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July 10, 2001

NFS and NIS: The Glue That Holds the Network Together--O'Reilly Authors Show How to Apply it so it Sticks

Sebastopol, CA--A modern computer system that's not part of a network is an anomaly in today's work environment and even in many homes. But however widespread networks have become, managing a network and getting it to perform well can still be a problem. At many sites, the Network File System (NFS) is the glue that holds these large, diverse collections of computers together. In fact, NFS has been implemented on more platforms that any other network filesystem and sets the standard for reliability, security, and performance. In a new edition based on Solaris 8, the just-released Managing NFS and NIS by Hal Stern, Mike Eisler and Ricardo Labiaga (O'Reilly, US $39.95) provides a guide for two tools that are absolutely essential to distributed computing environments: NFS and the Network Information System (NIS, formerly called the "yellow pages" or YP).

When the first edition of this bestselling book was released ten years ago, networks were much less complex than they are today. As coauthor Hal Stern explains, "Along the way, in the past ten years, the Internet 'happened.' When I started writing, 'files' were things that coders worried about. Now anybody accessing an HTML document is directly or indirectly accessing a file, most of the time. Some of the largest web sites in the world sit on top of large NFS servers. The scope and complexity of managing large volumes of files has increased greatly. The tools are the same, but the usages are new and different--and exciting."

The second edition of Managing NFS and NIS provides extensive coverage of the latest developments in NFS, including new security options (IPSec and Kerberos). It covers NFS Version 2 and 3, which are implemented by Solaris 8, Linux, and all other modern Unix and Unix-like operating systems. The authors also explain how to use NIS, a distributed database service that is a companion to NFS, to reduce the overhead of network administration by maintaining single copies of the most important configuration files on a master server.

Coauthor Eisler says about the book, "We tried to collect information in place to make it easier for readers to perform complex tasks. One area of complexity is the automounter, and the book's chapter on the topic should allow readers to quickly set up the automounter and its maps."

The automounter is a tool that automatically mounts NFS filesystems when they are referenced and unmounts them when they are no longer needed. It applies NIS management to NFS configuration files so that an administrator can edit a single NIS map and have it affect client mount information throughout the network. Using the automounter offers significant advantages but is not without its challenges. Managing NFS and NIS, Second Edition devotes an entire chapter to the subject. Other topics covered in the new edition include:

  • How to plan, set up, and debug an NFS network
  • Diskless workstations
  • PC/NFS
  • A new transport protocol for NFS (TCP/IP)
  • Diagnostic tools and utilities
  • NFS client and server tuning

Managing NFS and NIS, Second Edition provides thorough information on how to plan a network filesystem, set it up, optimize its performance, plug security holes, and solve many other common problems that administrators routinely face. As coauthor Labiaga says, "My first exposure to NFS and NIS came as a system administrator of the UNIX computer lab in college. I later joined the NFS development team at Sun, where I learned of many tools and techniques available to debug NFS and network problems. Many times I looked back at my system administration experience and wished I had been aware of such tools when I faced network configuration problems. Hopefully this book will help system administrators use some of these tools to administer and debug their networks."

What critics and readers said about the first edition:

"This is one of the few places I have seen all the spells and incantations necessary to manage NFS and NIS written down in one place, and in terms that the average administrator can understand....I have probably used it more in the last six months than any other reference book I have."
--Steve Hanson, UNIX User, March 1992

"My personal favorite reference for NFS networking is Managing NFS and NIS....This remarkable book is filled with practical information on every facet of networking with NFS."
--Mike Tarrani, San Diego Computer Journal, April 1994

Online Resources:

Managing NFS and NIS
By Hal Stern, Mike Eisler and Ricardo Labiaga
2nd Edition, July 2001
ISBN 1-59692-510-6, 490 pages, $39.95 (US)
order@oreilly.com
1-800-998-9938

About O'Reilly

O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.

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