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I work at a company which runs a whole mess of infrastructure, and the scheme we use to name it has always been of some fascination because the choice of naming encodes a bunch of organizational assumptions and priorities.

We do something like this - ${IATA code}${facility num}-${rack ID}-${elevation}-${device code}${device num}

This particular coding precisely reflects a physical location in a facility potentially all the way down to blade number. This makes site operations and maintenance in place easy, but makes us dependent on an OpsDB for assignment information and as hostnames are stable across re-installs because they reflect a physical reality can lead to hosts being treated a bit like pets. I definitely know some I can name offhand.

I asked this question on twitter last night and got some interesting responses -

  • Joylent/Triton seem to use a variety of schemes via Brian B.
  • ${4:version}-${1:variant}-${122:random} cemerick
  • ${device_type}${device_guid}.${dc_region}${dc_hall} rob0rt
  • r${rack num}c${chassis num}b${blade num} Jeremy F.

How do you name your hosts and racks? What problems does your scheme solve or create? How much does it make you depend on an OpsDB of some sort?

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    For work just use UUIDs for the server names, for my personal servers I use all of ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan’s alias.

    1. 5

      For laptops I name them after monsters. Currently, have lamia and balrog. :)

      1. 1

        I don’t have control over machine names at work, but at home I use philosophers for server machines, mathematicians for other machines, mathematicians who have specifically contributed to fractals and infinities for smaller machines (like phones, laptops, and PDAs), and alchemists for media streaming mechanisms & other semi-computers. So, I’ve got Mochizuki and Vonneumann as my big desktops at home, plus the (now retired) Erdos workstation at work, the work laptop Cantor, my phone Hilbert, plus another laptop Aristophanes, my chromecasts Agrippa and Galen, and Llul, my PS3. Retired machines include Hume, Descartes, and Liebniz.

      2. 10

        At ${job}-2 I gave this a lot of thought and wrote a detailed guide on our conventions at the time: A Proper Server Naming Scheme. Essentially, the hardware would get a permanent/unique name for its lifecycle, and then CNAMES were added with more conventional structured names and convenience names. One detail I liked was using the UN/LOCODE codes instead of IATA airport codes for more specific geographic information.

        These days, I do a lot more work with dynamic/ephemeral hosts where it doesn’t come up as much; but, we still do have some static hosts and have settled on:


        …which ends up looking something like this for a Jenkins worker, for example:


        That said, being 100% in the cloud changes the situation a bit compared to pointing at bare metal in your own data centers.

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          That’s an excellent naming scheme, which I’ve been using since a few years when there are less than 100 physical servers. I’ve found that above that number I’m more likely to use ephemeral hosts, where I do not really care what the naming scheme is because I very rarely need to connect to them.

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            And then the hostname -s maps perfectly to this, and you can use hostname worker-0428a29567cb818a7.build.us-west-2.aws.example.com in confidence.

            I might copy-cat you…

            This also works in case of VM migration, which means network name change (unless you use loopback IPv6 everywhere then IPs might follow your VMs).

            Even bare metal in your datacenters can make use of this scheme I guess…

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            SourceHut’s virtual machines are named for their purpose (e.g. git, hg, todo, mail, ns1), and our hardware servers are named after Touhou characters (e.g. alice, konpaku, remilia, patchouli).

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              Star Trek shuttle/ship names. Of course.

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                Icelandic sagas characters

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                  We haven’t jumped on the microservices/microservers/virtualization/layers-upon-layers-of-abstraction bandwagon. Instead we use a couple of beefy servers, like we did aeons ago.

                  The servers are named appropriately: chtulhu, azathoth, yog-sothoth, shub-niggorath

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                    For what it’s worth, there’s RFC 1178: Choosing a Name for Your Computer which has some useful guidelines on computers and servers

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                      Back when I did this professionally the company’s scheme was something like ${dc_name:2}${customer}${purpose}${num}, so you ended up with things like MMGSIDC01 or ATGCBACKUP04. It had evolved through time and wasn’t completely consistent, but it worked reasonably well for a few thousand physical machines.

