INTRO(4)                                                 INTRO(4)

     NAME
          intro - introduction to file servers

     DESCRIPTION
          A Plan 9 file server provides a file tree to processes.
          This section of the manual describes servers that can be
          mounted in a name space to give a file-like interface to
          interesting services.  A file server may be a provider of a
          conventional file system, with files maintained on permanent
          storage, or it may also be a process that synthesizes files
          in some manner.

          In Plan 9, the kernel mount device mnt(3) acts as a client
          to the 9P servers mounted in the current name space, trans-
          lating system calls such as open(2) into 9P transactions
          such as open(9p). The kernel also multiplexes the poten-
          tially many processes onto a single 9P conversation with
          each server.  Finally, the kernel provides each process with
          its own private name space which it can customize at will.
          Modern Unix systems do not provide these niceties, so the
          Unix port of these Plan 9 file servers provides them via
          other means.

          On Unix, 9P clients do not access servers via the tradi-
          tional file system call interface.  Only the Unix name space
          can be accessed that way.  Instead, 9P clients use the
          9pclient(3) library to connect and interact directly with
          particular 9P servers.  The 9p(1) command-line client is
          useful for interactive use and in shell scripts.

          To preserve the fa├žade of a single 9P conversation with each
          server, 9P servers invoke 9pserve(4), typically via
          post9pservice(3). 9pserve announces a 9P service at a par-
          ticular network address and multiplexes the clients that
          connect to that address onto a single 9P conversation with
          the server.

          Each ported program operates in a pseudo-name space that
          determines which 9P servers it is using.  The name space of
          a ported program is represented by a directory containing
          Unix domain sockets, one for each 9P server.  The directory
          defaults to /tmp/ns.$USER.$DISPLAY, meaning that all pro-
          grams in an X Windows login session share a single name
          space.  Setting the $NAMESPACE environment variable over-
          rides this default.  The namespace(1) command prints the
          current name space directory.

          Occasionally it is useful to be able to connect the input or
          output of a standard Unix program to a file served by a 9P
          server.  The new openfd(9p) 9P transaction, which depends on

     INTRO(4)                                                 INTRO(4)

          file descriptor passing, provides a sufficient workaround in
          many cases. 9pserve's implementation of openfd (see also
          fsopenfd in 9pclient(3)) returns the read or write end of a
          pipe; a helper process transfers data between the other end
          of the pipe and the 9P server.  Note that since the data is
          being transferred via a pipe, 9P read and write errors can-
          not be passed on to the Unix program.  The Unix program sees
          only end-of-file or a closed pipe.