Wow, they used to run NFS over the Internet?! Admittedly I’m not quite old enough to have used NFS extensively, but I never would have thought that was a good idea… was this more common back in the day?
My favorite strange twist on this was Sun’s brief experimentation in the mid-‘90s with public NFS mounts intended to be mounted from web browsers. They developed a simplified protocol, WebNFS, in order to make it easier for Java applets to NFS-mount remote filesystems. Seems a bit nutty now, but in a certain way it makes sense, if you think of the technology stack Sun had been building, which used SunRPC as the basis for distributed computing, in contrast to today’s set of technologies built around various vaguely REST-style APIs. Distributed object stores accessed via REST API didn’t exist at the time, but if you wanted a way of making filesystems network-transparent via SunRPC, that already did exist, as that’s what NFS is, so Sun simplified it and reused it for the web.
I don’t think I personally ever ran across public NFS servers intended for general software distribution though; that’s what FTP was for, even in the ‘90s. Wonder what kernel.org’s reason for that was. Within organizations it was more common, with people mounting their organizations’ NFS drives over the internet. Back in the days when you might refer to this as a WAN setup, in contrast to a LAN. And there were various projects intending to make a more next-gen version of the idea with better authentication and file distribution, like AFS, which did have a much more commonly used idea of a “public” AFS site.
I like the idea. I’m sure most today would say just use HTTP and be done, but having filesystem semantics could be darn handy at times.
The src.doc.ic.ac.uk FTP repository was, IIRC, available over NFS, at least on the SuperJANET network, if not globally. At some point when active/passive FTP was being a pain (I forget the details) I used it a few times.
Not old enough? I was born in ‘91 and I still use NFS quite extensively :)
The NFS protocol is alive and well. I can tell you at least 1 new product by a major cloud service provider uses it as the bread and butter interface for the service cough cough.
Looks like HTTP is the last man standing in terms of high level data transfer protocols. Interesting.