With NFS version 4.1, ESXi supports the Kerberos authentication mechanism.

The RPCSEC_GSS Kerberos mechanism is an authentication service. It allows an NFS 4.1 client installed on ESXi to prove its identity to an NFS server before mounting an NFS share. The Kerberos security uses cryptography to work across an insecure network connection.

The ESXi implementation of Kerberos for NFS 4.1 provides two security models, krb5 and krb5i, that offer different levels of security.
  • Kerberos for authentication only (krb5) supports identity verification.
  • Kerberos for authentication and data integrity (krb5i), in addition to identity verification, provides data integrity services. These services help to protect the NFS traffic from tampering by checking data packets for any potential modifications.

Kerberos supports cryptographic algorithms that prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to NFS traffic. The NFS 4.1 client on ESXi attempts to use either the AES256-CTS-HMAC-SHA1-96 or AES128-CTS-HMAC-SHA1-96 algorithm to access a share on the NAS server. Before using your NFS 4.1 datastores, make sure that AES256-CTS-HMAC-SHA1-96 or AES128-CTS-HMAC-SHA1-96 are enabled on the NAS server.

The following table compares Kerberos security levels that ESXi supports.

Table 1. Types of Kerberos Security
ESXi 6.0 ESXi 6.5 and later
Kerberos for authentication only (krb5) Integrity checksum for RPC header Yes with DES Yes with AES
Integrity checksum for RPC data No No
Kerberos for authentication and data integrity (krb5i) Integrity checksum for RPC header No krb5i Yes with AES
Integrity checksum for RPC data Yes with AES
When you use Kerberos authentication, the following considerations apply:
  • ESXi uses Kerberos with the Active Directory domain.
  • As a vSphere administrator, you specify Active Directory credentials to provide access to NFS 4.1 Kerberos datastores for an NFS user. A single set of credentials is used to access all Kerberos datastores mounted on that host.
  • When multiple ESXi hosts share the NFS 4.1 datastore, you must use the same Active Directory credentials for all hosts that access the shared datastore. To automate the assignment process, set the user in host profiles and apply the profile to all ESXi hosts.
  • You cannot use two security mechanisms, AUTH_SYS and Kerberos, for the same NFS 4.1 datastore shared by multiple hosts.

See the vSphere Storage documentation for step-by-step instructions.