Chapter 13. Sun RPC
In the mid 1980s, Sun
Microsystems developed a series of network protocols—Remote
Procedure Call (RPC), the Network
Information System (NIS), and the Network Filesystem
(NFS)—that let a network of workstations operate as if they
were a single computer system. RPC, NIS, and NFS were largely
responsible for Sun's success as a computer
manufacturer: they made it possible for every computer user at an
organization to enjoy the power and freedom of an individual,
dedicated computer system, while reaping the benefits of using a
system with a shared filesystem that was centrally administered.
Sun was not the first company to develop either a network-based
operating system or a distributed filesystem, nor was
Sun's approach technically the most sophisticated.
One of the most important features that was missing from
Sun's offerings was strong security. RPC and NFS had
virtually none, effectively throwing open the resources of a network
of computer systems to the whims of the network's
Despite this failing (or perhaps, because of it),
Sun's technology soon became the standard. The
University of California at Berkeley developed implementations of
RPC, NIS, and NFS that interoperated with Sun's. As
Unix workstations became more popular, other companies, including HP,
Digital, and even IBM, licensed or adopted
Berkeley's software, licensed
Sun's, or developed their own.
Sun developed some fixes for the security problems in RPC and NFS
over time. Meanwhile, a number of other competing and complementary
systems—for example, Kerberos and DCE—were developed for
solving many of the same problems.