SMB on steroids but CIFS lord isn’t pleased

I admit it!

I am one of the guilty parties who continues to use CIFS (Common Internet File System) to represent the Windows file sharing protocol. And a lot of vendors continue to use the “CIFS” word loosely without knowing that it was a something from a bygone era. One of my friends even pronounced it as “See Fist“, which sounded even funnier when he said it. (This is for you Adrian M!)

And we couldn’t be more wrong because we shouldn’t be using the CIFS word anymore. It is so 90’s man! And the tell-tale signs have already been there but most of us chose to ignore it with gusto. But a recent SNIA Webinar titled “SMB 3.0 – New opportunities for Windows Environment” aims to dispel our incompetence and change our CIFS-venture to the correct word – SMB (Server Message Block).

A selfie photo of Dennis Chapman, Senior Technical Director for Microsoft Solutions at NetApp from the SNIA webinar slides above, wants to inform all of us that … SMB HistoryThe correct terminology is SMB, Server Message Block and not CIFS at all! And the CIFS (wordplay of Sith in Star Wars) Lord isn’t very pleased for losing its name. 😉 CIFS LordIt’s been a long time since the SMB was introduced at IBM in the 1980s. SMB has always been associated to workgroup type of workload (at least in my books) and never quite the enterprise solution compared to NFS (Network File System). NFSv2/v3 has its own fair share of weaknesses, especially evolving around security but we are not going to go there right now.

A running joke of mine goes like this: “Why doesn’t Microsoft SQL Server database runs on SMB, even though SMB was heavily developed by Microsoft?

Well, for one … I can’t use that joke anymore because SMB 3.0, which was introduced in Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, has just pumped it up into the enterprise space; Big Time! It has boosted with enterprise features, notably in both high availability and performance. I am impressed.

So what’s new in SMB 3.0? Let me see …

  • Continuously Available SMB File Servers (and clients as well)
  • Scale-out
  • SMB Multi-Channel (much like iSCSI Multiple Connections per Session)
  • SMB Direct. SMB will be able to ride on RDMA over iWARP, ROCE and InfiniBand
  • SMB Encryption
  • Remote Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) for application consistent backup (Finally!)
  • Powershell cmdlets boost
  • Much more

For most of the key features listed above to work, both Windows clients and SMB File Servers must support version 3.0. Many of the storage vendors are still playing catch-up because there was only a gap of a couple of years between SMB 2.1 and 3.0 but we are beginning to see many early adopters, notably NetApp.

The SMB 2.1/3.0 was a complete rewrite of SMB 1.0, and that really propels SMB into the enterprise space. Microsoft SQL Server 2012 runs on SMB 3.0 and I believe more enterprise Microsoft applications such as SharePoint and Exchange are already supported as I write.

I will be watching more about the development of SMB 3.0 in the times to come, but I gotta remind myself that I should never, ever call it CIFS again!

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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.

4 Responses to SMB on steroids but CIFS lord isn’t pleased

  1. Anand Shah says:

    Hi cfheoh,

    congratulations on your new opportunity with HDS…

    we are currently evaluating HDS, can you find out for me, if HDS supports the above SMB3 features, within its HUS offerings ?

    Kind Regards,
    andy shah.

    • cfheoh says:

      HI Andy

      Glad to hear from you.

      I am not doing any technical work for HDS (I am now a business development manager for Oil & Gas) but I can find out about SMB3 roadmap in the HNAS product line. The HUS bundles HNAS 3080/3090 as its front end.

      If you don’t mind me asking, I would like to know a bit more about your IT background and where you are from. If you are interested, I run a storage community at Feel free to join.

      Storage technology is still my passion. Will update you later on the SMB3 part.


  2. Mark says:

    You have your acronym timelines backward. SMB is the term that was universally used in the 90’s (when Samba was created). cifs is more recent.

    But I like the term SMB better, so hopefully it continues to make a well deserved comeback.

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