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Server Naming Conventions? 961

Some random reader sent in: "Hi, I'm wondering what others out there use for server naming conventions. Our data centre right now houses a little under 200 servers, with plans to grow up to 4000 servers within the next five years. We'd like to pick something flexible and easy to manage with any tracking system. The servers we'll be implementing include SUN, HPUX, and AIX servers, in addition to existing Compaq and HP Intel servers, so we'll have to adhere to limitations placed on hostnames by manufacturers (ie HPUX lets you have an 8 character hostname)." We had a similar story a few years ago.

The reader continues:

"Here's a few ideas we've been tossing around, using Joe's Deli as an example:

- [four letter "name"][two letter service type][2 numbers] eg)
+ easy to determine the function and name
- hard to remember and pronounce, once you run out of four character servers, determining the name and function will be difficult. Joe's Deli and John's Delivery will have conflicting names

- [random combination of numbers and letters]
+ none really
- confusing.. really confusing. Can you imagine saying to someone "log on to alpha kappa one john omikron peter three delta?"

- [theme based name]
name servers based on a theme, eg Gundam
+ easily identifiable - all Gundam names belong to Joe's Deli, easy to pronounce and remember
- hard for a new tech or management (why would they need to know?) to associate to a server

"I'd like to know what others in the tech community use for server naming policies when planning large scale data centres. Also, with data centres located nationally, does the naming convention pose any problems? Thanks."

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Server Naming Conventions?

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  • by Yoda2 ( 522522 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:50PM (#3152794)
    You could name them after the seven dwarfs, but then I'm not sure what you'd do with the other 3997?
  • Sci-Fi (Score:2, Insightful)

    I recommend a Sci-Fi theme. It's simple at first (pick an author/story and stick with it for a while) and can expand (how many different sco-fi movies/books/etc are there?). Comparatively, other things tend to run out when you expand. Plus, with Sci-Fi you can do exciting things like "All web servers will have robot names from Asimov". Something to think about.

    • "All web servers will have robot names from Asimov".

      The place I use to work named all thier web servers after characters from the spiderman comic.

      • Re:Sci-Fi (Score:3, Funny)

        by Moonshadow ( 84117 )
        All of our servers are named after mythological/horoscopic characters/creatures, ie Hercules, Athena, Draco, Aries, Phoenix, etc. Works for us. They were originally given names like TTIBDC01, TTIBDC02, etc. Not only more confusing, it doesn't sound as cool in conversation.

        "So, did you install that latest patch on Phoenix?" sounds a lot better than "Updated TTIBDC01 lately?"

        Of course, with that many servers, you're better off naming them with random character strings. Here, I'll get you started...

        $hostname[] = md5(rand(0,(float) microtime() * 10000000));

    • Not to mention none of the users are gonna understand the reference anyway.
      Far more logical to name as follows:


      It is a simple matter then to hand out a quick-reference pamphlet to your users defining what each server is.
      Be sure to order the reference by server name, rather than function or department, as this is how they will be listed in Network Neighborhood. Your users cannot be expected to understand the difference between a print server and a SQL server anyway - no need to confuse them any more than necessary.

      (and if you really do this I want a copy of your next performance review! rofl...)
  • by actappan ( 144541 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:50PM (#3152798) Homepage
    I've always like the idea of naming your systems after your exec staff. Makes rebuilding them kinda fun - and if they're windos boxen - you know that at some point you'll get to reformat your CEO.
    • by bentini ( 161979 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @08:03PM (#3153422)
      On the subject of execs:
      I'm a student at Stanford, and one of my profs set up a lab a couple years back where each of the workstations was a logical operation. And, Xor, Nand, Or, Iff, etc.
      The server was called "gates", because each of these is a logic gate.
      Then, Bill Gates donated money and there was going to be a Gates Computer Science building.
      Needless to say, my prof lost his name pretty damn quickly, and old Bill was relented to.
    • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @08:07PM (#3153462) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, but that leads to phrases like "Sal just went down!" yelled across the office. Bad times. Of course, back in '93, we named the Novell Digi-something modem servers in the Palm Beach Courthouse "Shafey" and "Twan" because they kept going down on each other. The "Political Officer" (read: Elected Offical's Yes Man) calmly asked us to remove the tags and not explain why they were named that during the audit.

      Personally, I named my home servers "riffraff", "columbia", my laptop "eddie", my palmtop "sadie", and so on. My work servers are "ritz", "tim", "susan", etc. For those of you who get it, it's a pretty simple naming scheme, and for those who don't, the work ones are respectable, non-geeky at a glance, and easy to remember.

      For large numbers of computers, name them by department and number. Or location and number. Room/cube numbers seem like a good idea until you start swaping offices and cubes. Best off keeping the numbers semi-random so you don't expect anything, and just log where they are/their name in your asset management software. A system moving inter-department/location will have to be wiped. Period. Easier to track software licenses anyway (especially if each department has a seperate software budget). If you've set up your users correctly, all their files are on the server, anyway. Don't use "Four character and number" or something like that. No reason to say MKEC4711 when it can just be marketingeastcoast-4711. YMMV depending on legacy systems you have to chat with or through.

