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Lesson 1

Network Information Service (NIS)

In this module, we will explore the Network Information System (NIS), which is one approach to the problem of creating a distributed computing environment on a local network. The NIS system was invented by Sun Microsystems, but has been adopted by other system designers as well. It was originally known as the "Yellow Pages", but this name was dropped because it is a copyright held by British Telecomm. NIS provides a network database of important configuration information and helps bind a network of machines into a single usable entity. After completing this module, you will be able to:
  1. List the reasons for using NIS on a UNIX system
  2. Describe how NIS works
  3. List the critical configuration files NIS uses
  4. List the main NIS commands
  5. Describe how to integrate NIS into a UNIX system
  6. Set up a NIS master server and several NIS clients
  7. Enable network users to change their passwords
  8. Add new users to a NIS database
  9. Troubleshoot NIS problems

Linux System Administration


Although NIS is still widely used by Linux, AIX, and HP-UX networks, Sun replaced NIS with an improved system called NIS+. NIS+ is substantially more powerful and substantially more secure, and offers many advantages over NIS. However, NIS+ is also considerably more complicated to set up and maintain than NIS. Currently NIS+ is essentially a Solaris-only system; other UNIX versions do not support NIS+. NIS+ servers running on Solaris can operate compatibly with NIS clients on other types of UNIX machines, though they lose their additional security capabilities when doing so. We will cover NIS+ briefly in the next module.

What is Network Information Service

Network Information Service (NIS) is a client-server system that is used to centrally manage and distribute user and group information, as well as other system-related information such as hostnames and IP addresses, on a network. NIS is typically used in environments where there are multiple computers running UNIX or Linux operating systems, and is particularly useful in situations where there are a large number of users and groups that need to be managed and maintained. When a user or system administrator wants to look up or change information related to users or groups, they can do so by communicating with an NIS server. The server then looks up the requested information in its databases, and returns the information to the client. NIS servers can also propagate updates to other servers, so that the information remains consistent across the entire network. NIS is typically used in conjunction with other services such as the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and Domain Name System (DNS) to provide a more comprehensive system for network management.
NIS is an older technology, and since its release, there have been many other solutions which implement better security, such as LDAP, Kerberos, and Active Directory. Due to security weaknesses and maintenance issues it's no longer recommended to use NIS on a production network.