How the NFS credential cache works

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When an NFS user requests access to NFS exports on the storage system, ONTAP must retrieve the user credentials either from external name servers or from local files to authenticate the user. ONTAP then stores these credentials in an internal credential cache for later reference. Understanding how the NFS credential caches works enables you to handle potential performance and access issues.

Without the credential cache, ONTAP would have to query name services every time an NFS user requested access. On a busy storage system that is accessed by many users, this can quickly lead to serious performance problems, causing unwanted delays or even denials to NFS client access.

With the credential cache, ONTAP retrieves the user credentials and then stores them for a predetermined amount of time for quick and easy access should the NFS client send another request. This method offers the following advantages:

  • It eases the load on the storage system by handling fewer requests to external name servers (such as NIS or LDAP).

  • It eases the load on external name servers by sending fewer requests to them.

  • It speeds up user access by eliminating the wait time for obtaining credentials from external sources before the user can be authenticated.

ONTAP stores both positive and negative credentials in the credential cache. Positive credentials means that the user was authenticated and granted access. Negative credentials means that the user was not authenticated and was denied access.

By default, ONTAP stores positive credentials for 24 hours; that is, after initially authenticating a user, ONTAP uses the cached credentials for any access requests by that user for 24 hours. If the user requests access after 24 hours, the cycle starts over: ONTAP discards the cached credentials and obtains the credentials again from the appropriate name service source. If the credentials changed on the name server during the previous 24 hours, ONTAP caches the updated credentials for use for the next 24 hours.

By default, ONTAP stores negative credentials for two hours; that is, after initially denying access to a user, ONTAP continues to deny any access requests by that user for two hours. If the user requests access after 2 hours, the cycle starts over: ONTAP obtains the credentials again from the appropriate name service source. If the credentials changed on the name server during the previous two hours, ONTAP caches the updated credentials for use for the next two hours.