                      For personal systems I use flying mythical beasts, and I try to make them thematic if I can:

                      • phoenix: the desktop that’s been rebuilt piece by piece for a decade, Ship of Theseus style
                      • dragon: the backup server that sleeps atop a hoard of data
                      • sphinx: the firewall/router that asks riddles of passing packets, and eats the ones that give the wrong answer
                      • grigori: the fallen angel chained forever in hell for its sins (ie, it runs Windows 10)

                      I probably spend way too much effort on this. Servers also get a CNAME and maybe a number based on their purpose though, so there’s imap01.my-domain.tld and hg.my-domain.tld and so on.

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                        For my personal systems, I use the names of Moomin characters.

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                          At work: Infrastructure naming conventions.

                          A favorite from a previous job: Dinosaurs with a -saurus or -saur suffix elided, so: tyranno, ankylo, seismo, spino, etc.

                          Personal systems: Anarchist surnames for a while, more recently, uh, abstract concepts I guess: inertia, metaphor, exuberance, escalation, fragility, catastrophe

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                            Favourite girls from anime/manga/games.

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                              The only valid choice

                            2. 4

                              Moons of Jupiter.

                              1. 1

                                Back in my uni days, the Sun pizza boxen in the student labs got names from moons - ganymede, callisto, etc etc… guess what the philistines in IT services named the one for Earth’s satellite? “moon”. Not “luna”. Still mad.

                              2. 4

                                At the moment, I use ship names from Iain M Banks’s Culture series. My previous university used island names. I’ve also used character names from the Aubrey/Maturin series and some Neal Stephenson books

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                                  I used to name my private servers after elements… switched to ${application}${hostnum} (ex. mail01.domain.tld), though.
                                  At work the name depends on the team in charge, my team is using ${project}-${application}${dc}${clusternum}${hostnum}.

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                                    All of my personal machines are named after characters from Bill Amend’s Foxtrot.

                                    My daily driver is jason (science nerd and smart guy), and my phone is quincy (get it? it’s Jason’s small, reptilian companion). Family computer is paige (because she’s a social teenager). roger is currently serving as my daughter’s computer while school is “online,” but normally serves as a test bed for random idiocy. Roger, in the comic, is known to use too much fuel for his grill, e.g., a bit clueless and reckless. I don’t have other computers online at the moment, but in the past I’ve used marcus and peter as well.

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                                      Deities and locations from The Elder Scrolls

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                                        I’ve generally worked at places with existing conventions for this sort of thing, and more than once arrived in between naming things. It’s difficult!

                                        My personal favourite is along the lines of:

                                        {role}{number}-{environment}.{region or datacentre location}{number}.{company name}.tld

                                        eg kafka-broker01-dev.lon01.fakecompany.com

                                        My reasoning being:

                                        • I want to know what something does at a glance
                                        • If it does too much to fit in a single name, maybe that’s a red flag
                                        • I don’t like having to maintain mappings of where things live in racks but I’ve also seen too many boxes get moved and never renamed to ever believe what they’re telling me without proof
                                        • I never want to see servers named after tube lines again

                                        For my home machines, generally mythological/cryptozoological. There’s no real naming convention but if it’s a fictional creature that sounds like it would cause trouble I’m in.

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                                          For hostnames within my home, I use a namespace consisting of references to Muse songs. So, a machine might be known as cydonia, because, hey, Knights of Cydonia is a pretty good song.

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                                            I go to Dragon Name Generator and spin the wheel until I find something I like. For IoT device names I add a suffix indicating the device type. For example, “Peitynos the TanTan Plug” or norynth-the-raspberry-pi.

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                                              I know you’re asking for a company server naming scheme, but everyone else is sharing personal server naming schemes, so I will too :P

                                              I come up with an ordinary English word (penguin, night, earth, blue) and then translate it into various languages until I find something I like. Sometimes I can’t find one so I stick with the English word.

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                                                Got any neat examples?

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                                                I have this thing for somewhat odd norwegian names you could encounter in everyday life.