      Evan "Back in my day, we walked around the office looking at the back of each computer for the ring that fell out of the token network. And we *liked* it".

  • At my last job, we had ~40 machines in the low order of a class C. We named them after the elements in the periodic table. This gave us an easy naming scheme, and also served as a last-resort DNS system, as the last digit in the machine's IP number was the atomic weight of the element. It was pretty clever.
    • A good friend of mine was told to pick an element for his machine name at one job, but of course all of the good elements were taken by that time. (Who the hell wants to be Boron, after all...)

      What did he choose?


      That still cracks me up - (thanks, Dave!)

      Jim in Tokyo
    • You mean atomic number right? Or was 2 Deutronium? :) Yep... Deutronium is unstable, it crashed again last night. Something about Deutronium's configuration, I guess. Sounds like this guy needs to invent a few elements. He'll even make it to the coveted Unobtainium. (I wouldn't use this one in hopes that I could get that Quantum computer on the net.) I guess I'm odd for giving them a name based on their function (Web1, web2, db1, db2). My CSC dept. names their servers after birds( Eagle, Hawk, Ospre(doesn't help when you can't spell them)). A friend and I built a cluster, and named it chicken. We even printed a picture and put it on the front to make it easily identifiable.

      I like elements though, very clever! :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:51PM (#3152805)
    Name them after pop-stars. Hey, Britney is down again. N-Sync has crashed.
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:52PM (#3152810)
    Create namespaces for your servers and structure them as such. For example,,,,, etc.

    This lets you distinguish between the server number in a rotation (the second element) and the specific service it is supporting (the first element).

    • by scotpurl ( 28825 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @10:56PM (#3154271)
      Create subdomains based upon server function. for web, for file services, for DNS, etc. Expand to two-digit subdomains, * or * if you need more.

      Skip the themes for individual server names. You can use themes for DNS subdomains, but you don't need to actually name the "gemini" server group *, but you can call the * server group the gemini group.

      You don't need to throw any reference to the operating system in the DNS name. If you replace a server with one from a different OS (like you migrate your database from HPUX to AS/400 or Linux), then you have to run around to several places and change the DNS name that other boxes point to. It also allows you to cluster mixed operating systems (good for reliability), and to transition from one OS to the other.

      Finally, name your servers numerically as you add them to each sub-function group. Old servers that are slow and coming off lease soon will have lower numbers than higher ones. Just start with A0000001 for the first one in each domain, and go. If there are too many servers starting with A, then be slightly redundant and have the first letter of the server name match the single-letter subdomain. The first DNS server would be
  • by 0zzymandias ( 258026 ) <`moc.thgirwmaerd' `ta' `pttocs'> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:52PM (#3152811) Homepage
    I like to make my customers think... That's why I have echelon, bigbrother, etc. It's lot's of fun. I have learned to stay away from religious names though. I once had a baptist minister who wondered why a WHOIS on his domain showed his nameserver as Lucifer.
    • I have some boxes at a copy named after Greek gods. Data Services got HADES -- duh!

      Also, I have another client where the machines are named after planets, with the server being called THESUN, but one extremely annoying woman has URANUS.

  • i've tended to use themes in the past. some of mine:

    1) cities in Mexico
    2) old video game characters
    3) strange animals

    simpsons character names are a common theme. at my current job, they name servers after old comedians (ollie, bud, lou) and give them aliases that sound more clinical. i.e. the nameserver has its colloquial name but it's also known as

    another place I worked at named servers after the latin form of volcano names, i.e. krakatoa, helena, etc.

    - Josh
  • by antiher0 ( 41258 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:52PM (#3152814)
    Why not just do subdomains (e.g. Ease of use... ease of maintenance (due to seperated dns entries). Just plain easy :)
  • Our Convention (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sawbones ( 176430 )
    granted it's a 10 character convention, but still:

    [2 letters] - data center

    [3 letters] - group name

    [2 letters] - service type (wb, sq, lb)

    [3 characters] - server number (A01, A02)

    it works pretty well. For something with only one datacenter you may try some sort of physical location indicator rather than a data center name like server row number. It makes it a heck of a lot easier when you need to physically track down a server.
  • Check the RFC (Score:5, Informative)

    by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:53PM (#3152817) Journal
    RFC 1178 [], Choosing a Name for Your Computer
    • After reading this I could only think of the "Whose on first" routine

      Boot up.
      Which server?

