What I really want from an automounter

January 8, 2007

As peculiar as it sounds, I don't like the automatic mounting and unmounting of NFS filesystems. I don't have unreliable NFS fileservers and I don't like the various side effects of not having everything mounted; pretty much the only thing it seems good for is making our systems slower and more fragile.

However, one thing that the automounter is good for is maintaining a nice, organized list of NFS mounts in a format that can be easily distributed around without problems, and even automatically getting it right on both the clients and the NFS servers without having to do anything special. Having in the past built programs to try to maintain /etc/fstab 'by hand', this is a service that I can reluctantly appreciate.

So what I really want from the automounter is a magic flag that says 'mount everything (in this map) all the time', with a way to get the automounter to re-read the map and add any new NFS mounts (we rarely remove NFS mounts, so we could handle that by hand). The automounter noticing on its own when the map changes and automatically shuffling mounts around as necessary would be ideal.

While I could build all this by hand, the automounter is ideally placed to do it for me; it already has the maps, the tracking of NFS mounts, and so on. All it would need is a modest amount of additional intelligence and some additional options.

Unfortunately, my odds of persuading anyone else of the wisdom of this crazy idea are probably low. (And I suspect that current automounters don't explicitly check for changed maps and deal with them; they just deal with them implicitly because sooner or later the old NFS mounts that aren't in the maps any more all time out and get unmounted.)

(The automounter is on my mind lately because my (semi-)new job's current environment is heavily automounter based, which causes us periodic heartburn, and we are trying to figure out if we want to keep using the automounter in the new environment we're building or switch to static NFS mounts. I am unfortunately not enthused about either choice; one is convenient heartburn, the other is irksome custom toolbuilding.)

Written on 08 January 2007.
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Last modified: Mon Jan 8 23:33:30 2007
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