined in terms of operations and these
operations correspond more closely to the traditional NFS procedures.
With the use of the COMPOUND procedure, the client is able to build
simple or complex requests. These COMPOUND requests allow for a
reduction in the number of RPCs needed for logical filesystem
operations. For example, without previous contact with a server a
client will be able to read data from a file in one request by
combining LOOKUP, OPEN, and READ operations in a single COMPOUND RPC.
With previous versions of the NFS protocol, this type of single
request was not possible.
The model used for COMPOUND is very simple. There is no logical OR
or ANDing of operations. The operations combined within a COMPOUND
request are evaluated in order by the server. Once an operation
returns a failing result, the evaluation ends and the results of all
evaluated operations are returned to the client.
The NFS version 4 protocol continues to have the client refer to a
file or directory at the server by a "filehandle". The COMPOUND
procedure has a method of passing a filehandle from one operation to
another within the sequence of operations. There is a concept of a
"current filehandle" and "saved filehandle". Most operations use the
"current filehandle" as the filesystem object to operate upon. The
"saved filehandle" is used as temporary filehandle storage within a
COMPOUND procedure as well as an additional operand for certain
1.4.3. Filesystem Model
The general filesystem model used for the NFS version 4 protocol is
the same as previous versions. The server filesystem is hierarchical
with the regular files contained within being treated as opaque byte
streams. In a slight departure, file and directory names are encoded
with UTF-8 to deal with the basics of internationalization.
The NFS version 4 protocol does not require a separate protocol to
provide for the initial mapping between path name and filehandle.
Instead of using the older MOUNT protocol for this mapping, the
server provides a ROOT filehandle that represents the logical root or
top of the filesystem tree provided by the server. The server
provides multiple filesystems by gluing them together with pseudo
filesystems. These pseudo filesystems provide for potential gaps in
the path names between real filesystems.
220.127.116.11. Filehandle Types
In previous versions of the NFS protocol, the filehandle provided by
the server was guaranteed to be valid or persistent for the lifetime
of the filesystem object to which it referred. For some server
implementations, this persistence requirement has been difficult to
meet. For the NFS version 4 protocol, this requirement has been
relaxed by introducing another type of filehandle, volatile. With
persistent and volatile filehandle types, the server implementation
can match the abilities of the filesystem at the server along with
the operating environment. The client will have knowledge of the
type of filehandle being provided by the server and can be prepared
to deal with the semantics of each.
18.104.22.168. Attribute Types
The NFS version 4 protocol introduces three classes of filesystem or
file attributes. Like the additional filehandle type, the
classification of file attributes has been done to ease server
implementations along with extending the overall functionality of the
NFS protocol. This attribute model is structured to be extensible
such that new attributes can be introduced in minor revisions of the
protocol without requiring significant rework.
The three classifications are: mandatory, recommended and named
attributes. This is a significant departure from the previous
attribute model used in the NFS protocol. Previously, the attributes
for the filesystem and file objects were a fixed set of mainly UNIX
attributes. If the server or client did not support a particular
attribute, it would have to simulate the attribute the best it could.
Mandatory attributes are the minimal set of file or filesystem
attributes that must be provided by the server and must be properly
represented by the server. Recommended attributes represent
different filesystem types and operating environments. The
recommended attributes will allow for better interoperability and the
inclusion of more operating environments. The mandatory and
recommended attribute sets are traditional file or filesystem
attributes. The third type of attribute is the named attribute. A
named attribute is an opaque byte stream that is associated with a
directory or file and referred to by a string name. Named attributes
are meant to be used by client applications as a method to associate
application specific data with a regular file or directory.
One significant addition to the recommended set of file attributes is
the Access Control List (ACL) attribute. This attribute provides for
directory and file access control beyond the model used in previous
versions of the NFS protocol. The ACL definition allows for
specification of user and group level access control.
22.214.171.124. Filesystem Replication and Migration
With the use of a special file attribute, the ability to migrate or
replicate server filesystems is enabled within the protocol. The
filesystem locations attribute provides a method for the client to
probe the server about the location of a filesystem. In the event of
a migration of a filesystem, the client will receive an error when
operating on the filesystem and it can then query as to the new file
system location. Similar steps are used for replication, the client
is able to query the server for the multiple available locations of a
particular filesystem. From this information, the client can use its
own policies to access the appropriate filesystem location.