      or something
      • Boot Up! (Score:5, Funny)

        by epsalon ( 518482 ) <> on Wednesday March 13, 2002 @05:33AM (#3155380) Homepage Journal
        A:Boot up?
        B:Which server?
        B:Up who?
        A:The server.
        A:Boot up.
        B:Boot up what server?
        A:No no what server should stay up!
        B:I don't know.
        A:No no that's our web server.
        B:Your web server is "I don't know"?
        A:Yes. But nevermind, we need to boot up.
        B:What server?
        A:What server should stay up.
        B:Oh at last! So certainly should stay up. Ok, so I should boot what server?
        A:No no no, what server should stay up!
        A:OK, so now boot up!
        B:AAAAARGH! What does that server do?
        A:It's a mail server.
        B:So, what you get mail what server does it say in the headers it's from?
        A:No no, what server's our web server. It says it's from up.
        B:What do you mean up? Mail can't come from up!
        A:It can if it's our mail server.
        B:You're mail server is called "it" and it should boot it up?
        A:No no no! It's our DNS server! We should be booting up!
        B:So we should be booting it up?
        A:No. We should be booting up.

    • Re:Check the RFC (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sben ( 71467 )
      Very interesting.

      Of historical interest, from the RFC (written in 1990): "Extremely well-known hostnames such as 'sri-nic' and 'uunet' should be avoided since they are understood in conversation as absolute addresses even without a domain." I consider myself a bit of an old-timer, but though I recognize uunet, I've never even heard of sri-nic. I'm sure someone knows about this; please inform!
      • Re:Check the RFC (Score:3, Informative)

        by storem ( 117912 )
        Check your DNS history:

        The accessibility of distributed resources carried with it the need for an information service (either centralized or distributed) that enables users to learn about those resources. This was recognized at the PI [ed. Primary Instigators] meeting in Michigan in the spring of 1967. At the time, Doug Engelbart and his group at the Stanford Research Institute were already involved in research and development to provide a computer-based facility to augment human interaction. Thus, it was decided that Stanford Research Institute would be a suitable place for a "Network Information Center" (NIC) to be established for the ARPANET. With the beginning of implementation of the network in 1969, construction also began on the NIC at SRI."

        The Stanford Research Institute's Network Information Center (SRI-NIC) became the responsible authority for maintaining unique host names for the Internet. The SRI-NIC maintained a single file, called hosts.txt, and sites would continuously update SRI-NIC with their host name to IP address mappings to add to, delete from, or change in the file.

        This was the first semi-distributed name resolution on the Internet. You all understand that eventually the hosts file became too big and led to the development of BIND (DNS Service).

    • Re:Check the RFC (Score:5, Informative)

      by mmontour ( 2208 ) <> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:28PM (#3153160)
      Also see RFC2100 [], "The Naming of Hosts"
  • No no no... (Score:5, Funny)

    by burtonator ( 70115 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:53PM (#3152819)
    use 128 bit UUIDs... no collision!


    if that isn't easy to remember I don't know what is!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Considering you will have 4000 boxes, I'd suggest using famous people as a naming convention:


  • by Jeffrey Baker ( 6191 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:54PM (#3152836)
    Make the hostname and the service orthogonal. If your machine is just named, you can easily repurpose it from http to imap service. But if the name is, you'll need to change DNS and change the machine's configuration files before you can repurpose the box. Then you'll have to update your ssh authorized_keys and known_hosts files, and any other information that deals with hosts.

    My company is an example of extremely stupid behavior. We have desktop machines named jsmithw2knyc. Anytime the machine is reassigned to another person, moved from office to office, or changes operating systems, the hostname and DNS must be updated. It's silly.

    • I agree. The other thing to do then is create a database of all your servernames with additional descriptive info about the server, such as location, function, who it is allocated to, etc. If you try to stuff all that info into a short name with a bunch of abreviations, it is going to become useless anyway.

      Comicbook character names and so-forth are fun, but can be seen as unprofessional by some, and possibly even offensive in some cases.
    • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:03PM (#3152937) Homepage Journal
      You should assign LOGICAL names to services, and then map them into actual hosts via CNAME records.

      For example, we have our servers named after the characters from Cheers - norm, diane, cliff, lillith, etc.

      We also have functional names - smtp, pop3, dns, etc.

      Now, in the DNS records, we have:

      smtp CNAME cliff
      pop3 CNAME cliff
      dns CNAME norm

      As a result, the clients are configured to send mail to smtp, get mail from pop3, but that is mapped into cliff. If we move outbound mail to norm, we just change the cname.
    • I DEFINITLY hafta agree with that

      Plus, its somewhat of a security risk to name your servers too specifically. Lets intruders know EXACTLY which servers to go after without even looking at them closley (i.e,, etc.)
  • It's pretty common to use techniques similar to what you describe initially. Often six alpha and 2 digits, eg, abcdef63. This lets you have 100 machines with the "same" name (abcdef), and 6 chars is long enough to have a "decent" project name.
    Alternatively, split them into 4+2+2, or 5+1+2. 5+1+2 is pretty versatile, project + code + number.

