Server Names Put the Fun in Functional

What's in a name? When it comes to servers, as it turns out, quite a lot.

By JR Raphael
Mon, March 12, 2012

IDG News Service — What's in a name? When it comes to servers, as it turns out, quite a lot.

Server names are designed for functionality: They let system administrators easily identify each machine and keep track of what it does. For some companies, that means coming up with a cut-and-dried alphanumeric convention. For others, it means taking the opportunity to get a little creative.

"The basic rule is that the name should be unique with enough options so that [it] can always be informative," says Cormack Lawler, a data center director at Rackspace.

That rule, as I've discovered, provides plenty of wiggle room. I set out to track down the country's most clever and amusing server-naming strategies. Here are some of my favorite finds.

It's a bird, it's a plane...

Smetimes it takes a true superhero to run a busy IT department. The folks at LinkUp.com, a job search engine, decided to take that notion to heart.

In true tongue-and-cheek style, LinkUp named each of its external servers after a Marvel superhero character. The team put a lot of thought into its naming process, too. Some highlights:

Pepper, the business logic server, is named after Pepper Potts, the business-minded brainiac behind Iron Man's Stark Industries.

Pym, the virtual server, is named after scientist Henry Pym, a.k.a. Ant Man, because -- as LinkUp.com IT Architect Eric Caron puts it -- "it has a very tiny footprint, being a virtual server like VMWare, but is responsible for complex things."

Sage, the company's DNS server, is named after the Marvel mutant character Sage. "All it basically does is answer questions all day long," Caron explains. "It doesn't really do anything exciting."

Dagger, the security auditing server, is named after Silver Dagger, a Marvel character who apparently serves as a locksmith (I'll take their word for it).

Some of the company's server names are a bit more obvious -- Hulk, for example, is the machine with the most horsepower -- but all in all, you can tell these guys take their naming decisions seriously. And according to Caron, the effort is very much appreciated.

"What can I say?" he asks. "Geeks love comic books."

The entertainment files

You know what else geeks love? Shows like Star Trek, The Simpsons, and Buffy. And you'd better believe that adoration shines through straight from Hollywood to server town.

"I've seen a tape library named Giles, [after] the librarian in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a multi-function printer named Odo, [after] the shape-shifter from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," says Brian Greenberg, founder of General System Dynamics. "It's pretty funny when someone tells you that Buffy's got a virus, or that Picard panicked, or that Homer took a dump -- core dump, that is."

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