The Basic Idea, in Verse
Jay R. Ashworth's advice in anapestic tetrameter, with apologies to T.S. Eliot:
The Naming of Hosts is a difficult 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 host must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES. First of all, there's the name that the users use daily, Such as venus, athena, and cisco, and ames, Such as titan or sirius, hobbes or europa-- All of them sensible everyday names. There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter, Some for the web pages, some for the flames: Such as mercury, phoenix, orion, and charon-- But all of them sensible everyday names. But I tell you, a host needs a name that's particular, A name that's peculiar, and more dignified, Else how can it keep its home page perpendicular, And spread out its data, send pages world wide? Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum, Like lothlorien, pothole, or kobyashi-maru, Such as pearly-gates.vatican, or else diplomatic- Names that never belong to more than one host. But above and beyond there's still one name left over, And that is the name that you never will guess; The name that no human research can discover-- But THE NAMESERVER KNOWS, and will us'ually confess. When you notice a client in rapt meditation, The reason, I tell you, is always the same: The code is engaged in a deep consultation On the address, the address, the address of its name: It's ineffable, effable, Effanineffable, Deep and inscrutable, singular Name.
The DetailsMachine names are often expected to meet one or more of these criteria:
- Have information encoded into the name (purpose, OS, user, prod or dev, location).
- Enable rapid machine rollouts
- Be memorable
Encoding information into the name is in general a bad idea because when something changes you will have to rename the host (or live with a misleading name). Such data are better put into some other database, e.g., LDAP, or at least implemented with DNS CNAME aliases and such, leaving the base machine names alone.
Rapid rollout is a more-compelling argument, e.g., sparc50...sparc151 at least don't require much wasted time — and at least a machine isn't going to change from being a SPARC to something else. However, you can avert this situation by having an inventory of names in advance.
Human-readable / memorable tends to work best. The biggest obstacle tends to be political, i.e., the attraction of bad ideas (see near bottom) and the inability of bossess to comprehend machines having multiple names with the "role" names being movable as machine functions and other non-essential characteristics change.
The other obstacle is running out of inspiration. Here are some categories you may wish to mine for ideas. Some sites will elect to use multiple categories, e.g., reserve disease names for MS-Windows servers.
- Car makes / models
- Bicycle manufacturers
- Italian cities (only if you're nowhere near Italy — in general, only cities that nobody will assume is the machine location)
- Deadly sins (for groups of up to seven hosts: pride, avarice, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth)
- Snow White's dwarves (ditto: doc, grumpy, happy, sneezy, bashful, sleepy, dopey)
- Cardinal virtues (ditto: prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, faith, hope, charity)
- The three Graces aka Charities, in Greek mythology (aglaea, euphrosyne, thalia)
- The nine Muses, in Greek mythology (calliope, clio, euterpe, thalia, melpomene, terpsichore, erato, polyhymnia, urania)
- The three Fates, in Greek mythology (clotho, lachesis, atropos)
- The three Erinyes (Furies), in Greek mythology (alecto, megaera, tisiphone)
- The thirty Titans, in Greek mythology (asteria, astraeus, atlas, clymene, coeus, crius, cronus, dione, eos, epimetheus, eurybia, eurynome, hyperion, iapetus, lelantos, menoetius, metis, mnemosyne, oceanus, ophion, pallus, perses, phoebe, prometheus, rhea, selene, styx, tethys, thea, themis)
- Greek minor gods
- Babylon 5 characters
- Blake's 7 characters
- Red Dwarf characters
- Farscape characters
- Firefly characters
- Tolkien Middle-Earth characters
- Spacecraft in Iain Banks's Culture series
- James Bond characters
- Literary characters
- Chemical elements
- Football / real-football ("soccer") / baseball / etc. teams
- Models of jet airplanes
- Fictional characters in general
- More literary characters
- Cartoon characters
- Television programmes / characters
- Femmes fatales
- Planets and other astronomical objects (stars, moons constellations...)
- Authors (which has sub-categories, some with more famous entries than others; you want distinctive, easily remembered surnames devoid of prohibitive levels of controversy and unlikely to be thought the name of someone local)
- Science fiction authors
- Mystery authors
- Romance authors
- Fictional countries
- Body parts (non-naughty ones)
- Fictional places (bedrock, oz, narnia, lorien, trantor, gotham, midgard, styx, osgiliath, pandaemonium...)
- Sailboat classes (coronado, victory, hobie, el-toro...)
- Plant taxonomy (pistil, stamen, carnyx, seedpod...)
- Skeletal structure (tarsal, collarbone, scapula...)
- Architectural elements (cornice, dado, plinth...)
- Plants, vegetables, fruits, flowers
- Trees (oak, beech, willow...)
- Dog / cat breeds
- Animal species (or divide into fish, bird, insects, etc.)
- Ancient-world gods (Norse, Greek, Roman, Japanese, Celtic, Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Lovecraft...)
- Movie genres (crime, noir, historical, sf, sports, war, western, action, adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, thriller)
- Scientists / inventors (goddard, korolev, tsiolkovsky...) / mathematicians
- Famous wars / battles (shiloh, trafalgar...)
- Famous disasters (hindenberg, chernobyl, titanic, challenger, columbia...)
- Famous treaties (ghent, versailles...)
- Pop musicians / songs
- Classical composers
- Mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, other geographical features
- Train stations (if well known: euston, reading, liverpool, penn, grand-central)
- Candy bars and other sweets
- Famous traitors
- Mafiosi (1, 2, 3, 4)
- Collectives (e.g., passel, plague, bevy, covey)
- Famous villains / evil geniuses
- If all else fails, more can be found via the Wikipedia List of lists
Expect turf wars and violent objections where you least expect it.
Be prepared for exceptions and vetos. Establish a loose pattern within
reasonable limits (e.g., 4-16 letters, no usernames, no punctuation
other than hyphen, in particular no underscores, nothing obscene), save
your ammo if someone just doesn't want to cooperate.
Bad, Bad Ideas: Hall of Shame
- A user ("rmoen", "rickmoen") or varations thereon ("janespc")
- Anything about one of the machine's current functional roles ("mail")
- Encoding the machine's IP address in the name.
- Same with an associated telephone number, cubicle, room/rack/row, etc.
It also pains me as a Scandinavian to feel obliged to caution against stepping outside the 26-letter Latin alphabet for, or include accents in, host names, tempting as it might be to name host for the Norns (urðr, verðandi, skuld) or for Icelandic volcanoes (e.g., eyjafjallajökull, öræfajökull, katla, hekla, grimsvötn, askja, hengill, snæfellsjökull, torfajökull).
These bad ideas are institutionalised and management-dictated at many institutions and large companies (e.g. clueless bad advice from Pierre Dumoulin) — instead of implementing them via alias names, if at all.
Other don't-do-this warnings are included in RFC1178 (1990): "Choosing a Name for Your Computer", by Don Libes.