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Design, Features, and Applicability of Solaris File Systems

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The Solaris Operating System includes many file systems, and more are available as add-ons. Deciding which file system to apply to a particular application can be puzzling without insight into the design criteria and engineering tradeoffs that go into each product. This article offers a taxonomy of file systems, describes some of the strengths and weaknesses of the different file systems, and provides insight into the issues you should consider when deciding how to apply the set of file systems that are available for specific applications. This article requires an intermediate reader.
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The SolarisTM Operating System (Solaris OS) includes many file systems, and more are available as add-ons. Deciding which file system to apply to a particular application can be puzzling without some insight into the design criteria and engineering tradeoffs that go into each product.

This Sun BluePrintsTM OnLine article offers a taxonomy of file systems as a means of classifying the multitude of different offerings. This can be particularly difficult because some file systems have many different facets, leading to confusion even about what they do. Within each category, each file system has strengths and weaknesses, and these often dictate which applications are appropriate for each product. After addressing the designs, we consider the general problem of deciding how to apply the set of available file systems of specific applications.

This article provides crucial, often overlooked, information for system administrators and architects and assumes that you are comfortable with Solaris concepts and basic file systems. This article addresses the following topics:

  • "Understanding What a File System Is"

  • "Understanding File System Taxonomy"

  • "Understanding Local File System Functionality"

  • "Understanding Differences Between Types of Shared File Systems"

  • "Understanding How Applications Interact With Different Types of File Systems"

Understanding What a File System Is

Before considering what file systems to use with which applications, you should understand what we mean by the term file system. In the context of this article, a file system stores named data sets and attributes about those data sets for subsequent data access and interpretation of the attributes. Attributes include things like ownership, access rights, date of last access, and physical location. More advanced attributes might be textual descriptions, migration or performance policies, and encryption keys. This definition sounds simple, but in fact it is quite broad and covers many things.

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