Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) D. Black, Ed.
Request for Comments: 6688 EMC Corporation
Updates: 5663 J. Glasgow
Category: Standards Track Google
ISSN: 2070-1721 S. Faibish
July 2012 Parallel NFS (pNFS) Block Disk Protection
Parallel NFS (pNFS) extends the Network File System version 4 (NFSv4)
to enable direct client access to file data on storage devices and
bypass the NFSv4 server. This can increase both performance and
parallelism, but it requires additional client functionality, some of
which depends upon the type of storage used. The pNFS specification
for block storage (RFC 5663) describes how clients can identify the
volumes used for pNFS, but this mechanism requires communication with
the NFSv4 server. This document updates RFC 5663 to add a mechanism
that enables identification of block storage devices used by pNFS
file systems without communicating with the server. This enables
clients to control access to pNFS block devices when the client
initially boots, as opposed to waiting until the client can
communicate with the NFSv4 server.
Status of This Memo
This is an Internet Standards Track document.
This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Further information on
Internet Standards is available in Section 2 of RFC 5741.
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction ....................................................32. Conventions Used in This Document ...............................43. GPT Partition Table Entry .......................................44. Security Considerations .........................................55. References ......................................................55.1. Normative References .......................................55.2. Informative References .....................................66. Acknowledgements.................................................6
Figure 1 shows the overall architecture of a Parallel NFS (pNFS)
||+-----------+ | |
||| | NFSv4.1 + pNFS | |
+|| Clients |<------------------------------>| MDS |
+| | | |
+-----------+ | |
||| Storage +-----------+ |
||| Protocol |+-----------+ |
||+----------------||+-----------+ Control |
|+-----------------||| | Protocol |
+------------------+|| Storage |------------+
+| Devices |
Figure 1. pNFS Architecture
In this document, "storage device" is used as a general term for a
data server and/or storage server for any pNFS layout type. The
MetaData Server (MDS) is the NFSv4 server that provides pNFS layouts
to clients and handles operations on file metadata (e.g., names and
For the pNFS block protocol as specified in [RFC5663], client
identification of pNFS storage devices requires contacting the MDS to
obtain device signature information. It is not possible for a pNFS
client to reliably identify pNFS block storage devices without
contacting the MDS, because the device signature location and
contents may vary among devices and servers; both device signature
location and contents are determined by the MDS, not the client.
Typical operating system (OS) boot functionality scans and activates
block devices (e.g., Small Computer System Interface (SCSI)) before
activating the NFS client (including pNFS functionality). This
sequence of operations creates a window of time during which the
client OS may modify a pNFS block device without contacting the
server (e.g., by attempting to mount or initialize a local physical
filesystem). This document specifies an identification mechanism for
pNFS block storage devices that can be used by an OS implementation
to remove this window of vulnerability.
Many storage area network (SAN) storage systems provide quasi-static
access control mechanisms (e.g., Logical Unit Number (LUN) mapping
and/or masking) that operate at the granularity of individual hosts.
While it is feasible to use such mechanisms to remove this window
(e.g., by only enabling a client to access pNFS block storage devices
after the client has contacted the responsible MDS), such usage is
undesirable and potentially problematic. This is because the storage
access control mechanisms are quasi-static; they are typically
configured once to allow client access to the block pNFS storage
devices and not reconfigured dynamically (e.g., based on crashes and
reboots). Block storage access controls can be changed to respond to
unusual circumstances (e.g., to fence [remove access from] an
uncooperative pNFS client), but should not be used as part of routine
client operations (e.g., reboot). A different mechanism is needed.
This document specifies an entry in the GUID (Globally Unique
Identifier) partition table (GPT) that can be used by a pNFS server
to label pNFS storage devices. This GPT entry is intended for shared
pNFS storage devices that are accessible to pNFS clients and servers,
and that may be accessible to other hosts or systems. This entry
enables pNFS clients, as well as other hosts and systems, to avoid
accessing pNFS storage devices via means other than pNFS.
2. Conventions Used in This Document
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 RFC 2119 [RFC2119].
3. GPT Partition Table Entry
The following mechanism enables pNFS clients to identify pNFS block
storage devices without contacting the server:
- Each block storage device dedicated to pNFS includes a GUID
partition table (GPT) [GPT].
- The pNFS block storage partitions are identified in the GPT
with GUID e5b72a69-23e5-4b4d-b176-16532674fc34, which has been
generated for this purpose. GPT GUID usage is well understood
and implemented. This document provides a definition for this
GUID and its usage. A central registration mechanism does not
exist for GPT GUIDs, or GUIDs in general, by design; see
This mechanism enables an operating system to prevent non-pNFS access
to pNFS block storage immediately upon boot. Servers that support
pNFS block layouts SHOULD use the GPT and this GUID for all pNFS
block storage devices.
A pNFS client operating system that supports block layouts SHOULD
recognize this GUID and SHOULD use its presence to prevent data
access to pNFS block devices until a layout that includes the device
is received from the MDS.
Data stored on pNFS block layout storage devices can be better
protected by incorporating checks for this GUID into other hosts and
systems that do not support pNFS block layouts. If pNFS block
storage devices are presented to such hosts or systems by mistake,
the check for presence of this GUID can be used to prevent writes
that could otherwise corrupt stored pNFS data.
Many current operating system versions support the GPT [GPT-W].
4. Security Considerations
The pNFS block layout security considerations in [RFC5663] apply to
The security considerations in [RFC4122] apply to the GUID specified
in this document.
5.1. Normative References
[GPT] Unified EFI Forum, "Unified Extensible Firmware Interface
Specification", Version 2.3.1, Errata A, Section 5.3,
September 2011, available from http://www.uefi.org.
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC5663] Black, D., Fridella, S., and J. Glasgow, "Parallel NFS
(pNFS) Block/Volume Layout", RFC 5663, January 2010.
5.2. Informative References
[GPT-W] Wikipedia, "GUID Partition Table", July 2012,
[RFC4122] Leach, P., Mealling, M., and R. Salz, "A Universally
Unique IDentifier (UUID) URN Namespace", RFC 4122, July
This document was produced by the IETF NFSv4 Working Group. Review
comments from members of the working group improved this document and
are gratefully acknowledged. The authors would like to thank Tom
Talpey, and members of the IESG for helpful comments on this
document, and also Alex Burlyga for providing an appropriate
reference for the format of the GPT.
David L. Black (editor)
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