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I am looking for a versioning file system like VMS used to have. Are there any modern equivalents I can host for Windows clients? Requirements:

  • Ability to map a drive to the shared file system from XP, Vista, Win7, Samba (Linux)

  • Ability to host this file system either on a Windows Flavor, or CentOS

  • Completey transparent to the end users - looks like a normal drive / share. I am sure I could hack something together with something like SVN, but it would not be transparent.

I have searched Google, and here and found nothing so far.

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Starting with Windows 2003, Volume Shadow Copies became available. That do it for you?

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VSS isn't really versioning. The VMS versioning mechanism, which is really pretty cool, is actually versioning:… The problem with this mechanism is that applications need to be sure not to do stupid when "saving" new version like "create a temporary file, write to the temporary file, delete the original file, rename the temporary file". – Evan Anderson Jan 22 '10 at 0:13
That's true. The VMS file system did have that in its court. – squillman Jan 22 '10 at 0:25
Maybe I'm missing something but doesn't Shadow Copies for Shared Folders fit the bill here? - – joeqwerty Jan 22 '10 at 0:46
Users with little technical abilities (95% of normal folks) will not find this remotely usable. It is much easier to see multiple versions going back in time in the place where you put the file than to try and navigate around to find the last version that is different than the current version. – Kevin K Jan 23 '10 at 19:34

OpenVMS Files-11 system is in-fact true versioning file system. Every time a save, copy, or any write is performed, unless the command was specifically parametered not to do so, a new version with the same filename is created up to version 32767. OpenVMS files appear in the following format: filename.extension;version-number (ex: myfile.txt;1 myfile.txt;2 myfile.txt;3 and so on up to: myfile.txt;32767)

For example, in OpenVMS you can:

COPY myfile.txt;2 myfile.txt;4

PURGE myfile.txt (leaves only the latest version)

PURGE/KEEP=3 myfile.txt (leaves only the latest 3 versions)

DELETE myfile.txt;3 (deletes only version 3)

So far, I have not found any software that can remotely replicate the same type of file versioning in Windows - but I'm always looking.

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I'm not sure I'd call VMS's filesystem mechanism "versioning" except that it nicely saved a couple older copies.

NetApp filer's have "snapshots" that allow you to look at what your filesystem looked like as of midnight of yesterday or the 3rd week of last year, or whatever you want to configure it to preserve. They don't use lots of space, either. You can specify a time to make the snapshots or you can perform snapshots manually. You then access these points in time by going into a subdirectory of the directory.

Sun's ZFS filesystem (available under solaris, recent versions of FreeBSD, and server versions of OSX) also allows you to make snapshots that are functionally identical to the netapp snapshots. You'll need to install Samba to share a ZFS filesystem with a windows client (or use NFS to share it with a unix host).

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While I agree with your sentiment of VMS's "versioning" it is a nice feature from the end-user's point of view, and one that I regularly go looking for every year or so, just to see if any of the new file systems implement such a handy feature. "foo;verion" is so much more elegant (and easier to grasp for a novice, IMO) than "/mountpoint/.zfs/snapshot/five_days_ago/full/path/to/foo". It was about the only thing I liked of VMS when I was forced to endure it in college. – Geoff Fritz Jan 21 '10 at 23:49
ZFS is not in MacOS X. Apple pulled it out :( – tegbains Jan 22 '10 at 1:13
@tegbains: Wow, that's a fat bummer. ZFS really seems like the killer app that just hasn't gotten traction. I keep expecting embedded devices with freebsd or opensolaris to have it instead of linux for things like NAS boxes. – chris Jan 22 '10 at 14:54
I've started building my own OpenSolaris based NAS/SAN devices. You do need to learn to use the zfs/zpool/nfs/iscsi tools but they are not that hard. There is always NexentaStor if you want a paid GUI. – tegbains Jan 22 '10 at 17:31

Not a solution that is native to windows:

If you run Apache with dav_svn you can configure it to make a new revision evertyime the file is saved.

Windows clients can simply connect to the http endpoint and should be able to work (mostly) transparently with the mapped drive have a look at WebDAV and Autoversioning

EDIT: On a second thought, it sounds like you actually want a DMS along the lines of sharepoint. If you don't want to pay for it: Try the Alfresco Community Edition after a week of fiddling I had it set up to the point where I had native smb mounts for our windows users. Versioned Documents with a nice Web UI for End Users and authentication integrated with our Domain (but this was under Linux with OpenLDAP and Samba -- Alfresco itself doesn't really care. It's java and available for all major platforms)

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