Jeremy Smith's blog

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Naming Computers — RFC 1178: Choosing a Name for Your Computer

When I worked at Weatherhead, we named computers after beers (guinness, harp, bass, etc.) or used some variations of acronyms that identified the purpose of the machine (such as "Weatherhead Account Management System" → WAS). When I came to work at ITS, they used themes. We had a pocket of servers named after The Addams Family characters, another pocket named after Scottish Isles, another group named after dog breeds, etc. Obviously, these are the servers' internal names. Their outwardly facing names (of which, one server may have several (or vica-versa)) usually represented the service being accessed and were all self-descriptive and such like,,, etc. Those are the names of "services"; I'm referring here to the actual machines' internally used names.

Then, one day, using pronounceable, real words stopped. It was decided that that was "unprofessional" and now all of our servers have the name: h-129-22-18-243 or something similar (the numeric portion of the name comes from the IP address).

This makes the servers incredibly hard to talk about amongst coworkers.

"I need to patch atche-dash-one-twenty-nine-dash-twenty-two-dash-eighteen-dash-two-oh-seven."
"Atche-dash-one-twenty-nine-dash-twenty-two-dash-eighteen-dash-two-oh-seven? Is that the one that runs the ITS-Services web server?"
"No, atche-dash-one-twenty-nine-dash-twenty-two-dash-eighteen-dash-two-oh-three runs its-services, atche-dash-one-twenty-nine-dash-twenty-two-dash-eighteen-dash-two-oh-seven runs the Software Center."
"Oh... okay."

To be honest, no one actually even tries anymore to say a machine's name. We refer to machines by the primary service they run such as "the blog system" or "the SSO system" but that introduces its own set of problems (machines that have more than one primary function, services that span multiple machines, trying to distinguish between the "old such-and-such system" versus the "new such-and-such system," etc.).

I wish we could go back to the regular, English pronounceable, sane naming scheme.


  1. gravatar

    Why bother using DNS at all if its just going to reproduce an IP address. All you end up with is a longer, more obnoxious IP address!

    Just wait to see how long those names are under IPv6. ;)

  2. gravatar

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