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A standalone NFSv4.1 server (via nfs4j) with a Virtual File System implementation supporting the iRODS Data Management Platform.

NFSRODS network diagram


  • Configurable
  • Exposes iRODS through a mount point
  • Clients avoid the need for learning icommands
  • Clients avoid the need to install additional iRODS packages
  • Supports many common *nix commands and software (e.g. mkdir, cat, etc.)


  • iRODS v4.2.9+
  • Docker (as of this writing, v20.10.7)
  • OS NFS packages (e.g. Ubuntu 18.04: nfs-common)

General Information

The following instructions assume you're running Ubuntu 18.04 and Bash.

Building (from source)

$ cd /path/to/irods_client_nfsrods
$ bash # Consider passing --non-interactive if building in an environment without TTY support.
$ docker build -t local/nfsrods .


There are three config files located under /path/to/irods_client_nfsrods/config:

  • exports
  • server.json

The first step in configuring the server is to copy these files into another location on disk like so:

$ mkdir ~/nfsrods_config
$ cp /path/to/irods_client_nfsrods/config/* ~/nfsrods_config

These files will be mounted into the NFSRODS docker container. This will be discussed later.

Configuration File: exports

At this time, this file should not be modified. Administrators are expected to limit access to the mount point through other means.

Configuration File:

NFSRODS uses Log4j 2 for managing and writing log files. The default config will log messages with a level >= WARN to stdout. Configuring Log4j is out of scope for this documentation.

Configuration File: server.json

You'll need to set each option to match your iRODS environment. Each option is explained below.

    // This section defines options for the NFSRODS NFS server.
    "nfs_server": {
        // The port number within the container to listen for NFS requests.
        "port": 2049,
        // The path within iRODS that will represent the root collection.
        // We recommend setting this to the zone. Using the zone as the root
        // collection allows all clients to access shared collections and data
        // objects outside of their home collection.
        "irods_mount_point": "/tempZone",

        // The refresh time for cached user information.
        "user_information_refresh_time_in_milliseconds": 3600000,

        // The refresh time for cached stat information.
        "file_information_refresh_time_in_milliseconds": 1000

        // The refresh time for cached user access (NFS ACL) information.
        "user_access_refresh_time_in_milliseconds": 1000,
        // The refresh time for cached iRODS object type information.
        "object_type_refresh_time_in_milliseconds": 300000,
        // The refresh time for cached iRODS user permissions information.
        "user_permissions_refresh_time_in_milliseconds": 300000,

        // The refresh time for cached iRODS user type information.
        "user_type_refresh_time_in_milliseconds": 300000,

        // The refresh time for cached GenQuery results used to produce the
        // output of a list operation.
        "list_operation_query_results_refresh_time_in_milliseconds": 30000,

        // Specifies whether the force flag should be applied when overwriting
        // an existing file. If this option is false, an error will be reported
        // back to the client.
        "allow_overwrite_of_existing_files": true,

        // Allows NFSRODS to make adjustments for running against an Oracle-backed
        // iRODS deployment.
        "using_oracle_database": false

    // This section defines the location of the iRODS server being presented
    // by NFSRODS. The NFSRODS server can only be configured to present a single iRODS zone.
    "irods_client": {
        "host": "hostname",
        "port": 1247,
        "zone": "tempZone",
        // Defines the target resource for new data objects.
        "default_resource": "demoResc",

        // Enables/disables SSL/TLS between NFSRODS and the iRODS server.
        // The following options are available:
        // - CS_NEG_REQUIRE: Only use SSL/TLS.
        // - CS_NEG_DONT_CARE: Use SSL/TLS if the iRODS server is not set to CS_NEG_REFUSE.
        // - CS_NEG_REFUSE: Do NOT use SSL/TLS.
        "ssl_negotiation_policy": "CS_NEG_REFUSE",
        // The total amount of time before an idle connection times out.
        // Defaults to 600 seconds.
        "connection_timeout_in_seconds": 600,

        // An administrative iRODS account is required to carry out each request.
        // The account specified here is used as a proxy to connect to the iRODS
        // server for some administrative actions. iRODS will still apply policies
        // based on the requesting user's account, not the proxy admin account.
        "proxy_admin_account": {
            "username": "rods",
            "password": "rods"


After updating the config file, you should be able to run the server using the following commands:

$ docker run -d --name nfsrods \
             -p <public_port>:2049 \
             -v </full/path/to/nfsrods_config>:/nfsrods_config:ro \
             -v </full/path/to/etc/passwd/formatted/file>:/etc/passwd:ro \

This command does the following:

  • Launches the container as a daemon
  • Names the container nfsrods
  • Exposes NFSRODS via the port <public_port>
  • Maps the local config directory into the container as read-only.
  • Maps the local /etc/passwd formatted file into the container as read-only.

IMPORTANT: /etc/passwd is expected to contain all of the users planning to use NFSRODS. The users defined in this file MUST be defined in iRODS as well. Their usernames must match the names defined in this file exactly as this is how NFSRODS matches users to the correct account in iRODS.

