How NFS Client and Server Products Perform on NT in the Lab

Support for Network File System (NFS) is a key ingredient to implementing a successful, fully integrated UNIX-Windows NT environment. The importance of NFS has attracted the attention of a number of software vendors who have been busily developing NFS server and client products for NT. Only a few NFS products are currently available for NT, but others will come to market during the first half of 1996. (One notable exception to this trend is Process Software. The company has discontinued marketing its Windows NT NFS product.)

So I decided to take a closer look at the leading NFS server and client products for NT. All of these products are implemented as native 32-bit Windows NT software.

The products I ran through our lab this month include DiskShare and PC-NFS from Intergraph Corp., ChameleonNFS32 from NetManage, and BW-Connect NFS Client/Server from Beame & Whiteside Software (recently acquired by Hummingbird Communications).

All these products function on top of Microsoft's Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) stack for Windows NT. This dependency means that you should make sure basic TCP/IP services, such as Telnet and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), work with your target NFS servers and clients before you attempt to install NFS services.

Intergraph DiskShare & PC-NFS
Intergraph Corporation has two separate products that address NFS client/server connectivity in the NT environment: DiskShare (NFS server) and PC-NFS (NFS client). You can purchase these two products separately or as a combination bundle.

Each product is installed via a setup program and includes a remove command so it can be uninstalled. The NT environment must be restarted after each installation. If you install both products, you must restart NT twice. A minimum of printed documentation is provided with these products; more information is available in Help files.

DiskShare
Installation of Intergraph's NFS server product, DiskShare, is simple--other than supplying a license key, you need not enter any configuration information at installation time. Once the product is installed and the underlying services are activated by rebooting the system, you can use DiskShare as is or you can refine security settings and operational parameters through an NFS Administrator applet. Additional applets are provided to monitor current connections and the status of network operations (see Screen 1).

The translation of UNIX users and groups into NT users and groups can be handled in several ways. By default, DiskShare sets up a global permission that is applicable to all UNIX access. If you want tighter control, you can copy a password file (/etc/passwd) and/or group file (/etc/group) to the NT system via FTP. You can then use the NFS Administrator applet to map UNIX users or groups to NT users or groups.

You can control which directories will be available to NFS clients through the NT File Manager just as you do with LAN Manager sharing. When you choose Share As from the Disk menu, DiskShare introduces an interim dialog that allows you to choose between NFS and LAN Manager. If you select NFS, a sharing configuration window similar to the native NT sharing-configuration window is displayed. Sharing is not mutually exclusive between NFS and LAN Manager; the same directory can be made available to clients of both systems.

Intergraph's DiskShare and PC-NFS Features

DiskShare:
  • Tightly integrated with Windows NT File Manager
  • Maps UNIX users/groups to NT users/groups
  • Includes PCNFSD service
  • Supports printing through PCNFSD PC-NFS:
  • Can pass NT user/password to the NFS server
  • Supports command-line and File Manager interfaces

    Also includes the following modules: NTP client/server, RSH server, Telnet client, TN3270 client with graphics support, FTP client, and several monitoring programs

    Pros:
  • Client and server products are both easy to install and configure.
  • Tight integration with NT File Manager makes DiskShare easy to use and manage.

    Cons:
  • Client-side add-on programs are not as rich as competitive offerings.
  • DiskShare includes a PC-NFS daemon (PCNFSD) service, which allows it to accommodate access from both UNIX NFS clients (trusted hosts) and PC-NFS clients using PCNFSD authentication. This service also supports printing, so PC-NFS clients can mount and access NT printers.

    PC-NFS
    The client side of Intergraph's NFS offering is PC-NFS. As the name implies, it was developed in cooperation with Sun Microsystems, the creators of PC-NFS for the DOS and Windows operating environments.

    Installation of PC-NFS is straightforward, although slightly more interactive than that of DiskShare because you have to define basic information about the NFS server during the installation process. PC-NFS installs a single option in the Control Panel to configure service settings. It also creates a program group that contains the related applets.

    PC-NFS is invoked when an NT user logs on. Then, it attempts to connect to the NFS server's PCNFSD so the user can be authenticated. PC-NFS can handle this authentication in two ways: It can prompt the user for a UNIX username/password, or it can pass the NT username/password to the NFS server.

