On Tue, Jul 21, 2020 at 2:35 PM Warner Losh <imp@bsdimp.com> wrote:
On Tue, Jul 21, 2020 at 12:23 PM <arnold@skeeve.com> wrote:
The idea was that /etc held things specific to a box, while /bin, /sbin,
/usr could be remote mounted from a server.  This is also when /home
came into practice as the place to hold home directories.

This avoided having umpteen zillion copies of the same files
(executables, man pages, libraries, etc.) since they could be mounted
read-only from one or a few servers.  At the time, disk space was not
nearly as cheap as it is now.

A big cost savings in having 20 diskless workstations was that you didn't need the 2-4gb of disks for each individual one, but instead could have one copy of the 100MB-200MB of the core OS. When. X started getting libraries out the wazoo with toolkit wars, it saved even more. IIRC, the Sun 3/50's ethernet port was faster than its disk port, so your diskless workstation could be faster than one with a disk (assuming the network wasn't overloaded).

When I first came on the scene, there was a convention that I thought worked well: the "dataless" node. I have no idea why it was called that; I suppose because most interesting data was on a centrally managed file server. Anyway, this was under SunOS 4: the idea was that each node had a small disk; enough to hold / and swap, but mounted /usr, /usr/local and user directories from a file server. So commonly used stuff (/bin/csh, ls, etc etc) all came from a local disk, while everything else was shared. Disks in workstations were small and basically turn-key so that we didn't back them up: if one crashed, oh well: throw a new one in it and reimage /. Swap was transient anyway. A variation was to have an owning-user's home directory on the node if the local disk was big enough. Sometimes there'd be a /scratch partition for bulk storage that persisted across reboots (/tmp came from tmpfs and was a swap-backed RAM disk). We'd back up local home dirs and maybe the scratch directories.

In our network, we used `amd` and NIS (YP!) to get access to everyone's home dir on every node.

I rather liked the overall setup; it was nice. It became a deprecated configuration on the move to Solaris 2.x: a workstation was either diskfull or diskless. The idea of a compromise between the two extremes went away.

        - Dan C.