Common Internet File System
Some definitions and general technology
CIFS is, as its name already says, a specification for a file access protocol designed for the internet.
Common, commonly available, commonly used?
Internet, it is suppoed to be capable of scaling to large networks.
FileSystem, CIFS allows the sharing of directories, files, printers etc across a network, and the related administration of it (protocol for service announcements, naming, authentication and authorization)
Anyway, CIFS is based on the existing SMB protocol. With CIFS, any naming conventions that are tied into SMB have been separated to allow use of any chosen standard (e.g. DNS). The intention is, that to make implementiations on "all" platforms and not to replace exisiting file access protocols such as HTTP, FTP and NFS, but to complement them.
According to Microsoft these are the benefits of using CIFS:
1. Integrity and concurrency. CIFS allows multiple clients to access and update the same file, while preventing conflicts with sophisticated file-sharing and locking semantics. These mechanisms also permit aggressive caching and read-ahead/write-behind without loss of integrity.
2. Fault tolerance. CIFS supports fault tolerance in the face of network and server failures. CIFS clients can automatically restore connections and reopen files that were open prior to interruption.
3. Optimization for slow links. The CIFS protocol has been tuned to run well over slow-speed dial-up lines. The effect is improved performance for the vast numbers of users today who access the Internet using a modem.
4. Security. CIFS servers support both anonymous transfers and secure, authenticated access to named files. File and directory security policies are easy to administer.
5. Performance and scalability. The performance of CIFS servers is unequaled among network file systems. CIFS servers are highly integrated with the operating system, tuned for maximum system performance, and easy to administer.
6. Unicode file names. File names can be in any human character set, not just ones designed mainly for English or Western European languages.
7. Global file names. Users do not have to mount remote file systems, but can refer to them directly with globally significant names, instead of ones that have only local significance.
Well, something very familiar to the whole idea is Samba. CIFS too is based on the SMB protocol, although Microsoft implemented several dialects of the protocol (corresponding with major OS releases/updates).
At the moment of writing the cifs website is down for whatever reason, so I suggest that you read the Samba - How paragraph to get an idea about the smb-stuff.
... more to come ...
References and more information
CIFS website, the .com
CIFS website, the .org
CIFS Benefits, Microsoft webpage
CIFS: An Internet File System Protocol, Microsoft webpage
CIFS from eight miles high - an introduction