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Hardware Idle

Server Names For a New Generation 429

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-is-it-called? dept.
itwbennett writes "Server naming is well-trod ground on Slashdot. But as new generations enter the workforce, they're relearning the fundamentals of what makes a good scheme. Can servers named after characters from The Simpsons or The Howard Stern show stand the test of time? If you name your servers after the Seven Dwarfs, can you have any doubt that Grumpy will cause you trouble? Striking a balance between fun and functional is harder than it seems."
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Server Names For a New Generation

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  • by glassware (195317) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:29AM (#39284483) Homepage Journal

    At my startup company, we named servers after notable videogame characters. It was quite nifty when we had three servers; it stayed fun for years. But when we reached 30 servers, gradually problems crept in. One machine needed to be rebuilt and the name kept getting reassigned. Similar names were confusing.

    Server naming schemes are cute until you outgrow them. Hint: Determine for yourself when you outgrow them. We now name servers by their function and their sequence number.

  • Functional (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:30AM (#39284491)

    I realise that the new generation may not be bothered with such mundane details in their pursuit of eternal hipsterness, but server names need to be functional. Whenever possible, IT should be able to identify server's location, platform and purpose by glancing at the name... "TEAMEDWARD1" just doesn't cut it, unless the server is located in some depressingly remote location nobody knew about, until the server was placed there.

  • Re:Functional (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:34AM (#39284525) Journal

    Indeed. After years of enduring networks with servers with tree names or GI Joe character names, when it came for me to come up with names for my servers and other network devices, I came up with functional names that describe physical locations, departments, functions, and so forth. That way I have a descriptive network rather than trying to remember which one of the Power Rangers the last IT guy liked the best.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:38AM (#39284553)

    You're in deep trouble when you build an ESX cluster. Then you'll have blue-1 running on the ESX server red and blue-2 running on orange.

  • Re:Functional (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:46AM (#39284591)

    Whenever possible, IT should be able to identify server's location, platform and purpose by glancing at the name

    Except when any of the server's location, platform or purpose changes, you'll have to change its name.

    Right!

    Is this a bad thing? Is it better to name the server SnowWhite and then having to remember whether SnowWhite is a DNS server or a Web server this week? Better to rename it (even better to reimage it) from prod-dns1 to dev-web1. I ship servers between datacenters so infrequently that renaming the server when it moves is not a problem.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:58AM (#39284643)
    Trademarks are also registered against specific industries.
  • by isorox (205688) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:15AM (#39284725) Homepage Journal

    There can be a naming standard that is applied to all devices, network, servers, storage, so on, that help simplify how an IT organization works. This has to be driven by management.

    Naming things by some arbitrary set of characters from your favorite story does not scale well, to say the least.

    Lets create a standard that scales like a mofo:

    ie, SJN1FIDBSW0001
    The goal would be to have each device identified by a location (SJN), location code (1), businessorg (FI), zone (DB) device type (SW), ,logical identifer (0), physical device # (001)

    The problem with that naming convention is you get very similar named servers, which might only differ by a single character in the middle of a hard-to-scan blob of text.

    On colleague of mine has managed to flatten a production oracle server because he connected to the Manchester one, not the Washington one. The difference was embedded in the middle of the all-caps dns. Several people have restarted services on the wrong server too, again a single character difference in 15.

    Since then I've instituted a policy of changing PS1 to prepend the hostname with the location in plain text.

    When it comes to outside addressing, heigherarchial dns and cnames allow easy addressing. oracle1.washington.mycorp.com, web1.gaza.mycorp.com is fairly clear where the box is and what the function is, and when it comes time to reassign functions, you just update the cname.

  • by bertok (226922) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:28AM (#39285079)

    Moderate parent up please!

    Full, descriptive names are the only sane way to name servers.

    Alphanumerical gibberish is a system promoted by suit wearing idiots who's job it is to track corporate assets, not the people who's job it is to press the "OK" button on the "Are you sure you want to destroy this 5 TB volume?" dialog box.

    No, you don't need the operating system platform in the server name, or the room code, rack number, owner, or anything else. Learn to use spreadsheets, asset tags, and description fields like a normal person. Name servers something clear and simple, like "ProdFile1" or "DmzDns2", and put the unrelated meta data where it belongs: elsewhere. Don't be afraid of CamelCasing either, just because server names are case insensitive doesn't mean they are not case preserving.

    I've been at a site recently where there were wildly unrelated servers distinguished only by a single character, using both the numeral '1' and the letter 'I' in the same position. I saw, with my own two eyes, one of their senior admins moving the mouse cursor towards the "OK" on the "Are you sure you want to permanently delete this VM" prompt, and they had the wrong server! I corrected the guy before it was too late, so he then promptly found a second, also incorrect, server to delete.

  • Re:Functional (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rvw (755107) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @05:34AM (#39285461)

    Indeed. After years of enduring networks with servers with tree names or GI Joe character names, when it came for me to come up with names for my servers and other network devices, I came up with functional names that describe physical locations, departments, functions, and so forth. That way I have a descriptive network rather than trying to remember which one of the Power Rangers the last IT guy liked the best.

    They can be functional by metaphor. Lake names can be used for storage. Star or planet names or river names for mailservers, etc. OK, given the server name Mercurius, people won't instantly know that it's a mailserver, but once the system is clear, it's quite simple. And occasionally you come across a name that you don't know, which can be educational as well for those interested.

  • Dual naming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqldr (838964) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @05:57AM (#39285555)

    I joined a company with over 500 servers and a really incoherent naming scheme - or lack of. I could talk for hours on how you built a name out of a class hiearachy which also matched its class in puppet, but the dual naming them was a win. Basically it works like this:

    When servers are racked up, they're just numbered, with a TLA for the location they're in based on nearest airport code.

    lax-001
    lax-002
    lax-003

    That name is PERMANENT unless it gets shipped to a new location. It also gets assigned an IP right away. But so far a bit meaningless. then it gets assigned a function

    foo-web-01 CNAME lax-002
    mail-02 CNAME lax-003
    bar-db-06 CNAME lax-004

    This has a couple of huge advantages, namely:

    1. When a guy in the datacentre asks you for label names to rack them up, you just say "just number them 45-67", and they get on with it before you've even assigned them.

    2. No re-labelling

    3. You can look up the "meaningless" name just using DNS

    4. You have a numbered inventory

    5. With a bit of work, you can pre-assign IP addresses to servers before they've even turned up and get the network guys to tag them straight in to the switch on arrival

  • Re:Functional (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shri (17709) <(shriramc) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:03AM (#39285575) Homepage
    Our naming convention is two-letter-country - DC three letter code - application - offset us-sjc-nfs-1 jp-tok-php-1 etc
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:14AM (#39285863)

    A current case [futurezone.at] (page in German) of an Austrian person who got their door kicked down for naming his servers after ancient Germanic gods (which was good enough as an excuse to label him Nazi which is against the Austrian criminal code).

    More likely, though, they didn't like his rather critical attitude towards the Austrian government and its position towards surveillance, and they needed some kind of excuse to fill his room with a swat team.

    So be wary if you dare to voice your dissent, don't name your servers after, say, some Muslim prophets.

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