                                                • Ogmund Stolpe
                                                • Botolv Byks
                                                • Knut Gudrunn
                                                • Bjarte Skogrud
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                                                  Based on Strong Bad’s old computers. Obligatory, laptop is lappy486 and desktop is compy386.

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                                                    At work, it’s mostly location of the server datacenter + a purpose + and id.

                                                    Personally, I only manage one server, and I mostly use subdomains off of that for different sites I run on said server, and by the time I’m handing out a subdomain, there’s usually a good name that suggests itself.

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                                                      At work we use four random words a la correct-horse-battery-staple for buildbots. At home I have a couple themes. Japanese tree names (matsu, ume, kaede, momiji, etc.) for desktops. For laptops, I use names of islands on the west coast of British Columbia where I grew up (saltspring, denman, valdes, thetis, etc.). Both of those have a nice abundance of choices.

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                                                        For all my home systems I just pick something from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Greek_mythological_figures They started off very punny/topical, but I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years, so they’re getting to be more and more of a stretch. My first super powerful gaming computer was Zuse, but my recent VM server is Hera (goddess of childbirth). My NAS, where all my backups go, is Soter (male spirit of safety, preservation, and deliverance from harm).

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                                                          Personally I name my machines a 3-letter onomatopoeia. I’m particularly fond of “ugh” for my work laptop.

                                                          Servers get a logical site code, typically the city the datacenter is in, plus an optional integer.

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                                                            When I last worked in a place large enough to need an asset database, servers were s${asset_tag} and workstations were w${asset_tag}. VMs were just starting to be used at that point, and were very much tied to which physical host they were on, so it was s${asset_tag}-vmN. I’m sure that’s changed now, but I don’t know the scheme they’re using for those. Judging from my DHCP logs last time a friend who’s recently gone to work there used his work box on my wifi, they still used the same scheme for workstations last fall.

                                                            At home, I use Futurama characters. fry, leela, clamps, beelzebot, robotsanta, zoidberg. There’s minimal rhyme or reason to which gets chosen, though leela is a PowerMac G4 tower (still occasionally booted because it easily runs sheepshaver to play classic mac games) so named because its speaker looked like a single eye to me when I was naming it.

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                                                              I used to name my machines after girls I liked (Elena, Nadia, Sofia) when I was young and foolish/naive.

                                                              Some of those machines are still alive, but since I now run some machines outside my house I name then after the geographical location: the name of the subway line they’re closest to or the name of the city they’re in.

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                                                                Did you only go for girls with five-letter names?

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                                                                  Ah, all these years and I hadn’t noticed that.

                                                                  I’m now thinking about that time I was dating Noemi.

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                                                                • Personal computers: named after streets in San Francisco, chosen at random from a map.
                                                                • Personal servers: ${purpose}${count}.${dc}.${provider}.${domain} so a miscellaneous server for Kubernetes experiments might be k8s01.sfo02.do.example.com. In the past they were named after elements, but then I could never remember what was running on helium or carbon.
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                                                                  I like to use a pretty simple naming scheme such as ${prefix}${number}.${cluster}.${domain} , where the prefix is some short description of purpose. So, e.g., compute0105.hpc-02.example.com . For other machines in the same cluster, I set up the DNS search path such that you can just use the short name, e.g. compute0105 .

                                                                  I use an OpsDB-like-thing to track physical location and the serial number. If the machine purpose changes for some reason, the name changes but the other fields don’t, and the DB keeps a history of name changes. This also makes it easier to track other miscellaneous metadata, like service tags, date of purchase and warranty expiration, etc.

                                                                  I like this scheme because, IME, I interact with hostnames a lot more frequently in a software context than a physical maintenance context. I’d rather have a logical hostname that’s easy to understand in context than try to encode a bunch of information in the name. The DB is needed anyway to track the hardware lifecycle, so I might as well use it to track all the other physical description.

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                                                                    For my personal hostnames, I use Pokemon names, but sometimes they mean something. My server that hosts a Discord bot is called litten because the bot it hosts is cat-themed. Come to think of it, the rest don’t mean anything at all. croagunk, houndoom, forretress Oh wait forretress is the home server lol.