    After successful authentication, NFS directories can be mounted as network drives through the NT File Manager or by way of commands issued at the command prompt. At present, PC-NFS does not support printing to NFS printers via PCNFSD, but that feature is under development.

    PC-NFS also includes several utilities not related to NFS (see screen 1). These include a graphical TN3270 emulator, a Telnet client, an FTP client, a Network Time Protocol (NTP) server, a Remote Shell (RSH) server, and several utilities to monitor NFS connections and NFS network activities.

    \[Editor's Note: Intergraph released new versions of both of these products at press time. DiskShare v2.1 and PC-NFS v2.2 offer better performance than the previous releases of these products. Also, PC-NFS v2.2 supports printing from Windows NT clients to NFS-based printers via PCNFSD.\]

    DiskShare v2.0 & PC-NFS v2.1
    Requirements: Windows NT Server or Workstation
    Contact: Intergraph Corp., Phone: 800-291-9909; 205-730-5499, Email: info@intergraph.com, Web: http://www.intergraph.com
    Prices: DiskShare: $400, PC-NFS: $400, DiskShare/PC-NFS combo: $600

    Beame & Whiteside BW-Connect NFS Client/Server

    Beame & Whiteside Software's NFS offerings for the NT market are BW-Connect NFS Client for Windows NT and BW-Connect NFS Server for Windows NT. You can purchase these products separately, or you can buy BW-Connect NFS Combo for Windows NT, which includes both products. I looked at the NFS Combo package.

    BW-Connect NFS Combo installs and can be removed through the Network option on the Control Panel. A minimum of printed documentation is provided; in its place a series of electronic documents and Help files are supplied.

    The installation process includes a number of dialogs and configuration windows. Most of the configuration options relate to low-level TCP/IP network functions; these options might be disarming to those with limited or no experience configuring TCP/IP in a UNIX environment. Fortunately, the default settings will work in most environments, so blindly clicking on OK will do no harm.

    Beame & Whiteside's
    BW-Connect NFS Client/Server Features


    NFS Server:
  • Maps UNIX users/groups to NT users/groups
  • Includes PCNFSD service
  • Supports printing through PCNFSD NFS Client:
  • Can pass NT user/password to NFS Server
  • Supports command-line and File Manager interfaces
  • Supports printing via PCNFSD

    Also includes the following modules: TN3270 client, Mail (SMTP/POP) client, PING client, RSH client, RCP client, Finger client/server, FTP client/server, Telnet client/server, LPR/LPD client/server, Gopher client/server, Talk client/server, bootp server, http server, and several monitoring programs

    Pros:
  • A very rich client/server feature set is provided by add-on modules in client package.

    Cons:
  • Products are difficult to install and configure without a solid background in UNIX TCP/IP.
  • At the conclusion of the installation process, you must reboot your NT system. When it comes back up, you'll find new services running, new options on the Control Panel (see Screen 2), and a new program group (see Screen 3). The Control Panel options relate to both client and server functions, and the program group contains client-side functions. Additional system-level services and command-line programs are also installed.

    BW-Connect NFS Server allows you to set up global permission for NFS client access, or you can manually define mapping between UNIX users/groups and NT users/groups. This security information is configured by accessing the BWSServer option on the Control Panel. The directories made available to NFS clients are defined in a file called "exports." This is a UNIX-like configuration method that may confuse even the most savvy of NT managers. BW-Connect NFS Server also has a PCNFSD to handle requests coming from PC-NFS clients, including printer operations.

    The NFS Server component of BW-Connect NFS Combo is a no-nonsense, fully functional implementation of NFS that is well suited to both UNIX and PC-NFS clients. The NFS Client component, on the other hand, offers features and functions that go far beyond the traditional range of PC-NFS client software. You should, in fact, view the BW-Connect NFS Client as a full set of TCP/IP utilities that happen to include NFS client support.

    User authentication using BW-Connect NFS Client occurs when an NFS connection is requested. Requests can be made through the NT File Manager or via commands issued from the command prompt. When a connection is requested, you can give the username and password you used to log onto NT or you can supply a different one. Once the NFS connection is made, the directory appears as a network drive.

