HOSTNAMES AND THE COMMONWEALTH INTERNET DOMAIN NAME SERVICE (DNS)
DEFINITION: A hostname or sitename is the unique name that identifies a computer in a network or in any other type of electronic information exchange. On the Internet, a hostname is a string of characters such as <www.mass.gov> where <www> is the local identifier and <state.ma.us> is the domain name. Domain names can be further subdivided into sub-domains such as <itd.state.ma.us>. The local identifier always goes to the left of the domain or sub-domain name.
An Internet Domain Name Service (DNS) translates hostnames into IP addresses that are a string of numbers that allow computers to communicate with each other on the Internet. ITD maintains a primary Internet DNS for the <state.ma.us> domain to provide address distribution and translation within Commonwealth organizations. A secondary DNS, currently hosted at GTE/BBN, meets the InterNIC's requirement for redundant name service.
STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE: Because the Internet is such an open and distributed system by design, it can often be a confusing and difficult place to find exactly what you need. Internet naming conventions have been designed to provide some categorization for the millions of sites that populate the network.
The US domain, a fairly new top level domain, is where federal government agencies, state government agencies, K12 schools, community colleges, technical/ vocational schools, and city and county government agencies are supposed to register. NET, COM, and ORG domains are intended for the private sector. No identity proof is required to obtain a domain name in NET, COM, or ORG.
Only the state government of Massachusetts can have the domain <state.ma.us>. All Commonwealth agencies in all three branches of government should participate in this domain, at no cost, to provide consistent mapping, and to enable unfamiliar constituents to locate authentic state government organizations and services. ITD manages this domain and authorizes sub-domains for use by departments and other subdivisions. In so doing, we try to balance the need to preserve a state government host name structure that is authentic, consistent and familiar with the need to be user-friendly and easily accessible.
- Three-letter MMARS Code:
All agencies with 3-letter MMARS codes, as defined by the Comptroller, have that code reserved for their use, and are free to add local names to the left of their sub-domains. For example, the "Very Efficient Bureau", (MMARS code VEB), can manage the sub-domain <veb.state.ma.us>, and specify any desired hostnames within it such as <server.veb.state.ma.us>, <www.veb.state.ma.us>, etc. ITD will generate DNS updates when notified of a desired hostname-to-IP-address translation. The DNS Request/Update form should be used for this purpose (see ITD Contacts below).
- Recognized agency/authority names:
Any Commonwealth organization without a 3-letter MMARS code (including independent authorities), and any with more easily recognized acronyms may request from ITD a suitable unique name (preferably 4-letters or more, to avoid MMARS conflicts). For example, the "Highly Effective Transit Authority" might request <heta.state.ma.us>. Once authorization is granted, the organization is free to manage hostnames within the sub-domain, as is done by 3-letter MMARS code agencies. Requests for unique organizational names should be submitted to ITD staff using the DNS Request/Update form. Proposed names will be reviewed to avoid duplicate or misleading names. Approved names will be forwarded within ITD for DNS entry.
- Commonwealth hosts:
Specific hostnames that service multiple agencies, and have Commonwealth-wide obligations can also be allocated directly within the <state.ma.us> domain, avoiding the names reserved for agencies and independent authorities. For example, <massfinance.state.ma.us > is the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' online source for financial information hosted by the Office of the State Comptroller. Requests for specific hostnames on the <state.ma.us> domain should be submitted to ITD staff using the DNS Request/Update form. Proposed names will be reviewed to avoid duplicate or misleading names. Approved names will be forwarded within ITD for DNS entry.
ITD will make the DNS Request/Update form available through its Web site.
For questions or comments about this document please contact Gillian Lockwood, Enterprise Policy and Architecture, Gillian.Lockwood@state.ma.us.
For more information about the US domain, please see http://nic.us.