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NIS (Network Information System)

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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.

NIS is a distributed database that provides a repository for storing information about hosts, users, and mailboxes in the UNIX environment. It was originally developed by Sun Microsystems and called YP (Yellow Pages). NIS is used to identify and locate objects and resources that are accessible on a network.

NIS has been upgraded to NIS+, which includes better administrative support for large organizations, stronger security, and improved distribution of updates to other NIS+ databases. In particular, NIS+ supports data encryption and authentication over secure RPC.

A typical network will consist of at least one NIS server, but other NIS servers may exist to service different NIS domains. A master-slave configuration is also possible, where a master NIS server distributes the NIS database to one or more slave NIS servers. When changes take place, the master NIS server automatically updates the slaves. This arrangement allows clients to access "nearby" servers with the assurance that they are working with the must recent information.

The NIS+ implementation in Solaris 2.0 consists of 16 information tables that store network information. The most common tables are described below:

  • Hosts    Information about hosts on the network, such as their network address and hostname

  • Ethers    Ethernet addresses for hosts

  • Networks    Information about networks in the domain

  • Services    Available IP services and their port numbers

  • Password    Information about passwords and pointers to the shadow file

  • Cred    Access credentials for users

  • Group    Information about groups in a domain

  • Auto_Home    Home directories for users

  • Bootparams    Information used by diskless workstations

Information is accessed using NIS+ commands or by using management program. The usually procedure is to first select the table to search and specify the search criteria. More recently, directory services such as Sun's Directory Services have become popular. Refer to "Directory Services" and "LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol)" for more information.

Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.
All rights reserved under Pan American and International copyright conventions.