Before we say good bye to AFP

The Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) file sharing service in the MacOS Server is gone. The AFP file server capability was dropped in MacOS version 11, aka Big Sur back in December last year. The AFP client is the last remaining piece in MacOS and may see its days numbered as well as the world of file services evolved from the simple local networks and workgroup collaboration of the 80s and 90s, to something more complex and demanding. The AFP’s decline was also probably aided by the premium prices of Apple hardware, and many past users have switched to Windows for frugality and prudence reasons. SMB/CIFS is the network file sharing services for Windows, and AFP is not offered in Windows natively.

MacOS supports 3 of the file sharing protocols natively – AFP, NFS and SMB/CIFSas a client. Therefore, it has the capability to collaborate well in many media and content development environments, and sharing and exchanging files easily, assuming that the access control and permissions and files/folders ownerships are worked out properly. The large scale Apple-only network environment is no longer feasible and many studios that continue to use Macs for media and content development have only a handful of machines and users.

NAS vendors that continue to support AFP file server services are not that many too, or at least those who advertise their support for AFP. iXsystems™ TrueNAS® is one of the few. This blog shows the steps to setup the AFP file services for MacOS clients.

TrueNAS® as the AFP file server

Setting up the AFP file services and shares is pretty straightforward in TrueNAS® CORE. I am still using version 11.3 GUI but it should not differ much from the latest 12.0-U3.

In this example, I have created a user called appluser and a group called applgroup. Set the appluser auxiliary group as applgroup with RWX permissions turned on. Next create a dataset from the zpool. Here I call it appleshare and I configure the Share Type as Generic, as shown below:

Creating the dataset

Edit the permissions of the new appleshare dataset. The owner and group owner are set to appluser and applgroup respectively. Configure the Access Mode to be RWX for both User and Group as in the diagram below:

Edit the permission of the dataset

After the dataset is ready, create a share for the dataset. Give the Apple® share a name. In my case, this is obviously called appleshare and I have also selected the checkbox for Time Machine. By setting this, you can make your TrueNAS® share as a MacOS Time Machine disk.

Creating the Apple file share on TrueNAS

Turn on the AFP file sharing services

Lastly, turn on the AFP file sharing services.

Accessing TrueNAS® AFP share from MacOS client

Turning over to the Mac, the AFP share from the TrueNAS® is just as easy. Go to Finder and under the menu bar Go (as the screenshot below), choose “Connect to Server …” at the end of the pull down menu.

Connect to AFP server

Configure to point to the TrueNAS® AFP server with the address of afp://<ip address of the TrueNAS server>/<sharename>. This is shown as afp:// below.

Network details of AFP connection

The response from TrueNAS® to allow the AFP connection to complete is the provide the right user logon credentials. Input the username appluser and password.

AFP user logon credentials for the AFP share

Voila! The connection is established and the MacOS client will have the AFP share in the Finder explorer from the TrueNAS® CORE.

AFP network share in Finder

The future of AFP

AppleTalk was the networking stack that Apple® introduced in the 80s. It was a proprietary protocol stack that only found relevance in the Apple® network universe. Technologies in the stack like LocalTalk, DDP (Data Delivery Protocol) are all gone from the MacOS networking suite, and looking at the AppleTalk stack layered on the OSI model below,

AppleTalk Network Protocol stack

AFP remained as the last nail of the desolated networking stack.

Apple® continues to focus on consumer side rather the server side of the many of its offerings. XSan, Xserve are nothing but distant memories and the MacOS Server (formerly known as MacOS X Server) is marketed with less fervour than the Apple hardware.

AFP could be gone by the end of the decade, and today, before we say goodbye, I just want to pay a tribute to another file service that has stood for the past 3 decades.

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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 30 years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because those are my areas of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to know the facts and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and between 2013-2015, I was SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently employed at iXsystems as their General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

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