1.4.4. OPEN and CLOSE
The NFS version 4 protocol introduces OPEN and CLOSE operations. The
OPEN operation provides a single point where file lookup, creation,
and share semantics can be combined. The CLOSE operation also
provides for the release of state accumulated by OPEN.
1.4.5. File locking
With the NFS version 4 protocol, the support for byte range file
locking is part of the NFS protocol. The file locking support is
structured so that an RPC callback mechanism is not required. This
is a departure from the previous versions of the NFS file locking
protocol, Network Lock Manager (NLM). The state associated with file
locks is maintained at the server under a lease-based model. The
server defines a single lease period for all state held by a NFS
client. If the client does not renew its lease within the defined
period, all state associated with the client's lease may be released
by the server. The client may renew its lease with use of the RENEW
operation or implicitly by use of other operations (primarily READ).
1.4.6. Client Caching and Delegation
The file, attribute, and directory caching for the NFS version 4
protocol is similar to previous versions. Attributes and directory
information are cached for a duration determined by the client. At
the end of a predefined timeout, the client will query the server to
see if the related filesystem object has been updated.
For file data, the client checks its cache validity when the file is
opened. A query is sent to the server to determine if the file has
been changed. Based on this information, the client determines if
the data cache for the file should kept or released. Also, when the
file is closed, any modified data is written to the server.
If an application wants to serialize access to file data, file
locking of the file data ranges in question should be used.
The major addition to NFS version 4 in the area of caching is the
ability of the server to delegate certain responsibilities to the
client. When the server grants a delegation for a file to a client,
the client is guaranteed certain semantics with respect to the
sharing of that file with other clients. At OPEN, the server may
provide the client either a read or write delegation for the file.
If the client is granted a read delegation, it is assured that no
other client has the ability to write to the file for the duration of
the delegation. If the client is granted a write delegation, the
client is assured that no other client has read or write access to
Delegations can be recalled by the server. If another client
requests access to the file in such a way that the access conflicts
with the granted delegation, the server is able to notify the initial
client and recall the delegation. This requires that a callback path
exist between the server and client. If this callback path does not
exist, then delegations can not be granted. The essence of a
delegation is that it allows the client to locally service operations
such as OPEN, CLOSE, LOCK, LOCKU, READ, WRITE without immediate
interaction with the server.
1.5. General Definitions
The following definitions are provided for the purpose of providing
an appropriate context for the reader.
Client The "client" is the entity that accesses the NFS server's
resources. The client may be an application which contains
the logic to access the NFS server directly. The client
may also be the traditional operating system client remote
filesystem services for a set of applications.
In the case of file locking the client is the entity that
maintains a set of locks on behalf of one or more
applications. This client is responsible for crash or
failure recovery for those locks it manages.
Note that multiple clients may share the same transport and
multiple clients may exist on the same network node.
Clientid A 64-bit quantity used as a unique, short-hand reference to
a client supplied Verifier and ID. The server is
responsible for supplying the Clientid.
Lease An interval of time defined by the server for which the
client is irrevocably granted a lock. At the end of a
lease period the lock may be revoked if the lease has not
been extended. The lock must be revoked if a conflicting
lock has been granted after the lease interval.
All leases granted by a server have the same fixed
interval. Note that the fixed interval was chosen to
alleviate the expense a server would have in maintaining
state about variable length leases across server failures.
Lock The term "lock" is used to refer to both record (byte-
range) locks as well as share reservations unless
specifically stated otherwise.
Server The "Server" is the entity responsible for coordinating
client access to a set of filesystems.
NFS version 4 servers must be able to recover without data
loss from multiple power failures (including cascading
power failures, that is, several power failures in quick
succession), operating system failures, and hardware
failure of components other than the storage medium itself
(for example, disk, nonvolatile RAM).
Some examples of stable storage that are allowable for an
NFS server include:
1. Media commit of data, that is, the modified data has
been successfully written to the disk media, for
example, the disk platter.
2. An immediate reply disk drive with battery-backed on-
drive intermediate storage or uninterruptible power
3. Server commit of data with battery-backed intermediate
storage and recovery software.
4. Cache commit with uninterruptible power system (UPS) and
Stateid A 128-bit quantity returned by a server that uniquely
defines the open and locking state provided by the server
for a specific open or lock owner for a specific file.
Stateids composed of all bits 0 or all bits 1 have special
meaning and are reserved values.
Verifier A 64-bit quantity generated by the client that the server
can use to determine if the client has restarted and lost
all previous lock state.