    The trend seems to be going away from "real" names in the past 5-8 years... One customer of mine had all their printers named after Disney characters. I think the problem is keeping to themes; one place I worked had planets and moons for differnet types of boxes, but people started adding stars, or getting confused about what's a moon! It's also limiting in that after the 9th "planet-type" system, what do you do when you order 5 new servers? It may be possible to keep getting more obscure, but you lose the practicality which was the main purpose.

  • Close to home (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catfood ( 40112 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:55PM (#3152842) Homepage

    For my little network at the home office I use the original (pre- annexation) names of streets in the neighborhood.

    My wife thinks this is cool because she loves local history.

    I think it's cool because I get to use names like maple, kuchle, liberty, newburgh, and columbus. Only the real old-timers from the hood get it. They enjoy knowing a little something about computers that younger people don't, even though it's totally non-technical.

    As a practical matter, it's a nearly inexhaustible "theme" category; as you need more names, just reach out to a larger radius. In a decent-sized city you'll need a full Class C to max out the theme.

  • by jtdubs ( 61885 )
    You can always just use whatever hostname seems logical, disable all the NetBIOS shit on the windows boxes, and then setup and internal DNS server to resolve the names.

    This way you can create something more hierarchical and verbose.


    # joe dehli's first workstation (ws)
    # joe dehli's second workstation (ws)

    # first mass-storage file server (srv)
    # second mass-storage file server (srv)

    You can even go so far as to use LDAP for resolution depending on what platforms you plan on supporting and what needs you have for this naming system.

    Just some ideas.

    Justin Dubs
  • Naming Conventions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurightshu ( 517038 ) <> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:55PM (#3152850) Homepage Journal

    At the company I work at, we have ~5000 servers worldwide, and they all follow the same naming convention:

    • 2-character nation ID
    • 2-character state/province/region ID
    • 3-character city ID
    • 2-character production/development classifier
    • 3-character unique numeric number

    Thus, a production server in Minneapolis, Minnesota would be usmnminpsnnn , or a development server in Vancouver, BC, would be cabcvandsnnn .

    • by krokodil ( 110356 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:20PM (#3153086) Homepage
      Thus, a production server in Minneapolis, Minnesota would be usmnminpsnnn

      I think will look way better.

    • You could also just use GUIDGEN on your local windows box to name your servers:


      Then its sort of like remembering phone numbers. What, you can't rememberize 4000+ phone numbers? Then you buy ACT! or some other contact management software. Then you set up contact reminders to make you remember to ping the server to make sure its alive or back it up. Your reminder list probably wouldn't be more than a few hundred entries on each day. You could polish that off before lunch. Then ask for a raise because you solved the problem without doing hardly any work! Thats reusability, and they pay people a lot to be good at it you know.

  • by StandardDeviant ( 122674 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:56PM (#3152860) Homepage Journal
    At $job[-2] we had about 200 hosts, give or take. Effectively, we did the name + number bit, becuase in our case, the servers were either standalone functionality (e.g.,,, or part of a large herd of machines doing the same thing: pbs001 .. pbs111 .. pbsXYZ (number cruncher machines running the pbs job batch control system). My advice to you is locate the "unique" machines, and give them names that strongly reflect their function on the network. The "herd members" you should give numeric names to (e.g. aix9999, fbsd3333, lnux2222, etc.) that also reflect the operating system being used (standardize the abbreviated os names, of course, nothing like wondering if 'dux' is a machine that quacks or a data general UX host). Keep an electronic (and paper!) record of what client is on which herd machine. I know the number thing seems a little impersonal, but how many anime series are there that can scale to several thousand host names? Even if you like war and peace, you'd run out after several hundred...
  • Major cities. (Score:2, Interesting)

    Perhaps it doesn't have the same geek appeal as sci-fi or anime, but where I work the servers are named after major cities across the world. I find this to be a better choice than something geeky because everybody knows the major world cities, and so the names are extremely easy for people to remember.

    As an extra special bonus, it makes you feel like you're the president or something when you're having meetings about various world cities. Or at least.. uh.. it makes me feel that way.
  • well...duh.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zurk ( 37028 )
    just name the servers after the *functions* they serve rather than a theme or other crap.
    for example :
    MR237BWEB01 - Mail Room number 237B Webserver 1.
    CONF225FIL01 - Conference room 225 File Server 1.
    EXTCOMPWEB01 - External Company web server 1.
    alternatively you could also do the theme thing and assign some genre to a particular department.
    for example, all accounting servers could be named after fish e.g. bluefish, haddock, trout, etc.
    or colors or star wars themes or anything else.
    i prefer the dept/room number/server type/server number scheme myself and using acronyms you could easily keep it under 8 characters for the host name.
    Of course be sure to add the host names into a comma delimited file with an explanation and ip address/subnet and room location of the server (or rack location). Make sure you keep the file someplace publically accessible like on a webserver someplace.
  • There are over 6,000 languages in the world, which should be plenty for your purposes! :) Start off with the major languages, then work your way to the more obscure. SIL's Ethnologue [] is a great place to start.


