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The Group Administration Shell and the GASH Network Computing Environment

Jonathan Abbey
The University of Texas at Austin


Managing large scale UNIX networks so that users can use resources on multiple systems is traditionally performed using NIS, NFS, and DNS. Proper use of these tools requires exacting maintenance of multiple databases under a single point of control. This is acceptable for a few dozen machines, but with hundreds of machines spread across several administrative groups, some mechanism is needed to share administrative control over the master administrative files.

The Computer Science Division of the Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas at Austin (ARL:UT) has developed the Group Administration Shell (GASH) system, which gives different administrators permission to administer subsets of the laboratory NIS and DNS files. In addition to distributing administrative control in a secure fashion, GASH makes a large number of system administration tasks very simple, permitting technically untrained personnel to safely perform complex system administration tasks. The Network Computing Environment (NCE) built around GASH and standard UNIX tools such as NIS, DNS, and automounter provides a flexible and reliable way of completely abstracting the user's environment from the physical configuration of the network.

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