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                                                                      For my personal hostnames, I use Simpsons characters. I used to use big cats, but then I ran out of cats. Hopefully I never run out of Simpson characters. So far I have frink, smithers, krusty and wiggum. But I’m mid-migration. Some machines still have big cat names.

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                                                                        Have you thought about California places? :)

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                                                                        For my personal servers, I use Final Fantasy characters. I figure if I ever need to expand, I can broaden that to video game characters, but FF has quite a few options.

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                                                                          The question becomes: what OS does sephiroth or kefka run?

                                                                          You don’t have to answer. It’s more about the ludotechnical dissonance. :)

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                                                                            I think right now kefka is an experimental single-node kubernetes machine I was using to try and learn kubernetes.

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                                                                          Not an original contribution, but here’s a a list of lists ideas: https://namingschemes.com/

                                                                          But personally, I just use weird bird names (ibis, drongo, wren, bulbul, bateleur, …). I would say that there’s a system as in “strong computer, strong bird”, but I couldn’t describe what most of these birds look like even if I had to.

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                                                                            igloo, teepee, wigwam, tower, castle, yacht, etc.

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                                                                              for my personal machines I use locations from Touhou, my desktop is ayakashi, my x200 is daishibyo, my x220 is eientei, and my router is hakurei

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                                                                                Pretty simply these days: location-role-index.domain.tld, so e.g. a db cluster node in Sydney might be syd-db-01.example.com.

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                                                                                  I didn’t answer on Twitter because I read too much into “rack”.

                                                                                  We only had 1-2 racks per DC, so we didn’t care for that, but we mostly used this naming scheme:

                                                                                  • {role}-{number}(-staging)?.{IATA}.company.tld (earlier)

                                                                                  • {role}-{number}(-staging)?.{cityname}.company.tld (later)

                                                                                  • {role}-{number}(-staging)?.{cloudprovider-DC/region-name}.company.tld

                                                                                  • number always goes up and is never reused per role. e.g. you’d replace role-1 with role-14.

                                                                                  But this was 200 boxes at maximum.

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                                                                                    I use Star Wars planets.

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                                                                                      I’m using the names of boy band members for my private machines. They are short and easy to spell. So far, I have exhausted the Backstreet Boys.

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                                                                                        Random 16 bit numbers that are prefixed by the type and that can be translated offline to private IP addresses:

                                                                                        Eg c-1000 is a container whose IP address ends with 10.0. So if is the network for containers, this one’s main address would be

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                                                                                          I only got a handful and I’ve always named them after the characters from the Wiedźmin (Witcher) books: Geralt, Ciri, Yennefer, Regis, Anguleme, Cahir, Jaskier, Triss, etc.

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                                                                                            I’m naming my personal devices after the characters of my favorite Strugatsky book, The Time Wanderers

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                                                                                              For work we just use ids generated by AWS. For home we use characters from norse mythology.

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                                                                                                I have no pattern.

                                                                                                My desktop is shachi (japanese for orca). My mac pro is chrysalis. A laptop server is keanu. A compute board is nirvana. My cloud server is kahless. My dokku instance is minipaas. I just really go with what sounds cool.

                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                  Names are for people.

                                                                                                  Whatever makes it easiest for your people.

                                                                                                  If it is easier for them to have a name that tells them where to find the server physically, do that.

                                                                                                  It it is easier for them to be able say things like “Joe, have a look at the logs on Salmon…. something fishy is going on there”, do that.

                                                                                                  Yes, I did work on a team with “fish” names. It worked.

                                                                                                  I’m now on a team with “what ever the asset tracking sticker on the front says” …. can be, ahh, problematic. “Where is XX1234? What does it do again?”, but DNS aliases are A Good Thing.

                                                                                                  Instead of saying, “Check what’s happening on kvm12”, we say, “Check what’s happening on the mercurial server (hg), it’s slow today..” same thing via an alias, but much more people friendly.

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                                                                                                    I use authors/characters from an authors book for a theme. For raspis, I used to just have “pynchon” but now I also have “oedipa” and “slothrop”

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                                                                                                      For my own servers, it’s either: Castlevania characters or Mystery Science Theater 3000 characters. Lately, I’ve been adding Morrowind characters to the mix as well.