    BW-Connect NFS Client also supports printing to NFS-based printers. Printer connections can be made through either the NT Print Manager or the command prompt. BW-Connect NFS Client also includes a number of other client and server modules which go a long way toward making BW-Connect NFS Client a product with a well-rounded set of TCP/IP client/server applications. Client applications include Telnet, TN3270, FTP, Mail, Gopher, LPR, RSH, RCP, Finger, and Talk. More interesting are the server services included for FTP, Gopher, http, LPD, Talk, bootp, and, my personal favorite, Telnet. Using the supplied Telnet server, you can actually Telnet to an NT system and perform basic--very basic--command-line operations.

    BW-Connect NFS Client/Server v3.6
    Requirements: Windows NT Server or Workstation
    Contact: Beame & Whiteside Software, Phone: 919-831-8989, Email: sales@bws.com, Web: http://www.bws.com
    Prices: BW-Connect NFS Server: $249, BW-Connect NFS Client: $449, BW-Connect NFS Client/Server Combo: $548

    NetManage ChameleonNFS32
    NetManage offers a single product to address both NFS client and server functions: ChameleonNFS32. This product is part of NetManage's existing Windows ChameleonNFS products and, therefore, has a mature, well-honed Windows look-and-feel.

    ChameleonNFS32 is installed using a setup program. No dialogs or initial settings are required. Installation, configuration, and usage information are provided in a comprehensive printed manual. No automatic removal program or procedure is required.

    logo

    Once the product is installed, you must reboot NT to enable the underlying services. When the system comes back up, you'll find new services running, a new option on the Control Panel, and a new program group containing the product applets (see Screen 4). The Control Panel option is used to configure the NFS client options. The applets configure the NFS server and launch or configure other product functions.
    NetManage ChameleonNFS32 Client/Server Features

    Server Software:
  • Maps UNIX users/groups to NT users/groups
  • Includes PCNFSD service
  • Supports printing through PCNFSD

    Client Software: Can pass NT user/password to the NFS server
  • Supports printing via PCNFSD

    Also includes the following modules: Telnet client, TN3270 client, TN5250 client, PING client, FTP client/server, tFTP client, Mail (SMTP/POP) client, LPR/LPD client/server, Phone client, Gopher client, WHOIS client, Finger client, news-reader client, name server, RPC monitor

    Pros:
  • The product is easy to install, configure, and use.
  • All modules have an intuitive Windows look and feel.

    Cons:
  • It has limited monitoring utilities.
  • Value-added server services fall short of those available in competitive offerings.
  • ChameleonNFS32's NFS server function is configured using the NFS applet in the product's program group. This applet allows you to map UNIX users/groups into NT users/groups. By default, the NFS server function permits global access from all clients. The NFS applet is also where you identify the directories available to NFS clients and the access rights (if any) that are associated with those directories. Last, but not least, ChameleonNFS32 includes a PCNFSD module to support directory and printer access from PC-NFS clients.

    The NFS client function in ChameleonNFS32 allows you to use your NT username/password for PCNFSD authentication, or you can supply a UNIX username/password whenever you access an NFS directory or printer. NFS directories and printers are mounted as network drives and network printers through the NT File Manager and Print Manager--no command-line programs are provided.

    In addition to providing NFS client and server functions, ChameleonNFS32 also includes a number of other TCP/IP client and server functions. The client functions include Telnet, TN3270, TN5250, PING, FTP, TFTP, Mail, LPR, Phone, Gopher, WHOIS, Finger, and a news reader. The server functions include FTP, LPD, and a name server. ChameleonNFS32 includes only a simple Remote Procedure Call (RPC) monitor to view the status of its operations.

    \[Editor's Note: NetManage released a new version of this product at press time. Chameleon32NFS v5.0 includes Web client and server modules, an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) client, a "network whiteboard" facility, and various enhancements to its Telnet, FTP, and Mail client modules.\]

    ChameleonNFS32 v4.02
    Requirements: Windows NT Server or Workstation
    Contact: NetManage, Inc., Phone: 408-973-7171, Web: http://www.netmanage.com
    Prices: $695