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SMB and NFS? Cloud Volumes for AWS Has You Covered

In this entry of our series on file services on the AWS cloud, we look at the need to choose the right cloud file system.

NetApp® Cloud Volumes Service for AWS simplifies file sharing protocols on AWS. You simply choose which protocols you want to use when creating a new volume on AWS: NFS, SMB, or both.

File System Protocols and the Cloud

NFS: Network File System

NFS is a distributed file system protocol that allows networked devices to access shared files. Developed by Sun, NFS is used across a broad range of operating systems. It’s most often used with UNIX operating systems, including Solaris, AIX, and HP-UX, and with UNIX-like systems such as Linux.

Other operating systems, including macOS and Microsoft Windows, can take advantage of NFS. Windows Server can run NFS for Windows; in the cloud, Windows Server can use NetApp Cloud Volumes Service to support NFS calls. This ability enables users and applications to transfer files between Windows and Linux/UNIX operating systems.


On AWS, Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) enables NFS file sharing. The service lets you concurrently access Amazon EFS from multiple NFS clients, so multiple applications can access a file system simultaneously.

For example, Amazon Elastic Computer Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances that are running in multiple Availability Zones within a single AWS Region can access the file system as a common data source. However, Amazon EFS does not support SMB protocols and is not supported on Windows instances.

SMB: Server Message Block

SMB is a network file sharing protocol, and Microsoft SMB is Microsoft’s implementation. Windows applications such as those for personal finance, design, photo and video editing, and 3D modeling typically use SMB for unstructured data file sharing.


AWS recently announced FSx for Windows Server, which supports Windows SMB file shares and is natively integrated with Microsoft Active Directory. You can access FSx from on-premises environments by using AWS Direct Connect or VPN, or within the AWS cloud.

FSx is a distinct service from Amazon EFS, so AWS users who use both protocols must subscribe to both services separately.

Unify File Sharing with Cloud Volumes Service 1

In contrast to separate services, NetApp Cloud Volumes Service supports NFS, SMB, and dual protocols in a single volume creation service.

After you connect your AWS account to your NetApp account, you can use the Cloud Volumes Service GUI or its RESTful API to create NFS, SMB, and dual-protocol volumes on AWS.

To create an NFS volume by using the simple Cloud Volumes Service interface, enter details like name, region, path, service level, and an NFS export policy. You are then ready to mount the new volume from your Amazon EC2 instance — also a simple operation with the Cloud Volumes Service interface.

Creating an SMB volume is equally simple and follows the same first steps as NFS volume creation. Instead of entering an NFS export policy, you enter volume access permissions with Microsoft Active Directory or AWS Managed Microsoft Active Directory. Then the SMB volume is ready for mounting.

To create dual-protocol volumes in Cloud Volumes Service, simply enable access for both NFS and SMB clients on the volume creation screen. Enter the export policy for NFS and the Active Directory information for SMB, and then you’re done.

Dual-Protocol Benefits

  • Migration without refactoring. NetApp multiprotocol support within AWS lets you “life and shift” NFS and SMB workloads to the cloud without refactoring. After the workloads have been migrated, you are free to create single- or dual-protocol volumes.
  • Continuous upgrades and improvements. NetApp supports NFSv4.1 in addition to NFSv3 and recently boosted maximum NFS I/O mount support from 64KiB to 1MiB. And Cloud Volumes Service supports SMB Multichannel, which simultaneously uses multiple network connections to increase performance.
  • On-demand provisioning. Provisioning NFS, SMB, and dual-protocol volumes on demand simplifies cloud-based file services, database environments, and analytics clusters. You can assign NetApp dynamic service levels to the storage volumes, so service level settings rapidly scale up and down as necessary.
  • Cost savings. Instead of requiring you to subscribe to two separate file sharing services, NetApp Cloud Volumes Service supports NFS, SMB, and dual protocols for flexible volume creation and simplified management.  

In Summary

Cloud Volumes Service and Cloud Volumes ONTAP provide robust file sharing services. For more insight on file shares with NetApp solutions on AWS, view the Basics of Migrating to the Cloud with AWS and Cloud Volumes ONTAP webcast.

For more on our files services on the AWS cloud blog series please visit our entries The Cure for Windows File Share Blues, SMB and NFS? NetApp Has You Covered, Not my legacy, and Windows Apps on AWS Cloud? Solving the Top Four Concerns.

You can also read more about Cloud Volumes Service or start a free trial of Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

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Product Marketing Manager, Cloud Data Services