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Distributed file system

Distributed file system definition

A distributed file system (DFS) is a kind of computer network where many users can access files stored on multiple computers at the same time. This is an example of distributed computing, where multiple computers collaborate for a single goal.

See also: shared resources, shared storage, online data storage, storage area network server, peer-to-peer

History of distributed file systems

Distributed file systems have been around since the 1970s, when the concept of distributed computing began to take shape. The first ones were the Andrew File System (AFS) and Sun Microsystems' Network File System (NFS) created in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These systems allowed multiple users to access the same files over a network.

In the 1990s, newer DFS were developed, such as the Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS) and the Common Internet File System (CIFS). They improved on the earlier systems by introducing support for replication.

Uses of distributed file systems

  • Big data processing. Distributed file systems, like HDFS, are used in frameworks such as Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark.
  • Fault tolerance. Distributed file systems store copies of data across multiple computers. If one device fails, data stays safe on others.
  • Shared access. Many users or applications can access the same data files at the same time from different machines or locations.
  • Content delivery. DFSs help services like streaming platforms deliver content to users around the world. They achieve that by replicating data in different locations.
  • Backup and archiving. Distributed file systems create backups of critical data in various locations.
  • High-availability services. For services requiring high uptime, DFS ensures that if some parts fail, the service keeps running. It does that by routing requests to functioning parts.