This page provides information and tips to get started setting up OpenAFS clients and servers. Read the OpenAFS documentation for detailed instructions for installing and configuring OpenAFS.


This section outlines some considerations when planning a new OpenAFS installation.

Server planning

An OpenAFS installation requires one or more servers for file storage. These may be physical or virtual machines, running a unix-like operating system, such as Solaris, Linux, BSD. Not all the servers for a site need to be running the same architecture and operating system, and it is not uncommon to have a mixture of file servers running different operating systems or versions. Each file storage servers should have one or more unix filesystem partitions for data and AFS-metadata storage. The files stored in these partitions are stored in a special format and cannot be accessed directly.

The file server machines must support IPv4 and may have multiple interfaces. By default, OpenAFS will try to use all the non-loopback interfaces available on a file server machine. A configuration can be used to set which addresses are actually reachable by clients. Changing the IP address of a file server requires a restart of the file service process.

In addition to file servers, OpenAFS provides a specialized lookup service used internally by AFS clients and file servers, called the AFS database servers. The database server processes may be run on the same as hosts as the file servers, however the recommended configuration is to deploy the database service on a set of three dedicated machines. These hosts may be physical or virtual machines, running a unix-like operating system. Database servers keep in sync with each other by exchange of network messages, so network reliability between database servers is important. Each database host must support IPv4 and must have one IPv4 address. Once deployed, it is best to avoid changing the IP address of an AFS database server.

The AFS database service is a relatively light-weight process, however availability of the hosts running the database service is important to the reliability of the AFS service.

Kerberos requirements

OpenAFS uses Kerberos v5 to authenticate users and processes accessing files in the AFS filesystem, and to authenticate administrators when running AFS administrative commands. This security model avoids trusting the client machines for user authentication, even if a user is becomes 'root' on a client.

A Kerberos v5 realm needs to be available before setting up OpenAFS. An existing Kerberos realm can be used or a new realm will need to be setup. Kerberos 5 implementations such as Active Directory, MIT Kerberos V, or Heimdal are commonly used. A service key will need to be created by the Kerberos administrator for the OpenAFS service.

OpenAFS includes a deprecated, Kerberos 4 implementation called kaserver for compatibility with older versions of AFS. You may see it mentioned in various older documentatin, how-to guides, and mail list archives, however kaserver should not be used in new installations of OpenAFS.

Time Synchronization

Kerberos requires servers and clients to have good clock synchronization, using ntp or some other synchronization mechanism. Be sure ntp is installed and working on every machine to be used as an OpenAFS client or server.


You should create a DNS A record and a PTR record for each file and database server. It is recommended to have the PTR record match the A record, and not an alias.

OpenAFS clients need to locate the AFS database servers. Modern clients can use DNS SRV (service) records to locate the AFS database servers. You may also which to create DNS AFSDB records for older AFS clients, which do not have support for the newer AFS SRV records. You will need to create SRV records for the vlserver and the prserver services.

The following is an example DNS bind configuration.

afsdb1                IN A    
afsdb2                IN A    
afsdb3                IN A    
@                     IN AFSDB   1      afsdb1
                      IN AFSDB   1      afsdb2
                      IN AFSDB   1      afsdb3
_afs3-vlserver._udp   IN SRV 10 10 7003 afsdb1
_afs3-vlserver._udp   IN SRV 10 10 7003 afsdb2
_afs3-vlserver._udp   IN SRV 10 10 7003 afsdb3
_afs3-prserver._udp   IN SRV 10 10 7002 afsdb1
_afs3-prserver._udp   IN SRV 10 10 7002 afsdb2
_afs3-prserver._udp   IN SRV 10 10 7002 afsdb3

Naming considerations

OpenAFS servers are administratively grouped into a collection called a 'cell'. By convention, a cell name matches an internet domain name registered by the organization running the AFS cell. An organization may have multiple cells.

The naming convention for kerberos realms is to use an internet domain name, but in uppercase. The convention for AFS cell names is to match the kerberos realm name, but the cell name is lower case. Extra configuration is required if the AFS cell name needs to be different than the kerberos realm name. Changing these names can be challenging, so careful consideration is needed when selecting the kerberos realm and AFS cell names.