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                                                                                                        I tend to recycle old and forgotten hardware which I then given names related to reincarnation: phoinix, yetunde, sotunde, babatunde, anastasia, fawkes, ouroboros, fenghuang, etc.

                                                                                                        VM/Container hosts I often name after some physical property, can be the type with a number. Virtual machines and containers get names relating to their purpose: serve, auth, base, mail, build, panopticon, etc.

                                                                                                        In the pre-VM/container era I tended to go for names ending with ‘-oth’: gorgoroth, ostrogoth, yuggoth, azathoth, behemoth. sloth, etc.

                                                                                                        …but if it has to make sense I just name them after hardware/host-function-location…

                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                          I’ve always been a huge Splinter Cell fan. I try to name most of my devices, computers, servers, and even SSIDs after things from that universe. Phone is named OPSAT, my main VPS is named 3rdEchelon, etc.

                                                                                                          The naming goes further though. Account usernames are character names too: grimsdottir, sfisher, lambert, fcoen.

                                                                                                          My IRC bot is named grimsdottir currently and I’ve created a few test accounts at work with the others.

                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                            I love this thread! Feedback on how to name things (one of the few hardest computers problems including off by one some of them says ?)…

                                                                                                            I use species family names for birds (as an arbitrary source of names). :P

                                                                                                            I might change any time, I don’t have large or serious infrastructure anyway…

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                                                                                                              At $HOME, I use an eclectic naming convention. My first Linux box I named linus. When I got a second Linux box, I named that one lucy (in the US, there’s a comic strip named Peanuts that has a character named Linus. His sister is Lucy. And perhaps when I get a third, it’ll be Rerun). When I got my first Mac mini, it reminded me so much of Marvin from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie that I named it marvin. My iPhone is ma-bell. The iPad is gulliver. The old Thinkpad laptop I have is blackbox (since it is indeed, a black box). And I “named” my work laptop saltmine (so I can joke to fellow cow-orkers, “well, back to the salt mine”).

                                                                                                              At my current job, the convention seems to be ${role}${num}.${IATA code}.${domain} so nothing unusual there. At a previous job (a decade ago) we had named physical servers after employee pets (it was a four-person compan), virtual servers after cities and towns.

                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                I really should start naming them after Westworld characters.

                                                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                                                  Way back when the original 1973 Westworld movie came out, the local amateur computer club had a showing of it as fund raiser….

                                                                                                                  …at the critical point where the sysadmins were locked in the control room and the rogue robot was trying to get in and the heroine despairingly said, “Oh No! What are we going to do?”….

                                                                                                                  …a voice from the back of the audience yelled out..

                                                                                                                  “TRY CTRL-C!!”

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                                                                                                                    Ha! Thanks for sharing :)

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                                                                                                                  For personal servers, I name them after streets that intersect Kickerbocker Ave between Flushing Ave and Cooper St, in New York City.

                                                                                                                  I.e. George, Melrose, Jefferson, Troutman, etc.

                                                                                                                  For work, we used to name the servers by number. Everytime you add a server, you count up by one. Sound ridiculous, but its fairly memorable. Everyone has a little 8.5x11 printout with a diagram showing where each server fit in the architecture; so you could visually see that server s157 handled the client facing API, for example.

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                                                                                                                    I name my personal machines after authors that have been influential in my life. My MPB is named Schaeffer and my Ubuntu cloud dev machine is named Watson. My next machine will probably be named Hemingway!

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                                                                                                                      I name personal devices after a description of the physical housing, so I can keep track of which is which.

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                                                                                                                        Names of cities, in alphabetical order.

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                                                                                                                          I use names in regards to the project I’m working on.

                                                                                                                          Now its birds, so my hostname are: cardinal, robin, duck1, duck2, duck3 (ducks are Raspberry Pis), falcon, eagle, etc.

