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Simulation of a filesystem using an email server

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000015373D
Original Publication Date: 2002-Nov-02
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-20
Document File: 2 page(s) / 41K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

Disclosed is a mechanism for creating a distributed (networked) filesystem using primitive e-mail mechanisms to interface to persistent storage. Network filesystems provide the illusion of local disk storage but normally rely on complex network protocols such as NFS, SMB/CIFS, DFS/AFS. Unfortunately access to servers that support these protocols are not always available. Sometimes these complex protocols depend on reliable high speed network connections not found at remote locations or require difficult remote configuration. There is no widely deployed and easy to use file transfer mechanism for the internet that inexperienced users are likely to be able to use. Even experienced users find it a challenge to find servers that support WebDav or ftp on the internet due to navigation problems related to access control and the lack of good internet file management tools. One common denominator for most users though is access to internet e-mail from almost any location in the world.

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Simulation of a filesystem using an email server

Disclosed is a mechanism for creating a distributed (networked) filesystem using primitive e-mail mechanisms to interface to persistent storage. Network filesystems provide the illusion of local disk storage but normally rely on complex network protocols such as NFS, SMB/CIFS, DFS/AFS. Unfortunately access to servers that support these protocols are not always available. Sometimes these complex protocols depend on reliable high speed network connections not found at remote locations or require difficult remote configuration. There is no widely deployed and easy to use file transfer mechanism for the internet that inexperienced users are likely to be able to use. Even experienced users find it a challenge to find servers that support WebDav or ftp on the internet due to navigation problems related to access control and the lack of good internet file management tools. One common denominator for most users though is access to internet e-mail from almost any location in the world.

The invention simulates a network file system using an email server. Files are written by fragmenting them into a series of attachments stored in individual email messages. File metadata is stored within the email message string body. Files are identified by reading the last email message in the queue. This message contains device structure information that identifies all files in the device. Once a desired file has been located, it can be read by rejoining all its corresponding attachments. A redirector program operating on the client system performs the bidirectional mapping between the set of filesystem primitive commands and responses recognized by the client system's software and the set of primitive commands and responses defined in the e-mail encoding method and in the e-mail network protocols that are universally recognized by e-mail servers. The client system redirector program is implemented as a VFS module for client systems using Linux/Unix, and is implemented as an IFS module for systems using Windows* or OS/2**. The e-mail encoding method used is Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) and the e-mail protocols that are mapped include the Post Office Protocol (POP) and the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). The e-mail account in this case is typically not used for general purpose e-mail and access control is enforced as with standard e-mail accounts. File caching in the client filesystem is done using standard read ahead techniques in the VFS layer. Files are left on the server until file deletion occurs at which point the index (last message) may be rebuilt. Some e-...