    • Hmm--I guess I had better post a better link than just the front page; here is the Ethnologue language name index [] that claims to have listings of 6,800 main languages. However, their database apparently contains 41,000 alternative names and dialects. If that doesn't meet your needs, than nothing will!


  • people names? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LMCBoy ( 185365 )
    How about just using first names of people? They'd be easy to pronounce/remember, there's an effectively limitless supply to draw from (just get one of those "Name Your Baby" books), and you could even group servers topically (Joe's Deli gets Russian female names, John's Delivery gets African male names, etc).
  • An example I've seen used for a larger server farm. Looking at the layout of the server farm, they're usually aligned in rows and columns.

    They had the name as such:

    Row + Column + 4 letter name.

    So, for the Joe's Deli example, which is in row 15 and column 20, you could have:

    You could also have:

    Row + Column + 2 letter name + 2 letter service type

    So for Joe's Deli again:

    The downside is if you physically move the servers around, it can cause problems.
  • At our ISP we've recently started rebuilding all of our servers. As we go, we're renaming them to character names from BSSM (Japanese vers. of Sailor Moon ) like: "makoto" or "". Should be good for a while. :)

    In general, a genre of science fiction would tend to work, as scifi stories tend to have large numbers of "named things" in them for some reason. (Just thing of all the planets mentioned at some point in the Foundation series).

    Famous literature is a good source as well. How about cluster of Caddy, Benjy, Jason, and Quentin? We'll be naming the "important boxes", ie a primary name server, after the author, with the backup or subsidary boxes named after characters in books they've written. It's a pretty easy method to come up with new names, and if you're an IB student you'll have no problem recognizing what cluster a specific machine belongs to :)
  • World Beers --> Fun to sample the potential names....

    PHB "What do you think you're doing"

    Lackey "Naming the servers sir, just 3500 more beers to go ..."

  • by Apuleius ( 6901 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:58PM (#3152879) Journal
    1. None at all. Good for security. A naming
    convention is a nice shortcut when a script
    kiddie is portscanning.

    2. Naming conventions. (I.e. name the
    Web server "Tolkein-Place-Names", the
    mail server "Famous-Composers", et cetera.)
  • If you support a large number of offices like my I.T. group does (state government) the following method works great for us. All normal file servers in our system use this convention. The first two letters are always fs for file server followed by the first two letters of the city in which the server is located and then the first letter of the street it's located on. We add a few characters on the end for other internal tracking purposes, but this covers most of the important stuff. An example of this in use would be FSJAExxx with the x's being extra info. This system has worked great so far on the third largest network in Texas. I know this won't help the poster much, but maybe someone out there can use it.
  • LOTR (Score:2, Funny)

    by coult ( 200316 )
    I know! Name them after characters in the Lord of the Rings. All your hax0r friends will think you are cool, hip, and original.
  • by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <sether AT tru7h DOT org> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @06:59PM (#3152895) Homepage
    First job of mine was with a national hosting firm, so they made a naming scheme that reflected geography, client, and series. For example:

    Worked fairly well. We used the code for the closest airport for the geography portion. Also served to make dns adminning a mite prettier. Course that provides you're not against overly specific domain names. The '01' could also be replaced with significant letters for certain machines. customer-fw, for example, would be customer's firewall.

    A more bureaucratic approach that we did at another job combined the theme idea with the department name. This works in a place where there are lot of computing divisions that have their own little kingdom of machines. Like where I work, we're known as "D0". Thus, we call our machines d0nut, d0mino, d0om, you get the idea.

    We also have an unofficial series system that borrows on the idea, d0lx001 is d0's first linux node. Again, it works well for the scope it's been defined for.

    I wager a nicely scalable system could be built using a combination of my two examples. If your machines have limits on hostname length, check on the limits of dns heirarchy. They may allow finer granularity.

    For small organizations (under 20 machines, not counting workstations), theme oriented works just fine.
  • My current home machines are named off of fantasy cities/lands, with the universe/world as the subdomain.

    Another thing used at my workplace is having a cname for (machine #).(rack #).(server closet #) Useful when you've tons of the same looking machines that don't move much.

    At an isp I worked at previously their names were (use)(O-S)(##).(location ID) Like wwwbsd01.berlin01.******.com

    My best recommendation is to have a 'proper' name for things, and a cname to something that's memorable for the people that need to work on the machine.
  • Stars (constellations, too)!

    You could sort all of your company's machines into multiple bins based on which room they're in. Then, let's say you have two main rooms of machines -- one room will have machines with star or constellation names starting with A-K, the other, L-Z.

    Here's a helpful listing: ames.html []

    So, you would know automatically which room to head to if someone called for help saying that "Orion" just crashed :-)

    MONOLINUX :: Imagine There's No Windows. It's Easy If You Try. []
  • be sensible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by furiousgeorge ( 30912 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:02PM (#3152923)
    Do NOT use cutesy names. (Homer, Marge, etc etc etc). That works fine when you've got a lab of a dozen machines. When you've got thousands it's silly and unmangeable. I know I don't expect I'll be able to remember where one our of 5000 hosts is just because the name is "mickeymouse". Imagine just how functional that is for somebody who's new to your NOC?

