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DAFS--Direct access file systems

An explanation of DAFS and why it is beginning to receive considerable attention.

DAFS -- Direct access file systems
Rick Cook

Direct Access File System (DAFS) is a new architecture aimed at speeding up the transfer of information from storage to the requesting machine. It is beginning to receive considerable attention as a next-generation storage architecture which extends and supplements the approach to storage exemplified by Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices.

In effect, DAFS is a special-purpose LAN dedicated to storage. Like a NAS sever, a DAFS server transfers files over a local area network. However rather than using a conventional LAN, DAFS uses a new architecture called Virtual Interface (VI), developed by Compaq, Intel and Microsoft which enables direct memory transfers from storage to the requesting machine. VI uses a faster connection and a new kind of network card to help speed up data transfers. DAFS also bypasses much of the overhead associated with a regular networking protocol to further speed up transactions and reduce the load on the server. Finally because DAFS is dedicated to storage it moves data in much larger chunks than conventional LANs.

DAFS is still in the draft stage and the first implementations are some months away. The DAFS working group includes more than 60 manufacturers, including Intel and Network Appliance, who are working together on the standard.

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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