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System Administration Guide: IP Services
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Network Databases and the nsswitch.conf File

The network databases are files that provide information that is needed to configure the network. The network databases follow:

  • hosts

  • ipnodes

  • netmasks

  • ethers database

  • bootparams

  • protocols

  • services

  • networks

As part of the configuration process, you edit the hosts database and the netmasks database, if your network is subnetted. Two network databases, bootparams and ethers, are used to configure systems as network clients. The remaining databases are used by the operating system and seldom require editing.

Although nsswitch.conf file is not a network database, you need to configure this file along with the relevant network databases. nsswitch.conf specifies which name service to use for a particular system: local files, NIS, DNS, or LDAP.

How Name Services Affect Network Databases

The format of your network database depends on the type of name service you select for your network. For example, the hosts database contains, at least the host name and IPv4 address of the local system and any network interfaces that are directly connected to the local system. However, the hosts database could contain other IPv4 addresses and host names, depending on the type of name service on your network.

The network databases are used as follows:

  • Networks that use local files for their name service rely on files in the /etc/inet and /etc directories.

  • NIS uses databases that are called NIS maps.

  • DNS uses records with host information.

Note - DNS boot and data files do not correspond directly to the network databases.

The following figure shows the forms of the hosts database that are used by these name services.

Figure 10-2 Forms of the hosts Database Used by Name Services
This figure shows the various how the DNS, NIS, NIS+ name services and local files store the hosts database.

The following table lists the network databases and their corresponding local files and NIS maps.

Note - The ipnodes database is removed from Solaris releases after Solaris 10 11/06.

Table 10-1 Network Databases and Corresponding Name Service Files

Network Database

Local Files

NIS Maps



hosts.byaddr hosts.byname



ipnodes.byaddr ipnodes.byname






ethers.byname ethers.byaddr






protocols.byname protocols.bynumber






networks.byaddr networks.byname

This book discusses network databases as they are viewed by networks that use local files for name services.

Refer to System Administration Guide: Naming and Directory Services (DNS, NIS, and LDAP) for information on network databases correspondences in NIS, DNS, and LDAP.

nsswitch.conf File

The /etc/nsswitch.conf file defines the search order of the network databases. The Solaris installation program creates a default /etc/nsswitch.conf file for the local system, based on the name service you indicate during the installation process. If you selected the “None” option, indicating local files for name service, the resulting nsswitch.conf file resembles the following example.

Example 10-4 nsswitch.conf for Networks Using Files for Name Service
# /etc/nsswitch.files:
# An example file that could be copied over to /etc/nsswitch.conf;
# it does not use any naming service.
# "hosts:" and "services:" in this file are used only if the
# /etc/netconfig file contains "" as a
# nametoaddr library for "inet" transports.

passwd:          files
group:           files
hosts:           files
networks:        files
protocols:       files
rpc:             files
ethers:          files
netmasks:        files
bootparams:      files
publickey:       files
# At present there isn't a 'files' backend for netgroup; the
# system will figure it out pretty quickly,
# and won't use netgroups at all.
netgroup:        files
automount:       files
aliases:         files
services:        files
sendmailvars:    files

The nsswitch.conf(4) man page describes the file in detail. The basic syntax is shown here:

database name-service-to-search

The database field can list one of many types of databases that are searched by the operating system. For example, the field could indicate a database that affects users, such as passwd or aliases, or a network database. The parameter name-service-to-search can have the values files, nis, or nis+ for the network databases. The hosts database can also have dns as a name service to search. You can also list more than one name service, such as nis+ and files.

In Example 10-4, the only search option that is indicated is files. Therefore, the local system obtains security and automounting information, in addition to network database information, from files that are located in its /etc and /etc/inet directories.

Changing nsswitch.conf

The /etc directory contains the nsswitch.conf file that is created by the Solaris installation program. This directory also contains template files for the following name services:

  • nsswitch.files

  • nsswitch.nis

  • nsswitch.nis+

If you want to change from one name service to another name service, you can copy the appropriate template to nsswitch.conf. You can also selectively edit the nsswitch.conf file, and change the default name service to search for individual databases.

For example, on a network that runs NIS, you might have to change the nsswitch.conf file on network clients. The search path for the bootparams and ethers databases must list files as the first option, and then nis. The following example shows the correct search paths.

Example 10-5 nsswitch.conf for a Client on a Network Running NIS
# /etc/nsswitch.conf:#
passwd:        files nis
group:         file nis

# consult /etc "files" only if nis is down.
hosts:         nis    [NOTFOUND=return] files
networks:      nis    [NOTFOUND=return] files
protocols:     nis    [NOTFOUND=return] files
rpc:           nis    [NOTFOUND=return] files
ethers:        files  [NOTFOUND=return] nis
netmasks:      nis    [NOTFOUND=return] files    
bootparams:    files  [NOTFOUND=return] nis
publickey:     nis    
netgroup:      nis

automount:     files nis
aliases:       files nis

# for efficient getservbyname() avoid nis
services:      files nis
sendmailvars:  files

For complete details on the name service switch, refer to System Administration Guide: Naming and Directory Services (DNS, NIS, and LDAP).

bootparams Database

The bootparams database contains information that is used by systems that are configured to boot in network client mode. You need to edit this database if your network has network clients. See Configuring Network Clients for the procedures. The database is built from information that is entered into the /etc/bootparams file.