    Personally I'd encode them using one or two characters to denote the platform ( i = intel, s = sun, h = hp, blah blah). Then use the additional characters to denote room, rack, etc etc. If you're allowed to use sub domains that makes your life much easier.

    Maybe I'm over pragmatic :) But with that many machines, the biggest problem you have is FINDING the machine when something goes wrong. My company here has a policy that we name machines after beaches --- "pismo" "waikiki" etc etc. Thats all fine and dandy..... until the someone starts screaming "WHO IS RUNNING HOST *LONGBEACH*??? YOU'RE SPEWING OUT CRAZY MULTICAST AND TRASHING THE NETWORK." Our host count is only in the low hundreds, but actually FINDING the offending machine is a big fat waste of time.

    If you absolutely have/want to use 'friendly' names. Give your machines multiple names..... the pretty one, and the ugly sensible one so you can easily map between the two when you have to.

    I hate to use it as an example --- but look at Hotmail when you log in. They are using subdomains and strict naming conventions for there servers. It's the only sensible thing to do..... unless you're trying to guarantee youself job security (and if thats the case and I was your boss and I found out i'd fire your ass for being a moron).

    • Re:be sensible (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DeathBunny ( 24311 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:54PM (#3153345) Homepage
      Personally I'd encode them using one or two characters to denote the platform ( i = intel, s = sun, h = hp, blah blah). Then use the additional characters to denote room, rack, etc etc. If you're allowed to use sub domains that makes your life much easier.

      That's stupid. Now if I move the server from one rack space to another, or upgrade it to a different platform then all my users have to change the config on any applications that reference the server? Not a long term scalable solution.

      Keep location and platform information in a seperate document or database. Or create HINFO records in DNS.

    • Re:be sensible (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Telastyn ( 206146 )
      I find that mac addies are more use in this case than hostnames. They'll give you a decent idea of what machine type it is (sun machines will have very similar addresses, and so on).

      Plus most switches have an ability to lookup via mac address. After all, why ask 1000 people when you can ask a few switches? You'll likely just unplug the offender anyways.
    • Re:be sensible (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      why?? if yout I.T. department doesnt keep careful documentation as to the location,name,ip and config of every machine on your network then it's being ran by really un-organized people.

      If poopy-snoopy server starts sending excessive broadcasts, I just open up the trouble ticket system and search for resource name poopy-snoopy.... voila there it is, the person to call that is in control(physical) of that machine, and his cell,home,work numbers,ip address,physical location,hardware configuration, serial number,vendor (then a link to full vendor info).

      Although... what I use is rare.. many, MANY, IT departments are not that organized nor ever take the time to get that organized..
  • What I used (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rosewood ( 99925 ) <(rosewood) (at) (> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:02PM (#3152924) Homepage Journal
    Okay Im a big literature dork (not a spelling dork) and I named all the servers based of characters from Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. Then, I used shakespeare characters (we had one box prown to crashing named Hamlet, god that killed me - Im a loser). After that to please my co-worker, we did a few steven king titles and then some Clancy. Those were the only modern literature relations - the rest were all classic literature but pretty random. Cervantes, Poe, Melvil, Orwell (1984 and AFarm were both there), and so many more. Book titles, famous characters, and authors were all game. We tried hard to associate the server type with the character if we could

    We had fights with management wanting names like MAIL01, MAIL02, etc. but I bit them down when I told them that if one server type ever got above 100 then it would be a bitch or over 1000, etc.

    Upper management liked the scheme cause when they would show clients the server rooms they would see these great literature references on the boxes which made us look inteligent. Win + Win.
  • I'm not sure it's a good idea to use meaningful names. You might want to change (or augment) the function your server provides, then you have to change the name if you want to remain consistent. Or, if your server provides multiple functions, what do you do?

    If you're feeling playful, how about: starsky, hutch, huggybear, kotter, fonzi, richie, potsie, baretta, oscar, felix, etc.

    If not: myco0001, myco0002, etc.

    You can always assign aliases for functional purposes: mail, news, www, ftp, etc.

  • Movie titles. There are tons out there and more coming out all the time. They don't have to be good ones (my friend here was stuck with pokemon). They don't help tell where the machine is or what its for, but they work.


  • You have to have some FUN with it!! Hostnames are an extension of the system. Any real sysadmin picks up on a system's personality; a unique hostname only adds to that.

    We have some servers named after function, i.e.

    I can't stand those. They're boring.

    Then we have some named after things related to their function:
    (all firewalls)

    OK, we're getting better...

