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USENIX Tenth System Administration Conference (LISA '96)

A Simple Caching File System for Application Serving

John D. Bell
Ford Motor Co.


In large installations, it can become very difficult to install many hundreds of applications on every workstation. To make every package available requires that the users' command search path be very long, or that there be `wrapper' scripts written for every application which are maintained in a single directory. This policy also requires that each workstation have enough local disk to contain all files for every application. One traditional solution is to make applications available to workstations by serving them via NFS. However, this method can cause severe network loads, and it makes every user dependent upon the uninterrupted operation of the network.

This paper describes a set of programs designed to eliminate these problems. They provide for the automatic configuration of the wrappers needed for each application (including setting environment variables, etc.), in an architecture-independent fashion. They also implement caching from NFS-mounted ``lockers'' to a local file system, based upon file access patterns. This gives the advantages of single point of installation and minimization of local disk requirements, while providing the user with reduced dependence upon the network and increased speed of access. These programs require no kernel modifications nor other special facilities, and have proven to be portable across many versions of UNIX.

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