OpenFiler: an Open-Source Network Storage Appliance

Turn that old computer into a network appliance with OpenFiler, an open-source alternative to a NetApp filer.
Under the Hood

Underneath the GUI interface, OpenFiler is powered by a bunch of open-source software. At its core, it is an rPath OS with a 2.6 kernel, very similar to Red Hat Linux. OpenFiler runs SSH by default, so you can just SSH to it and start poking around. The Web-based admin console is driven by Python and lighttpd. OpenFiler runs snmpd as well, so you can query it with SNMP. The HTTP/WebDAV engine appears to be Apache. It uses the standard Linux NFS server, has Samba to do the SMB/CIFS duty and leverages proftpd for its FTP server.

OpenFiler supports a wide range of physical block devices, like SATA, SAS, SCSI, IDE and FC disks. It also supports remote block devices, via the iSCSI, AoE (ATA over Ethernet) and FCoE (Fiber Channel over Ethernet) protocols. It supports the standard Linux software RAID as well.

One of the most interesting features of OpenFiler is the inclusion of the Distributed Replicated Block Device (DRBD) engine, as well as the Heartbeat HA cluster software. DRBD allows OpenFiler to replicate its block devices to another OpenFiler in either synchronous or asynchronous modes, so your backup OpenFiler could be in the next rack or in the next state. When combined with the Heartbeat HA software that allows two OpenFilers on the same LAN to use a Virtual IP address, you have a powerful, reliable, fault-tolerant data-storage cluster. In the event of a failure on the primary OpenFiler, the secondary will detect that across the private interconnect between the two units, step in, assume the virtual IP address and continue servicing requests.

Because OpenFiler uses Linux LVM, you easily can aggregate storage devices into a single pool and then slice that up as desired into whatever network share you want. Another benefit of using the Linux LVM is that point-in-time snapshots can be taken quickly and easily, allowing for consistent backups to be taken of the OpenFiler appliance.


OpenFiler is an easy-to-deploy and easy-to-use distribution that does one thing very well, and that's serve files to network clients. If you've got an older computer or laptop lying around, you can turn that system into a NAS appliance simply by installing OpenFiler and attaching a large USB disk. On the other end of the spectrum, OpenFiler is very well suited for installation on an enterprise-class server where it can act as a part of your corporate SAN. It's unfortunate that the developers elected to make the Administration Guide available to paying customers only, but the project needs to be funded by some means. If you've got a requirement for a file server or some form of networkable storage device, it's definitely worth checking out.

Bill Childers is an IT Manager in Silicon Valley, where he lives with his wife and two children. He enjoys Linux far too much, and probably should get more sun from time to time. In his spare time, he does work with the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but he does not smell like garlic.


Bill Childers is the Virtual Editor for Linux Journal. No one really knows what that means.


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Exporting NFS simple name

ab72's picture


Would you know how I get OF 2.3 to export NFS in a simple config ie. machine:/share?

According to documentation I've read in many and varied places, Windows NFS Client (SFU 3.5 or R2 versions) cannot access multipath exports ie. machine:/mnt/dir1/dir2/dir2/share via UNC paths. Yes I can map them to a drive letter or browse via Network Neighbourhood but that is of no use to my application.

I cannot get a response to my question on OF forums.


Verry Jerkish of them.

Anonymous's picture

Stumbled on your entry in their forums after looking for the same answer, then found your entry here. Its actually pretty simple.
On the system tab, scroll down to networks, and add the ip address of your host, with a mask of and permissions of share.
Then on your shares tab choose your share, or create a new one and set the access control to Public Guest. Then in the NFS section choose the bubble of what permissions you want it to have. Click Update!
All should work as expected after that.


Forgot this

Anonymous's picture

if you want/need any other help just twitter me at feekes