NFS (Network File System) is a file-sharing protocol used by ESXi hosts to communicate with a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device over a standard TCP/IP network. An NFS device contains directories shared with ESXi hosts over the network. The shared directories hold virtual machine files, templates, ISO images, and other data. ESXi hosts use VMkernel ports defined on virtual switches to access NFS devices.
Here is a description of NFS components used in an vSphere environment:
- NFS device (server) – a storage device or a server that uses the NFS protocol to make files available over the network.
- NFS datastore – a shared folder on the NFS server that can be used to hold virtual machine files.
- NFS client – ESXi includes a built-in NFS client used to access an NFS device.
The following picture shows NFS components used in an vSphere environment (source: VMware):