TCP/IP and Data Communications Administration Guide

Naming Entities on Your Network

After you have received your assigned network number and given IP addresses to your hosts, the next task is to assign names to the hosts and determine how you will handle name services on your network. You will use these names when you initially set up your network and, later, for expanding your network through routers or PPP.

The TCP/IP protocols locate a machine on a network by using its IP address. However, humans find it much easier to identify a machine if it has an understandable name. Therefore, the TCP/IP protocols (and the Solaris operating system) require both the IP address and the host name to uniquely identify a machine.

From a TCP/IP perspective, a network is a set of named entities. A host is an entity with a name. A router is an entity with a name. The network is an entity with a name. A group or department in which the network is installed can also be given a name, as can a division, a region, or a company. In theory, there is virtually no limit to the hierarchy of names that can be used to identify a network and its machines. The term for these named entities is domain.

Administering Host Names

Many sites let users pick host names for their machines. Servers also require at least one host name, which is associated with the IP address of its primary network interface.

As network administrator, you must ensure that each host name in your domain is unique. In other words, no two machines on your network could both have the name "fred," although the machine "fred" might have multiple IP addresses.

When planning your network, make a list of IP addresses and their associated host names for easy access during the setup process. The list can help you verify that all host names are unique.

Selecting a Name Service

The Solaris operating system gives you the option of using four types of name services: local files, NIS, NIS+, and DNS. Name services maintain critical information about the machines on a network, such as the host names, IP addresses, Ethernet addresses, and the like.

Network Databases

When you install the operating system, you supply the host name and IP address of your server, clients, or standalone machine as part of the procedure. The Solaris installation program enters this information into a network database called the hosts database. The hosts database is one of a set of network databases that contain information necessary for TCP/IP operation on your network. These databases are read by the name service you select for your network.

Setting up the network databases is a critical part of network configuration. Therefore, you need to decide which name service to use as part of the network planning process. Moreover, the decision to use name services also affects whether or not you organize your network into an administrative domain. Chapter 4, Configuring TCP/IP on the Network, has detailed information on the set of network databases.

Using NIS, NIS+, or DNS for Name Service

The NIS, NIS+, or DNS name services maintain network databases on several servers on the network. Solaris Naming Setup and Configuration Guide fully describes these name services and explains how to set them up. It also explains the "namespace" and "administrative domain" concepts in complete detail. If you are changing name services from NIS to NIS+, refer to NIS+ Transition Guide. You should refer to these manuals to help you decide whether to use these name services on your network.

Using Local Files for Name Service

If you do not implement NIS, NIS+, or DNS, the network will use local files to provide name service. The term "local files" refers to the series of files in the /etc directory that the network databases use. The procedures in this book assume you are using local files for your name service, unless otherwise indicated.

Note -

If you decide to use local files as the name service for your network, you can set up another name service at a later date.

Domain Names

Many networks organize their hosts and routers into a hierarchy of administrative domains. If you are going to use NIS, NIS+, or the DNS name services, you must select a domain name for your organization that is unique worldwide. To ensure that your domain name is unique, you should register it with the InterNIC. This is especially important if you plan to use DNS.

The domain name structure is hierarchical. A new domain typically is located below an existing, related domain. For example, the domain name for a subsidiary company could be located below the domain of the parent company. If it has no other relationship, an organization can place its domain name directly under one of the existing top-level domains.

Examples of top-level domains include:

The name that identifies your organization is one that you select, with the provision that it is unique.

Administrative Subdivisions

The question of administrative subdivisions deals with matters of size and control. The more hosts and servers you have in a network, the more complex your management task. You may wish to handle such situations by setting up additional administrative divisions in the form of more additional networks of a particular class or by dividing existing networks into subnets. The decision as to whether to set up administrative subdivisions for your network hinges on the following factors: