Combining directories from multiple servers on a single mountpoint

Many to One

Article from Issue 165/2014
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With some simple tuning, SSHFS performance is comparable to NFS almost across the board. In an effort to get even more performance from SSHFS, we examine SSHFS-MUX, which allows you to combine directories from multiple servers into a single mountpoint.

SSHFS is a userspace filesystem that allows you to mount a remote filesystem via SFTP over SSH using the FUSE library [1]. It is a very cool concept for a shared filesystem with reasonable security courtesy of SSH. Although the encryption and decryption processes increase CPU usage on both the server and client, a few tuning techniques will bring performance fairly close to NFS [2].

FUSE filesystems are easy to write and maintain compared with kernel-based filesystems, leading to their proliferation. One, SSHFS-MUX [3], builds on SSHFS to allow you to combine directories from different hosts into a single mountpoint (Figure 1). "MUX" is short for multiplexer, which generically allows the device to select one of several input signals and forward it as a single output from the mux.

Although SSHFS-MUX (SSHFSM) might generate some yawns, "muxing" directories is actually very powerful. To illustrate this power, I'll look at a situation in which I'm a user on a system with my /home/layton directory on my local system (host = desktop). I also access an HPC system that has its own /home/jlayton directory (the login node is login1).

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