SAFS -- SAN attached file systems

An explanation of SAFS and how this technology is a major competitor for direct access file systems

SAFS -- SAN attached file systems
Rick Cook

The major competitor for the Direct Access File System (DAFS) is the SAN Attached File System (SAFS). In effect SAFS is a hybrid LAN-SAN system that uses the LAN to transfer metadata (data about the data) while the files themselves are sent over the SAN. Separating jobs such as file coordination and security from the actual files makes efficient use of the LAN protocols for transferring small blocks of data while leaving the SAN free to handle the kind of large block transfers it was designed for.

SAFS got early acceptance in the video production industry where the need to handle the enormous files associated with online editing of movies and television shows put a premium on storage bandwidth. The concept has evolved with time and now the companies backing the concept, such as IBM/Tivoli are beginning to push into mainstream storage applications. SAFS is already available from several storage software companies, including Veritas, Tivoli and ADIC under various names. Tivoli calls its version "SANergy", for example, while ADIC calls its SAFS CentraVision.

According to its backers, SAFS promises to simplify the management of files stored on SANs, as well as improving SAN performance. For more on SAFS see the ADIC and Tivoli web sites.


Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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This was first published in April 2001

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