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Hardware Idle

Server Names For a New Generation 429

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 Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:24AM (#39284439) Journal

    ... can I get sued for copyright infringement ?

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:26AM (#39284471)
    Make it so.
  • 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.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:53AM (#39284619)

      Hint: Use CNAME and you can keep the fun server name, too!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Hint: Use CNAME and you can keep the fun server name, too!

        ...not if they are Windows servers with file shares (SMB). As of Win2k3, CNAMEs don't work for that. Ironically, exposing Samba file shares on Linux works just fine with CNAMEs.

        Haven't tried again with the latest Windows server software, so YMMV.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Hint: Use CNAME and you can keep the fun server name, too!

        CNAME's are great for client machines but when it comes to servers, the people managing them are professionals who should understand the naming convention. If any sysadmin cant understand the naming convention in 15 seconds, it's a bad convention. Users who have remote access to their machines have a functional name and an easy to remember CNAME.

        Users should not need to connect to servers that aren't defined by Group Policy or login script, even beyond this it's easy to tell them LON dash EXC dash ZERO O

        • If any sysadmin cant understand the naming convention in 15 seconds, it's a bad convention.

          So true... my last gig was at a place where the naming convention was a mix of football players names, cricket players names and character's from the Matrix movies. Made zero sense - yet they didn't want to make changes that would've meant it was logical. Oh yeah, zero documentation too! Very glad to have moved to a new company, where I've been able to implement a naming scheme for servers which makes logical sense - function/number-location.domainname.

        • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:25AM (#39286215) Homepage Journal

          At the company I work for (large international corp) we have a logical name and a friendly name. The logical name helps identify where the machine is geographically (country, data center, unit) and the friendly name which is given out to everyone, which can be whatever name was requested, as long as it is suitable. This way you keep both the network team happy (you can tell from the name where to find it) and everyone else too (they have a name that is easy to remember).

          In the case of virtual machines and blades there is another logical naming scheme, adapted to the context.

      • Hint: People who actually think server names are so much fun they'll use special software to retain them have their own special problems and their own special needs.
    • 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.


      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm currently volunteering as the head of the computing dept. of a student radio station, and this year we've gone completely the opposite way.

      Why? Because when I arrived, we had a server called "*name of station*fs1" (File Server 1) which wasn't a file server, a server simply named "*name of station*" (makes for fun times when it goes down...!) which wasn't the main, all-powerful server, "jukebox" (which did run the station jukebox... and more) and some other systematic, role-based names such as *name*sw0

  • Functional (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.

      • All very well until you run out of space and have to move them. Cute is awkward, functional can become misleading as locations and roles change... either way, problems abound.
      • BORING.

        Server names should be members of an (interesting) class.

        Agate, garnet....

        Socrates, Hypocrates...



        ( I'll let you guess some of the others in the series :)

      • 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.

        • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

          Is that Mercurius or Murkurius? Now, repeat that over the phone to one of your underlings or bosses when you're in a location with spotty cell reception and there's an outage.

          This makes more work. "What did that thing do again?" Pitty on the poor fool who comes next.

          The term is not clear, at all. Now, what happens when someone (say, you) decides the scheme doesn't quite work for a given system, etc. and you need to redo/add to the convention? I've run into this. I've go

    • We use a boring systematic naming system: A site prefix, and a server number. I'm always losing track of what each one does.
  • by Necroman ( 61604 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:30AM (#39284493)

    I've used various naming schemes for systems I've setup (normally based on whatever video game I'm playing at the time). But the biggest change I've done is naming of virtual machines when I was administrating multiple servers, each running multiple VMs.

    As I can have a lot of VMs on a single server, remembering what VM maps to what server can be a pain. I normally just do something simple like having the base server called "blue", then the VMs will be called "blue-1", "blue-2", etc. This helped me track down the host server quickly when I needed to fix something.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) * on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:31AM (#39284495) Homepage Journal

    I know the Pokémon names are going to get old fast.

    Star Wars, Star Trek, even Battlestar Galactica are great sources for names. JigglyPuff is NOT a server name!

