What’s In a Name? The Importance of Naming Standards in IT Operations

Star Trek, Smurfs, astronomy (and astrology!), dinosaurs, cartoon characters, celebrities, sports teams… what do all these things have in common? At some point in your IT career, you probably encountered a server or network device named according to one or more of those types of naming conventions.

But those days are long gone, right? Based on my recent experience, organizations are still struggling with standard naming conventions.

In terms of IT operations maturity1, standard device naming conventions are a fundamental building block. Every device with an IP address must have a system name, and that name should follow a standard convention.

Unfortunately for many of us, those standards are poorly documented or poorly enforced. The lack of enforcement results in lots of ‘stuff’ on the network that requires more effort to identify than simply knowing the device name. This absence leads to long-term and recurring effects that cripple the speed and efficiency of your IT organization.

The penalty we pay for the lack of a robust and consistently followed naming convention is amplified when it comes to monitoring and observability. Tools like SolarWinds Orion have become the de facto system of record or substitute for a CMDB for many organizations. Even if your organization is one of the seemingly few with a trusted CMDB, naming standards are critical to scalable device and application management.

Alerting and notifications, incident management, dashboards, reporting, capacity planning, chargeback, budgeting, forecasting, and automation are just some of the areas that suffer when strong naming conventions are absent.

In SolarWinds Orion, there is the concept of ‘Custom Properties.’ A custom property allows for creating additional attributes on devices, applications, and other entity types throughout the platform. Those attributes can be used to group, sort, filter, and otherwise improve the correlation of physical and logical entities for a wide variety of reasons. At Loop1, we have developed a list of 19 best practice custom properties that we recommend that strengthen the functionality of Orion operations. I’ll be talking about these in an upcoming blog post!

A well-defined, consistently applied naming convention helps make custom properties absolutely sing. We can quickly identify the right stakeholders for alerting, notifications, and incident management. Intelligent dashboards can be constructed to display precise and pertinent information that helps to deliver on the concept of end-to-end observability. We can build reports that are scoped to just the right teams and devices for analysis, capacity planning, and other advanced analytics. And perhaps most importantly, we can leverage advanced automation techniques.

In very large organizations, where automation and orchestration have become standard practices, the presence or absence of robust naming standards have either expedited or greatly complicated the creation and deployment of powerful, API-based integration and automation.

So, where does your organization fall on this spectrum? When you troubleshoot performance issues, do you find yourself referencing comic book superheroes? Or does your organization leverage large-scale automation and orchestration that benefits from a sophisticated, well-documented, and consistently implemented naming standard.

1 See Loop1 Monitoring Maturity Model L1M3 (pronounced LIME)

Bill Fitzpatrick, Loop1 Chairman and CEO

Bill Fitzpatrick
Chairman and CEO | Loop1

AUTHOR

An accomplished engineer with a gift for translating technical concepts into plain English and a sharp business sense, Bill Fitzpatrick is building on the success of Loop1 Systems to execute an ambitious vision for the future. Bill co-founded Loop1 Systems, a SolarWinds Authorized Partner, in 2009. He played an integral role in building the nearly 10-year-old business into what is today, a bustling, Austin-based company counting more than 200 of the Fortune 500 as clients. In the summer of 2017, Bill assumed full ownership of Loop1 Systems and has since laser-focused on one simple goal: to bring the truth to light for each Loop1 client.

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