    Then we have some named after completely unrelated things:
    tomorro w
    (Those are E10k domains :-)

    Then we have other things named after children's books:

    Then we have cartoon characters:
    wayba ck (the backup server)

    Then we have the scifi stuff:

    And of course, no data center would be complete without Simpson characters:

    Of course, you could be like our west-coast data center and name your servers after mobsters... :-)

    The bottom line is that you need to have FUN with your hostnames! Besides that, it's better than naming your system important-financials-here.please-own-me.megagloboc

  • The more servers you get, the more it's helpful to have a name that helps you FIND the server.

    At my old office, where we had regional servers, we had DHQNTA, DHQ19V, etc, that is Denver HQ, NT server A, 19 Vax, etc.

    Currently, our 'rabbit farm' of NT servers (because the numbers keep growing by leaps and bounds) are named by service: SDevWeb01, SWeb, SMail, STestSQL01, etc.

    S means it's a server, then Test Dev or Prod, plus a number if it's an actual server, or not if it's a cluster. Thus SWeb is the internal web cluster, but SWeb04 is one of the servers.

    This works well if you've got two dozen servers or less...if you were Rackspace, I'd imagine naming the server after it's location on the rack, then pointing a DNS alias to it would be more helpful...pinging JoesBait&ISP is less helpful than pinging Rack014U14 when a NIC dies.

    LABEL YOUR SERVERS! Nothing quite like using a console switch, pressing a reset button on the server underneath the console to reboot a dev box, only to realize you REALLY nuked a SIGNIFICANT portion of your enterprise File services!
  • - [four letter "name"][two letter service type][2 numbers] eg)
    + easy to determine the function and name
    - hard to remember and pronounce, once you run out of four character servers, determining the name and function will be difficult. Joe's Deli and John's Delivery will have conflicting names

    Why can't you just name them and

  • I was wondering if I should order a new VXA-1 tape in the black, white, or translucent case. Can someone help me make that decision?

    I suppose I'll a wee bit constructive just in case the author really does need help...
    • Are your machines of such limited function that you can encode it in two letters? What about when you have more than one function to a machine? What about when you have more than one customer to a machine? If you swear you'll never do that you are either lying to yourself or will be driven out of business by your competitors.
    • Long random names are just silly for encoding 4000 machines into 8 characters. TLAs give you 17000 names. Everyone can remember three letters. That is why there are TLAs.
    • Themes are fatally flawed in large systems. There are no easily remembered themes for 4000 machines, so you use a bunch of smaller ones. But then someone either outgrows their theme or wastes a bunch of names by sparsley populating a theme. Plus not everyone will know how to spell cthulhu correctly after hearing it on the phone.
    • If you encode physical site in the name, what will you do when you fold two data centers into one? Make your weekend of hell even worse?

    And anyone that needs more than one computer to run Joe's Deli should be cast out.

    And Hey! Since slashdot is written by the community, shouldn't we be able to put our OWN inline ads into our content? Why does taco and company get to put ads in my content?

    This comment is Copyright 2002 by Jim Studt. It may not be altered or republished with advertisements without his express permission.
  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:06PM (#3152971) Homepage Journal
    I've seen everything done from rack location to names of famous mass murderers. I've also come across trees, gems and minerals, elements, manufacturers, saints, serial numbers, dates, movie titles, etc.

    Michael's 3 Rules of Device Taxonomy:

    1. What information do you NOT wanting leaking out (write on the chalkboard 100 times "I will never name Payroll's server "Payroll" ever again!") In this case what information could make a Cracker's break-in easier?

    2. What information in a name is going to be most important to the folks working with the servers? Owner, application, model, OS, location?

    3. Finally, what information is likely to remain consistant for the life of the server?
  • We name our servers after figures in Greek, Norse, Roman, etc. myths. Generally, they are chosen as an inside joke by our IT staff. Eg., our DNS/DHCP/Directory server is "odin", our DB server is "thor", and the previous file server in a troublesome branch offcie was "uranus". The new server we have for our most distant office (9-10 hour drive total) is named "erida".

    For desktops/laptops, we use the city-name-abbreviation plus the asset number. No files are stored on the desks, there is very little call for connecting to them over the network.
  • Other wise you'll get bored.

    I used to work in such a place. Large number of machines, physically spread out. We grouped them into areas, buildings and floors.

    For example, the company was divided into divisions such as 'Extraction', 'Mining', 'Administration' etc. We then picked themes for each division. 'Mining' for example would be the domain "Wheels". Then we would name servers for vehicles - Harley, DeLorean, Corvette etc. For the "Mine Training" division, we chose "Training Wheels" for the domain name, and servers were called "Tricycle", "Scooter" etc. Since the domains were descriptive, it was easy to physically find the boxen. Plus in Lanman/NT descriptions we included info such as building, floor, room...

    I've also worked in places that used a descriptive name, such as city/building/floor/room (or airport code), which is great if your network is spread out physically, but it's dry; cold; boring. YVR-NTS-EXC-001, will tell you it's in Vancouver, running NT Server and Exchange, server #1, but it's boring.

    And don't forget to first decide on a standard place to put the name of the box phyically! Nothing like coming to a box after a year or two and asking someone, "What does that box do?" and no one can tell you because the sticky note that contained that information has long since lost it's stick.