  • by simoncpu was here ( 1601629 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:31AM (#39284499)
    I name my computers, VMs, and bots after female characters (Inara, Padme, Daenerys, Trinity, etc). It originated from a long forgotten time when I can't get laid.
  • Simple... (Score:4, Funny)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:32AM (#39284507)
    ... I name all my systems "bob".
    I also named my dog "Stay". Sure he gets a little confused sometimes -- "Come here, Stay" -- but like the server names, it keeps things interesting.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    [2 char OS Type] + [4 char location] + [2 char Hardware Type] + [2 char server role] + [4 digit Number]


    Windows server in New York Data Center running as a Virtual Machine in the Production environment first server.


    Red had Server in Los Angeles Data Center on a AMD platform Test Environment 200th server.

    • Done by the inexperienced perhaps. Location, sure. A number, sure. But type and purpose and OS? No thanks. DNS is not a configuration management tool.

      Assign your servers names and addresses for purposes of managing the servers. Assign your applications their own names, and (potentially) addresses.

  • Doctor Who (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:34AM (#39284523)

    My main server is called TARDIS, because it's bigger on the inside...

  • by DJ Jones ( 997846 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:37AM (#39284541) Homepage
    A server name needs to directly correspond to a server's function. I'm not saying you can't be creative but don't be stupid. When you grow beyond ~10 servers, cutesie names are going to cause you to work weekends trying to track down basic networking issues. Here's what I do: if it's a web server, start the name with a "W". MySQL server, start the name with an "M" and so on. If it's paired or load balanced, put a numeral on the end of it to identify it's system. Beyond that, I let the interns name the servers using whatever new-age cultural references their little inexperienced hearts desire.

    Eventually you may outgrow any naming convention but by then you hope to be on an island sipping margaritas while someone else worries about these things.
    • Our main server is used as an active directory domain controller, file server, DNS, DHCP, runs the build management service, webserver for a configuration program... name that one!

      Big companies might be able to afford a seperate server (Or more sensibly, virtual host) for every service, but in the smaller ones it's common for servers to do many, many tasks.
  • by ctime ( 755868 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:40AM (#39284563)
    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)

    How about a web server in NYC datacenter 4 behind a load balancer, but in the DMZ, for the finance organization. The logical "placement" identifier really comes in handy to quickly tell where the hell something is located, inside outside, behind lb, not behind lb, in dmz, extranet bullshit, etc.
    • 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., 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.

  • I only have one server, so I call it Mother.

    The laptop is Ripley.

    • Is this built up from the years of pent-up frustration developed by not having Sigourney Weaver in your lap?

  • by I'm just joshin ( 633449 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:52AM (#39284611)

    The seven deadly sins...

    Nothing beats giving the sales guy a computer named "greed"


  • by Anonymous Coward

    I named my server Robert'); DROP Table students;--

  • Maxwell, Tesla, Watt, etc.

  • by ( 245670 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:06AM (#39284677)

    Cute names are so old and busted. "Okay, Kenny is the one with the accounting software that crashes constantly. Cartman is the old file server, because it's huge. Kyle is for the legal department."

    Name your shit for what it does and, if you have multiple data centers, where it's located.

    • by Hacksaw ( 3678 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:26AM (#39284779) Homepage Journal

      Nailed it.

      With servers being generally virtual these days, and the underlying physical hardware a highly replaceable substrate, there's no reason for an enterprise to have serves which do more than one thing. If a server does only one thing, it ought to be named for that one thing.

      Where is that machine? Somewhere in the blade cage. If I yank the blade, it'll appear in a few seconds on another blade. Where is the data? On the giant fiber RAID, which is replicated in the west coast office, and two secret locations.

      Compute is a cloud, storage is a cloud, services come from that cloud, the clouds made of physical devices in as many locations as make sense.

      The old physical network topology is finally just the nerves and pumps, and no longer the focus.

      The focus is the data. The data is what we produce to make value, to drive the business process. Servers aren't special anymore, they're like hammers. You don't name hammers, typically. But you might have more than w=one, and you definitely want to know two things: where is it, and what is it for.

    • Use subdomains for that. Bonus is that you can move stuff around datacenters without having to reassign hostnames.
  • by Dave Emami ( 237460 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:16AM (#39284733) Homepage
    "The Naming of Servers is a serious matter,
    It isn't just one of your holiday games.
    You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
    When I tell you a server has three different names..."