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                                                                                                                            For computers, I use $user$devicetype. For example, my desktop is jackdesktop, my laptop is jackthinkpad, etc. For infrastructure like the Raspberry Pi DNS server, it’s just dnsserver. As you can tell, I’m not very creative when it comes to naming things.

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                                                                                                                              • My personal devices - names of my pets + type of device
                                                                                                                              • My personal pet servers - greek gods
                                                                                                                              • My job servers - service type + id
                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                Aside from a few machines that have been with me since before I formalized a naming scheme, I name all my personal machines after things related to space. The catch is that I try to make the name meaningful with respect to the function of the machine; for example, I have a home router named telstar (named after a series of communications satellite), a file server named messier (after the french astronomer who cataloged interesting space things), laptops named pioneer and voyager (two different series of travelling probes), etc.

                                                                                                                                The other abnormality is that anything handling traffic routing on my network has a special name in DNS/rDNS that is different than its hostname: ${greek letter, ex: ‘alpha’}.${IATA code}.domain.tld. This makes traceroutes make a lot more sense, especially when all other machines have the appropriate ${IATA}.domain.tld suffix.

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                                                                                                                                  Not a sysadmin so only have my own machines to deal with. I go with famous corners from the Nordschleife racetrack. I have flugplatz, adenauer, and bergwerk.

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                                                                                                                                    For home I’ve been naming them after wine and grapes for the last ten years or so. Currently running things like Duoro, Taurasi, Barolo and so on. For work, someone else is naming the hosts

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                                                                                                                                      As I run everything in kubernetes anyway, so servers have no task assigned to them directly, I just name mine after elements of the periodic table, with isotopes used if an identical server is replaced, and new elements used if a new server is added.

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                                                                                                                                        When I choose the naming conventions:

                                                                                                                                        • I use pet name for hardware servers or VMs that host other VMs / containers. The theme is typically related to what the company does. For instance, my last (failed) startup was called Chilli, and the names were arbol, mirasol and cascabel. My personal servers have japanese weapon names (yumi, kodachi and naginata).

                                                                                                                                        • I use meaningful names for service VMs / containers / whatever. For instance: frontend-01, worker-email-03, etc.

                                                                                                                                        If I have to deal with geographic zones, I include them in the name (at the DC level, not rack, I never had enough machines that it mattered).

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                                                                                                                                          I name mine after dynasties. piast, godwin, magnusson, tastramata, etc.

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                                                                                                                                            At home my machines are all baseball players I admire. clemente, halladay, martinez, and ellis.

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                                                                                                                                              No mendoza?

                                                                                                                                              (Only reason I know about this particular person is the quite decent band)

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                                                                                                                                                Unfortunately its only the greats (and mostly pitchers).

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                                                                                                                                              Natural satellites names

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                                                                                                                                                I have never managed more than a few handful of servers and usually kept with a simple naming of (db|app|cache)-[0-9]+

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                                                                                                                                                  My personal devices always use the names of Chaos/Trickster deities.

                                                                                                                                                  At the moment I have kali, veles, kokopelli, and maui. But I’ve had hosts named Eris, Discordia, Loki, Leviathan, coyote, chaoyote, Anansi, curupira, Eshu, Crow, and many more.

                                                                                                                                                  I’ve been naming my hosts this way since 1999, I’ve had a lot of time to allocate names!

                                                                                                                                                  I don’t have enough hosts to think about racks or other classification schemes, I’m no longer a sysadmin.

                                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                                    Personal infra was Harry Potter characters. New desktop is Nicholas, tonks has blue fans, Lee and George get along, Kingsley and Shacklebolt were my dual gateways of protection… Pettigrew lives in my pocket (a name that now comes with a numerical suffix).

                                                                                                                                                    But outside the home I find it easier to go from domain to location specification to a name. The more generic the name, the less important/more redundant that specific machine.

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                                                                                                                                                      At home network devices are given DBZ character names, eg Dende, Trunks, Vegeta … My WiFi ssid is dbzuniverse[2k|5k]

                                                                                                                                                      At current work onprem servers tended to be named by planets or constellations.

                                                                                                                                                      At previous work for many years servers were given airplane names; P38, B12, F16 ….