The bootparams(4) man page contains the complete syntax for this database. Basic syntax is shown here:

system-name file-key-server-name:pathname

For each network client system, the entry might contain the following information: the name of the client, a list of keys, the names of servers, and path names. The first item of each entry is the name of the client system. All items but the first item are optional. An example follows.

Example 10-6 bootparams Database
myclient   root=myserver : /nfsroot/myclient  \
swap=myserver : /nfsswap//myclient \
dump=myserver : /nfsdump/myclient

In this example, the term dump= tells client hosts not to look for a dump file.

Wildcard Entry for bootparams

In most instances, use the wildcard entry when editing the bootparams database to support clients. This entry follows:

*  root=server:/path dump=:

The asterisk (*) wildcard indicates that this entry applies to all clients that are not specifically named within the bootparams database.

ethers Database

The ethers database is built from information that is entered into the /etc/ethers file. This database associates host names to their Media Access Control (MAC) addresses. You need to create an ethers database only if you are running the RARP daemon. That is, you need to create this database if you are configuring network clients.

RARP uses the file to map MAC addresses to IP addresses. If you are running the RARP daemon in.rarpd, you need to set up the ethers file and maintain this file on all hosts that are running the daemon to reflect changes to the network.

The ethers(4) man page contains the complete syntax for this database. The basic syntax is shown here:

MAC-address hostname #comment

MAC address of the host


Official name of the host


Any note that you want to append to an entry in the file

The equipment manufacturer provides the MAC address. If a system does not display the MAC address during the system booting process, see your hardware manuals for assistance.

When adding entries to the ethers database, ensure that host names correspond to the primary names in the hosts , not to the nicknames, as follows.

Example 10-7 Entries in the ethers Database
8:0:20:1:40:16  fayoum
8:0:20:1:40:15  nubian 
8:0:20:1:40:7   sahara    # This is a comment
8:0:20:1:40:14  tenere 

Other Network Databases

The remaining network databases seldom need to be edited.

networks database

The networks database associates network names with network numbers, enabling some applications to use and display names rather than numbers. The networks database is based on information in the /etc/inet/networks file. This file contains the names of all networks to which your network connects through routers.

The Solaris installation program configures the initial networks database. However, if you add a new network to your existing network topology, you must update this database.

The networks(4) man page contains the complete syntax for /etc/inet/networks. The basic format is shown here:

network-name network-number nickname(s) #comment

Official name for the network


Number assigned by the ISP or Internet Registry


Any other name by which the network is known


Any note that you want to append to an entry in the file

You must maintain the networks file. The netstat program uses the information in this database to produce status tables.

A sample /etc/networks file follows.

Example 10-8 /etc/networks File
#ident    "@(#)networks    1.4    92/07/14 SMI"    /* SVr4.0 1.1    */
# The networks file associates Internet Protocol (IP) network
# numbers with network names. The format of this file is:
#     network-name              network-number              nicnames . . .

# The loopback network is used only for intra-machine communication
loopback              127

# Internet networks
arpanet     10       arpa  # Historical
# local networks

eng   192.168.9 #engineering
acc   192.168.5 #accounting
prog  192.168.2 #programming

protocols Database

The protocols database lists the TCP/IP protocols that are installed on your system and their protocol numbers. The Solaris installation program automatically creates the database. This file seldom requires any administration.

The protocols(4) man page describes the syntax of this database. An example of the /etc/inet/protocols file follows.

Example 10-9 /etc/inet/protocols File
# Internet (IP) protocols
ip    0   IP    # internet protocol, pseudo protocol number
icmp  1   ICMP  # internet control message protocol
tcp   6   TCP   # transmission control protocol
udp  17   UDP   # user datagram protocol

services Database

The services database lists the names of TCP and UDP services and their well-known port numbers. This database is used by programs that call network services. The Solaris installation automatically creates the services database. Generally, this database does not require any administration.

The services(4) man page contains complete syntax information. An excerpt from a typical /etc/inet/services file follows.

Example 10-10 /etc/inet/services File
# Network services
echo      7/udp
echo      7/tcp
echo      7/sctp6
discard   9/udp     sink null
discard   11/tcp
daytime   13/udp
daytime   13/tcp
netstat   15/tcp
ftp-data  20/tcp
ftp       21/tcp
telnet    23/tcp
time      37/tcp    timeserver
time      37/udp    timeserver
name      42/udp    nameserver
whois     43/tcp    nickname
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