    ... those being DNS entry, IP, and the one which "the server itself knows, and never will confess."
  • Musicians at one, colours at another, snakes at a third so two machines destined to spend time at those sites were called "Brown" and "Green".
  • HHGTG (Score:5, Funny)

    by Space ( 13455 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @03:25AM (#39284767) Homepage

    Some names will stand the test of time. A box with two monitors should of course be named Zaphod.

  • Because of the risk of outgrowing a naming scheme, because you run out of names, or because too many names become a chore to keep track of, I once wanted to do a hybrid approach, but instead went with the _ approach in the end.
    The initial idea were to use only a few names, for functions, ie. Frodo for File server, Gandalf for the Gateway, etc. But once you start doing that, you might as well just just Fileserver, or Gateway instead...

    I'd say that in larger installations, "cute" server names are a thing of t

  • I generally just use the location and function of the server. Something like this: Country-Function-Number. So a web server in the US would be US-WEB-1 and the second database in Germany would be DE-DB-2. Makes troubleshooting and looking for a machine a bit easier.
  • Several years ago I was working at a network equipment manufacturer in Sunnyvale, Ca. We had 2 monster Spectra Logic tape silos. One worked petty well the other not so much. One was name "Gir" and the other was named "Dib" Gir used to do random things for no apparent reason like wake up, pick a tape and eject it. We would walk into the data center to find a pile of tapes on the floor. Nothing in the logs, no backups running, it just decided it was time to eject a tape. WTF! We had a name plate attached that

  • I use antique names transliterated to English - eg. enki, metis, dagon, tiamat, pallas, etc. They're mostly short, easy to spell, pronounce and remember, and there's an almost endless pool to draw from.

  • by Dadoo ( 899435 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:27AM (#39285075) Journal

    I've been on the Internet a long time and, when I named my first Internet-connected computers, I thought it would be cool to name them after Star Trek characters. (The guys a floor up from me decided to name their after planets.) It wasn't long before I discovered that, at that time, half the machines on the Internet were named after Star Trek characters, and the other half were named after planets. I decided that, in the future, I would choose the most original naming scheme I could think of. I've been naming my computers after onomatopoeic words for years - screech, kablamm, whirr, etc. There are plenty of words, so the chances of running out are small.

    The only time I got into trouble is when I was putting together a server for a customer, and I called it "crash".

  • "For a new generation"? I am afraid the only thing the new generation can come up with is Pokémon names.
  • No longer an admin, but I have always given servers names based on their asset label, e.g. SV-0700543. The benefit of this is that the servers must be recorded in the asset register before they can be set up. When it comes to virtual machines I simply used a counter, e.g. VM-000001. The important ones (fsmo roles, database servers, app servers, etc) get friendly names with dns cname records.
  • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:45AM (#39285179) Homepage

    The problem with naming servers after their functions is that in most shops, a server does more than one thing. And they often get moved / repurposed / whatever.

    So that machine that's now ldap-ny-02? Well, last week it was web-ny-05. A couple months from now, are you going to remember that name change, and that web-ny-05 had that flaky power supply / fibre card / etc?

    Oh, that service that had been running on lasco05? We moved that to the 'new' lasco03. (and there have been how many machines named lasco03?)

    I've worked in a lot of places, and these days with clusters, virtual hosts, etc, you often have a different public-facing name (which will get used when people call in a problem ... how are they to know that some service is 5+ machines behind a load balancer? Or that all of the web sub-domains are really on the same server? Even if you don't plan for the abstraction, it already exists due to these different aggregations.

    If you give the hardware one name when it comes in, and only use aliases for each of the public services, you don't have to worry about recycling names just so there's no service interuptions. ... and, true story, I've even worked in place with a machine named 'teller' after Edward Teller (the last article), as all of our mail servers were named after scientists ... but when I moved it for testing, I renamed the pair for that cluster to 'penn', and we later added a 'copperfield' and 'houdini' ... but we had to scrap the physicist names when our director didn't believe us that the spam filters weren't rejecting his e-mail because it was going through a machine named 'lovelace', and it was named after Ada Lovelace, not Linda Lovelace.)

    I've worked with machines named after cheeses, spices, cartoon characters, music albums, movies, adverbs, muppets, states, rivers, tv-characters, the boss's family, periodic table, hashes of the service/location/os, astronomical phenomena,

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:14AM (#39285863)

    A current case [] (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.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel