Network Naming Conventions

Nathan Ward nanog at
Mon Mar 15 09:08:19 CDT 2010

On 16/03/2010, at 2:10 AM, Adcock, Matt [HISNA] wrote:

> I've used a Jimmy Buffett theme in test labs before.

Naming themes are fine in test labs, because devices have a different function/role several times per day, a name acts like an asset tag in that it sticks with it through its lifetime.

Same goes for those servers that sit in our networks that I can only really think to call "bitch boxes". They do all sorts of random one-off network hackery tasks, and never get any love. They're not supposed to scale, they were only supposed to be there for one job 5 years ago and they're still there.

If I've got guys out there rolling out gear according to cookie cutter designs, I don't want them coming up with names and using ex girlfriends or TV shows or whatever. They're going to run out of ideas, and I don't want to have 50 boxes called "rachel" on the network with no idea what they do. That sort of thing works fine when you're the only person putting the names in to boxes - like in a lab - but no good if you've grown much.

I'm a contractor/consultant type thing, and getting my customers to use naming schemes like the rant that follows helps me understand their network if they do things without me, and helps anyone else who comes along too.

So, for production network and server gear, I like domain names built with city and site codes:

Perhaps if I had a bigger network I'd have .country.domain on the end of that instead.

Hosts within each site are told to search within their site, then city, then domain. Here's how in resolv.conf:
search, city.domain, domain

This lets me refer to a host called 'access-1' as, access-1, or, or depending on where I am. That's handy and saves my lazy ass typing lots. It also means we can have standard configs for lots of things. For example, we can syslog to "syslog" and it will choose either the one in the local site if its size warrants it, or one in the city, or a network-wide one. I'm sure you can think of other ways this can be useful.

It can be annoying when a box doesn't let you display a full hostname in a prompt, or fudge it and set the "hostname" to "" because hostnames shouldn't have periods in them. YMMV, etc. The benefits outweigh the negatives for me I think. Things can get a bit hairy when devices identify themselves by their hostnames in some other protocols though. Ignoring that and using DNS is encouraged, etc.

As for hostnames themselves, I have varying ways of doing that, but I never use a naming scheme that won't scale for.. a long time.
I always use numbers, but never use leading zeros - ie. access-1, not access-001. It's not hard to sort numerically, come on now.
I generally try to use something that describes the devices function. "access-[1-9][0-9]*" = access router. "core-[1-9][0-9]*" = core router. "IP" is implied unless it's something else, ie. "(eth|atm)-access-[1-9][0-9]*" are Ethernet or ATM switches.

For places where I collapse functionality, ie. a small site with collapsed core and access boxes, I call them access, because they are less to move and hence need renaming when core boxes come in the future to support additional access boxes.

Interface addresses in DNS include the interface name and VLAN or some other logical circuit details (PVC, etc.), as is common.

Juniper boxes have re0-hostname.domain and re1-hostname.domain, and also re-hostname.domain if I've got a moving master IP address configured.

That's about all I can think of to write, I hope it's useful to someone, YMMV, etc.

Nathan Ward

More information about the NANOG mailing list