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HOSTNAMES AND THE COMMONWEALTH INTERNET DOMAIN NAME SERVICE (DNS)

Version: 1.0
Issued: 12/18/98

DEFINITION

STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE

CURRENT GUIDANCE

UNDER CONSIDERATION

ITD CONTACTS

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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.

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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.

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CURRENT GUIDANCE:

  • All state entities are encouraged to utilize a sub-domain of the state's domain <state.ma.us> for the naming of hosts within their agencies. This service is offered free of charge. Government entities should not use NET, COM or ORG domains. The following sub-domain options are supported:
  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  • Each organization participating in the <state.ma.us> domain should designate a responsible party to manage assignments within its sub-domain, and identify that party to ITD as authorized to generate DNS update requests.
  • Some agencies have purchased and registered special domains within the generic set of top level domains (.com, .org, .net). While ITD does not encourage or support this practice, we will supply duplicate name service for an appropriate name within the <state.ma.us> domain.
  • Some individual hostnames for systems performing Internet functions have been reserved by ITD, and do not conflict with agency, authority, or service names, for example, <mailhub.state.ma.us>and ftp.state.ma.us).
  • State organizations that wish to establish practices outside the scope or direction provided in this document, e.g.- setting up an alternative primary DNS server managed by an ISP, must contact the CSB Information Services Team (see ITD Contacts below). Given the significant technical and operational complexities associated with hostnames and the Commonwealth's Internet Domain Name Services, serious problems may result without a full and comprehensive analysis of alternative efforts.

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UNDER CONSIDERATION:

ITD will make the DNS Request/Update form available through its Web site.

ITD CONTACTS:

For questions or comments about this document please contact Gillian Lockwood, Enterprise Policy and Architecture, Gillian.Lockwood@state.ma.us.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

For more information about the US domain, please see http://nic.us.

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