    If you can't have a little enjoyment on the job, why bother?

  • Conventions (Score:2, Interesting)

    My last job, the previous regime had set up the naming conventions as follows:

    2 Character City Code
    4 Character Building Code
    2-3 Character Descriptor (WS, IIS, FS, ADP, etc)
    2-3 Character # (For more than one box)

    So we'd have "PHMAILSVR01" (Philadelphia Mail Building File Server #1)

    Currently, our workstations are USERNAME-OS (ie; JDOE-W2K, JDOE-LNX, etc). Servers have great names (no set convention), but they do have aliases that are cleaner (fileserver1 == pinky).

  • Any naming convention which uses themes, names, etc. is probably inappropriate for a company(eventually someone chooses a name someone is offended by), but more importantly it's very difficult to maintain for long term growth.

    I would suggest coming up with a coding standard that provides the information you find valuable.

    2 chars to define the OS or machine type
    3 chars to define location
    1 char for production or development
    3 chars for a number sequence

    So something like NTDFWP150 would be your 150th production NT server in Dallas. Maybe location isn't as important as purpose. Maybe you don't have development or production differentiation. I do think it's helpful for support staff to be able to tell what OS the machine is running by the machine name. If you are looking at 4000 servers at some point, then maybe 4-5 chars should be devoted to numbers.

    Even though the name seems confusing, if you have a well defined pattern, it is trivial to train new staff. As far as linking this to customer names, you build a spreadsheet with a lookup table.
  • You don't need to worry about someone determining your scheme and starting to hunt through your ports using the naming scheme.

  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:21PM (#3153091) Homepage Journal

    The LIRR homepage is The LIRR is run by the MTA, which is located in NYC, which is a city in NY, which is located in the US. Perfect scheme, and a suprisingly decent application of DNS. Especially for government.

    So why suffer with Why not,, etc? In addition to allowing for easier delegation of services, you can set search orders in /etc/resolv.conf so you can simply type ``ssh b'' to hop from host a to host b. That's just golden.

    Some other examples..

    Mail Exchangers


    Web servers

    And so on. If you get to z, make the next one aa, and then ab, etc.

    Also, functional names should not replace cute names. DNS allows you to assign more than one name to a machine. If a machine is repurposed for another ask, it should still be known by its unique cute name no matter where it goes. At the same time, a single host can have more than one functional name.

    No reason can't also be and :)

    A source of cute names? Oh, uhm, right now I use Roman empererors. There were tons of them.

  • by Pac ( 9516 ) <> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @07:22PM (#3153107)
    So you never have a problem remembering their names as with that girl in the restaurant last weekend. Why they have to have different names anyway. So just call them Mary as it should be and add a nice reminder to self about where you last saw the babe, as in MaryFromAccounting, MaryWebServing. You can make the reminders more complex just to help a bit, as in GorgeusMaryWebServing, PlainMaryWebServing.
  • Smurfs (Score:3, Funny)

    by oo7tushar ( 311912 ) <> on Tuesday March 12, 2002 @08:01PM (#3153400) Homepage
    Smurfs are good to use as there's so many. Of course that only gets you a couple 1000. You could put them into Quadrants, talk about them as if they were in gangs...the Reds, Blues and so on. Then the head node of each grouping could be papa smurf. That kinda thing.
  • One Way Naming (Score:3, Informative)

    by pryan ( 169593 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2002 @04:09AM (#3155220) Homepage
    Our naming convention is simple:

    The canonical name of a machine is assigned by the person who is setting up the machine at the time a name is needed. That name stays with that machine throughout its "lifetime." More on a machine's lifetime later. The only three constraints on the name are as follows:

    1. It must be something that most people can spell if they heard the name.
    2. It must be a name which can be published in a newspaper without embarassing us.
    3. The name may not be duplicated.

    Notice that this is the canonical name for a machine. We never call one of our machines smtp or www. We alias those standard names to the canonical name.

    We define a lifetime for a machine as the time from which it is named to when it has lost its essence. In turn, we define a machine's essence as that which fundamentally separates it from other machines. In our current business, a machine's essence almost always is defined as the machine's purpose in life, which typically includes its OS and the servers running on the machine. There are times where we have converted a machine from Linux to OpenBSD, for example, but kept the name. If the machine is retasked, then it usually gets a fresh OS and new name; the old machine "dies" and a new machine is "born."

    That name is added to a database via a record which also contains the machine's hardware configuration, its MAC address, the OS, its maintainer's email address, and its intended purposes in life (smtp, http, file server, compute server, etc.). From that point on, it is the responsibility of the maintainer to update that record. The hostname is considered the database key, and is therefore not supposed to change.

    Every six months, however, clean out the database, looking for cruft and abandoned machines. We also try to identify machines that didn't make it into the database and add them. This also provides a quick way to inventory our equipment, since we primarly own computers and network gear.

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