If you want to see the output of the server, run the following command:

$ docker logs -f nfsrods

This only works if the logging has been configured to write to stdout.

On startup, the NFSRODS server logs the build information (time, version, and git-SHA). You can get this information at any time by executing the following command:

$ docker run --rm nfsrods sha


If you want to connect NFSRODS to an iRODS Zone that is using SSL, a certificate file can be mounted for use within the container:

             -v </full/path/to/certificate.crt>:/nfsrods_ssl.crt:ro

The container will load any cert it finds at /nfsrods_ssl.crt within the container into the OpenJDK keystore.

sssd integration

As an alternative to an /etc/passwd file, the default NFSRODS container also supports libnss-sss. It can be used by configuring sssd on the container host and binding the sssd socket into the container.

$ docker run -d --name nfsrods \
             -p <public_port>:2049 \
             -v </full/path/to/nfsrods_config>:/nfsrods_config:ro \
             -v /var/lib/sss:/var/lib/sss \

Using sssd, NFSRODS can use any sssd domain for ID mapping, including AD or LDAP. If sssd and /etc/passwd are used together, passwd will be consulted first.

Docker Compose

Using docker run to launch NFSRODS can be inconvenient given the number of arguments one has to pass. Docker Compose makes up for this by giving users the ability to define and run their applications in a manageable way.

For that reason, we've provided a docker-compose.yml.template file. Copy it to docker-compose.yml, point to your configuration directory, and then run.


$ sudo mkdir <mount_point>
$ sudo mount -o sec=sys,port=<public_port> <hostname>:/ <mount_point>

If you do not receive any errors after mounting, then you should be able to access the mount point like so:

$ cd <mount_point>/path/to/collection_or_data_object

Things To Consider

Depending on your environment and deployment of NFSRODS, you may want to consider passing lookupcache=none to the mount command. This instructs the kernel to NOT cache directory entries which forces NFSRODS to lookup information about a directory on every request. While doing this will make NFSRODS less responsive, the benefit is that NFSRODS is less likely to leak information between users if they are operating within the same directory.

Unix Permissions and NFSv4 ACLs

In iRODS, multiple users and groups can be given different permissions on a collection or data object. Unix does not provide this capability and therefore, iRODS permissions cannot be mapped into Unix permissions without losing information. To get around this, NFSRODS uses NFSv4 ACLs.


NFSv4 ACLs provide more than enough control for reflecting iRODS permissions in Unix. To manage permissions through NFSRODS, you'll need to install the package that contains nfs4_getfacl and nfs4_setfacl. On Ubuntu 18.04, that package would be nfs4-acl-tools. With these commands, you can view and modify all permissions in iRODS.

IMPORTANT: The order of ACEs within an ACL does not matter in NFSRODS. When NFSRODS has to decide whether a user is allowed to execute an operation, it takes the highest level of permission for that user (including groups the user is a member of).

Using nfs4_setfacl

When using nfs4_setfacl, it's important to remember the following:

  • Domain names within the user and group name field are ignored.
  • Special ACE user/group names (e.g. OWNER, GROUP, EVERYONE, etc.) are not supported.
  • Unsupported permission bits are ignored.
  • The highest permission level provided is what NFSRODS will set as the permission.

Below is the permissions translation table used by NFSRODS when nfs4_setfacl is invoked. The list is in descending order of iRODS permissions.

Permission Bit
Permission Bit Name


Given the following:

$ nfs4_setfacl -a A::john@:ro foo.txt

NFSRODS will see that the ACE4_READ_DATA and ACE4_WRITE_OWNER bits are set. It then maps these to appropriate iRODS permissions and takes the max of those. NFSRODS will then set john's permission on foo.txt to own.

Using nfs4_getfacl

Using this command is much simpler. When invoked, it returns the list of iRODS permissions on an object as an ACL. The mapping used for translation is shown below.

Permission Bits
own rwado
write rwa
read r

nfs4_setfacl Allowlist

NFSRODS offers a allowlist for granting nfs4_setfacl permission to particular users.

If a user is in the allowlist or in a group in the allowlist, they can run nfs4_setfacl on the specified logical path or any collection or data object below it, regardless of their iRODS permissions on that collection or data object.

A rodsadmin can add a user to the allowlist by adding a specific iRODS AVU (metadata) on the user.

$ imeta add -u <username> irods::nfsrods::grant_nfs4_setfacl <logical_path_prefix>

The following example demonstrates adding alice#tempZone to the allowlist with a prefix of /tempZone/project_a/lab/notes:

$ imeta add -u alice irods::nfsrods::grant_nfs4_setfacl /tempZone/project_a/lab/notes
$ imeta ls -u alice
AVUs defined for user alice#tempZone:
attribute: irods::nfsrods::grant_nfs4_setfacl
value: /tempZone/project_a/lab/notes

A user can set permissions via nfs4_setfacl on a collection or data object if any of the following are true:

  1. The user is an iRODS administrator (i.e. rodsadmin).
  2. The user has own permission on the collection or data object.
  3. The user is a member of a group that has own permission on the collection or data object.
  4. The user is in the allowlist with a prefix that covers the collection or data object.
  5. The user is a member of a group in the allowlist with a prefix that covers the collection or data object.

Additional NFSv4 Information


  • chmod is currently implemented as a NOP and will return 0.
  • NFSRODS currently reports disk free (df -a) as 0 to avoid being misleading to other programs.


Limitation 1: Write operations do not trigger replication on a replication resource

This is primarily due to NFSRODS being at the mercy of the client-side application. NFSRODS cannot make assumptions about what a client-side application will do with regard to multiple streams into a particular data object.

See irods/irods#6142 for more details.

Workaround: Configure NFSRODS to point at a resource hierarchy that does not contain a replication resource.

A delay rule could be configured to replicate any data to the eventual target location (including the replication resource) or the Storage Tiering Capability could be leveraged to provide this more generally.


Q. The NFSRODS docker container won't start. Why?

It is likely that your server.json configuration is incorrect. To verify this, try running the container using -it instead of -d like so:

$ docker run -it --name nfsrods \
             -p <public_port>:2049 \
             -v </full/path/to/nfsrods_config>:/nfsrods_config:ro \
             -v </full/path/to/etc/passwd/formatted/file>:/etc/passwd:ro \

This command will cause the log messages to appear in your terminal. If there are any errors during start-up, they will appear in the output. Missing configuration options will have a prefix of Missing server configuration option.

Q. NFSRODS performs a lot of stat operations. Is there any way to decrease the number of stats?

Yes. There are a couple ways to improve performance. They are listed below:

  • Decrease the amount of logging. Try setting logger.nfsrods.level to info or higher.
  • Disable color output on ls output. Compare the timing of /bin/ls with ls.

Q. Listing large collections is extremely slow against an Oracle-backed iRODS zone. How do I fix this?

It is likely that your iRODS zone does not contain the correct specific queries for an Oracle database.

You'll need to verify that the SQL mapped to the following specific query names matches the SQL below.

  • ilsLACollections
  • ilsLADataObjects

The following command can be used to display the current SQL mapped to a specific query.

$ iquest --sql ls | grep -A1 <specific_query_name>

SQL: ilsLACollections

  SELECT c.parent_coll_name, c.coll_name, c.create_ts, c.modify_ts,
         c.coll_id, c.coll_owner_name, c.coll_owner_zone, c.coll_type, u.user_name, u.zone_name,
         a.access_type_id, u.user_id, rownum as limit_rn
  JOIN R_OBJT_ACCESS a ON c.coll_id = a.object_id
  JOIN R_USER_MAIN u ON a.user_id = u.user_id
  WHERE c.parent_coll_name = ?
  ORDER BY c.coll_name, u.user_name, a.access_type_id, c.parent_coll_name, c.create_ts, c.modify_ts,
           c.coll_id, c.coll_owner_name, c.coll_owner_zone, c.coll_type, u.zone_name, u.user_id DESC
) WHERE limit_rn > ? AND limit_rn <= ?

SQL: ilsLADataObjects

  SELECT s.coll_name, s.data_name, s.create_ts, s.modify_ts, s.data_id,
         s.data_size, s.data_repl_num, s.data_owner_name, s.data_owner_zone, u.user_name,
         u.user_id, a.access_type_id, u.user_type_name, u.zone_name, rownum as limit_rn
  FROM (
      SELECT c.coll_name, d.data_name, d.create_ts, d.modify_ts, d.data_id, d.data_repl_num,
             d.data_size, d.data_owner_name, d.data_owner_zone
      JOIN R_DATA_MAIN d ON c.coll_id = d.coll_id
      WHERE c.coll_name = ?
  ) s
  JOIN R_OBJT_ACCESS a ON s.data_id = a.object_id
  JOIN R_USER_MAIN u ON a.user_id = u.user_id
  ORDER BY s.coll_name, s.data_name, u.user_name, a.access_type_id, s.create_ts, s.modify_ts,
           s.data_id, s.data_size, s.data_repl_num, s.data_owner_name, s.data_owner_zone,
           u.user_id, u.user_type_name, u.zone_name DESC
) WHERE limit_rn > ? and limit_rn <= ?

Replace (or add) the specific queries if they are incorrect. Use the following commands to add or remove a specific query.

$ iadmin asq <sql_query> <specific_query_name> # Adds a specific query.
$ iadmin rsq <specific_query_name>             # Removes a specific query.

Once you have the specific queries in place, all that is left is to tell NFSRODS that the iRODS zone is backed by an Oracle database. To do this, set using_oracle_database to true in the NFSRODS configuration file. See the section on configuring NFSRODS for the location of this option.