I don't want a Lime Mac, I want Names for my Servers!In some small way I, as a System Engineer, can derive pride from giving my servers loving ,meaningful names. Names like Xavier, Donald Duck, and Cyclops. In fact, this task that has always been one of the most enjoyable parts of being a System Engineer. Now they try to take this away from me.
"System Engineer" is the loving title my employer gives members of our small group that takes care of the servers. Linux, Solaris, AIX, NT, Novell; we are the shepherds that hold this herd together. Often we pet our respective servers, maybe run our hands over their keyboards or do a quick ping just to make sure they are okay. A server likes to be treated nicely, and if I must call it LNXSERVER0143 then it just doesn't get the kind of treatmeent it deserves.
At my previous employer the Netware goons had taken the initiative of using cartoon characters as the naming scheme. It all started with Rocky and Bullwinkle, moved on to Looney Toons, and slowly evolved to include Sesame Street for the NT machines and Disney Characters for the Unix machines. Nothing like logging in to WILE_E_COYOTE, BUGS_BUNNY, or ELMO to cheer up your day in your little cube of isolation. It helps to humanize those objects that can be such a pain. I recently heard of a company using characters from 'Taxi' and 'Mary Tyler Moore'. Being able to say, "Hey, is the hard drive on Mary going?" or "Rhoda isn't accepting logins any more" or "Someone tried to hack RevJim" provides just the kind of relief needed in that time of crisis. Of course, it's also fun.
But in the last few weeks I stepped out on the limb where I now am. I felt the rather lame practice of naming servers after trees (we have Ash, Oak, and Pine as well as others) was getting on my nerves. So I took the chance and named a few servers after X-Men. It's a good theme, with lots of characters to choose from and lots of cool graphics easily available. There is, of course, no official written standard at my employer, but the helpdesk supervisor who had his new app on the servers felt that Xavier, Storm, and Cyclops were not professional enough. They just didn't have the professional feeling of "Oak" and "Ash".
My day was, of course, destroyed. We System Engineers now are tasked to come up with a professional-sounding naming scheme or live with something as intelligent as the machine OS concatenated with the serial and model number, or some such nonsense. Oh the horror! Can you imagine "SOLARISSPRC20SN324234"? What a wonderful name!
Granted, one of my coworkers has suggested Dilligaf. With a little knowledge that one doesn't go over well, and it is but one name. A consistent theme is needed, a theme that fits with the System Engineers, the people who keep the servers happy.
The question has been posed "How will a new person know what the server does if it isn't named something logical?" Well, any person worth their weight in bits knows that XAVIER is probably a primary or secondary DNS, and CYCLOPS of course is a Helpdesk Web Server. It may take a little explaining, but my four year old could grasp it in a couple of minutes. I would expect a computer science major to get it in less than a few hours. And there are such things as aliases!
Xmen, television series, Star Trek ships... Give me my names, let me express myself! How can I as a System Engineer in my structured little cube with my structured little OS and my structured IP scheme live within these restrictive bonds forced upon me by an uncreative group of suits? I don't want a lime-colored Mac, I want real names for my Servers. I want to be able to have my NT Primary Domain Controller called CHER and the Secondary Domain Controller called SONNY. I want to have ELMO, GOOFY, and DONALDDUCK for SQL servers. I want to have Xena and Hercules be the firewall. Break free, my fellow engineers! Don't let 'the man' keep you down! Stand forth and name your servers, establish your theme, and create a standard before someone dares to put their foot down.
The freedom we seek today can only help those who follow us.
Keep the faith!
--Andrew D. Smith