Symbolic prefixes

We've discussed prefixes that map to a resource manager. A second form of prefix, known as a symbolic prefix, is a simple string substitution for a matched prefix.

You create symbolic prefixes using the POSIX ln (link) command. This command is typically used to create hard or symbolic links on a filesystem by using the -s option. If you also specify the -P option, then a symbolic link is created in the in-memory prefix space of procnto.

Command Description
ln -s existing_file symbolic_link Create a filesystem symbolic link.
ln -Ps existing_file symbolic_link Create a prefix tree symbolic link.

Note that a prefix tree symbolic link will always take precedence over a filesystem symbolic link.

For example, assume you're running on a machine that doesn't have a local filesystem. However, there's a filesystem on another node (say neutron) that you wish to access as /bin. You accomplish this using the following symbolic prefix:

ln -Ps /net/neutron/bin  /bin

This will cause /bin to be mapped into /net/neutron/bin. For example, /bin/ls will be replaced with the following:


This new pathname will again be applied against the prefix tree, but this time the prefix matched will be /net, which will point to lsm-qnet. The lsm-qnet resource manager will then resolve the neutron component, and redirect further resolution requests to the node called neutron. On node neutron, the rest of the pathname (i.e. /bin/ls) will be resolved against the prefix space on that node. This will resolve to the filesystem manager on node neutron, where the open() request will be directed. With just a few characters, this symbolic prefix has allowed us to access a remote filesystem as though it were local.

It's not necessary to run a local filesystem process to perform the redirection. A diskless workstation's prefix tree might look something like this:

With this prefix tree, local devices such as /dev/ser1 or /dev/console will be routed to the local character device manager, while requests for other pathnames will be routed to the remote filesystem.