Host Names

Considerations for Computer Naming Standards at Mt Xia

These computer naming standards are:

The current trend in system design is to provide a separate system for each application or instance of an application, such as a database, web application, or financial package. In the past a computer system was contained within a single hardware frame, and the frame consisted of the box, CPU, Memory, boards, adapters, disks, etc. The current IBM hardware platforms permit the system administrator to segment a frame into multiple systems called Logical Partitions (LPAR's). These LPAR's can be assigned all or part of the hardware resources contained in the frame, such as CPU, Memory, and I/O adapters. Each LPAR may be used to host any application that normally runs on a standalone machine, high availability cluster, or in a disaster recovery environment.

Implementing these types of environments requires a naming structure that accounts for more than just a single host name on a system. A standard must be adopted that is extensible into any necessary environment. The following document describes some of the requirements that must be considered when designing a naming standard for a virtualized business continuity environment.

Partition, Node, and Host Name Standards

Virtualization is based on the capability of defining multiple systems within a single computer frame. These system divisions within a frame are referred to as logical partition's (LPAR). The first step in defining an LPAR is to assign it a name. The partition (LPAR) name is usually the same as the system node name. It is important at this time to distinguish between the node name of a system and it's host name. The node name is associated with an instance of an operating system, where the host name is associated with a network adapter. A system may have many different host names, but only a single node name. Also the node name always remains with that instance of the operating system, whereas a host name may float between adapters within a system, or between systems, or across data centers. All partition, host, and node names should be enterprise wide unique values in order to eliminate conflicts during fail-overs, whether they be planned, unplanned, manual, automated, or part of a disaster recovery effort. The following is an example of an established standard for creating node names and host names.

The node name shall consist of exactly 10 characters as shown in table 1:

Location Code + OS Type + Environment + Application Code + Sequence ID
3 char + 1 char + 1 char + 3 char + 2 char

Table 1

Example information for details of each component of the node name standard is shown in table 2:

Node Name Component Number of Characters Example Values
Location Code 3
est = Easton
bgw = Bridgeway
mad = Madrid
OS Type 1
a = AIX
l = Linux
o = OS/400
Environment 1
a = Acceptance Testing
d = Development
p = Production
t = Testing
x = Disaster Recovery
Application Code 3
vio = VIO Server
nim = NIM Server
sap = SAP
mqs = MQ Series
ora = Oracle
db2 = DB2
ifx = Informix
Sequence ID 2
A two character identifier to distinguish multiple instances
of a node type. This two character identifier may contain the
following characters:

Table 2

For any single node, one or more host names may be created to identify all of the various network interfaces. Normally, each node will have a host name that is identical to the node name. As an example, assume an AIX node exists in a Easton data center location, which is a production system running Oracle, and it is the first node in the sequence. A node name for this node would appear as:

Location Code + OS Type + Environment + Application Code + Sequence ID
est + a + p + ora + 01

Table 3

This equates to an example node name of “estapora01”, and usually, would also be used as a host name with an IP address assigned to it. The point being illustrated here is the node name and the host name of a system are separate entities and should be thought of in that way when designing virtualized and clustered systems.

Now that we have established a node and host naming standard, we can use this to create logical partitions (LPAR's) and partition profiles through the Hardware Management Console (HMC). When building a business continuity environment utilizing virtualization, redundant key components is an important consideration. The VIO servers are key components since they will provide client LPAR's access to network and storage devices. Reducing business function outages are the primary concern when designing a business continuity environment. In order to reduce downtime associated with systems that may be providing critical business functions, dual VIO servers are usually configured on each pSeries frame. Dual VIO servers provide the client LPAR's with I/O redundancy in the event of failure of one of the VIO's. They also permit the system administrator to perform system maintenance on each VIO server without requiring an outage on any client LPAR.

Each client LPAR is subsequently configured to have access to the redundant resources provided by both VIO servers on the frame.

When creating dual VIO servers, the node names should comply with our previously defined standard for node and host names. As an example, consider two pSeries frames that will be used to provide LPAR's configured as HACMP cluster nodes, one node of the cluster on each frame. In this scenario, each frame will host dual VIO servers, thus providing each client LPAR with redundant I/O access to the physical resources. For a two node cluster, one client LPAR will be configured on each frame to provide frame redundancy. The VIO servers themselves, are not configured using HACMP because they are designed to work in redundant pairs, and do not require it. Using the previously defined naming standard, dual VIO servers on each frame might have example partition, node and host names as shown in table 4.

VIO Server Name VIO Server Location Frame or Managed System Name
estapvio00 First VIO Server node on the 1st frame Server-9119-590-SN12A345B
estapvio01 Second VIO Server node on the 1st frame Server-9119-590-SN12A345B
estapvio02 First VIO Server node on the 2nd frame Server-9119-590-SN67D890E
estapvio03 Second VIO Server node on the 2nd frame Server-9119-590-SN67D890E

Table 4

When implementing virtualization, it is desirable to distribute the network and storage communication traffic equally across dual VIO servers. Since, at the time of this writing, this is not yet an automated process, it must be configured manually. Shell scripts may be constructed to aid in the distribution of this traffic. These scripts use the “sequence ID” portion of the node name to make decisions regarding how to divide the traffic. Specifically, they determine whether the node name ends in an even or odd number, then select primary and secondary adapters based on the number. The following table shows examples of how storage traffic would be distributed across the VIO servers using this methodology:

Node Name MPIO hdisk Primary Path Secondary Path
estapora00 hdisk0 estapvio00 estapvio01
  hdisk1 estapvio01 estapvio00
  hdisk2 estapvio00 estapvio01
  hdisk3 estapvio01 estapvio00
  hdisk4 estapvio00 estapvio01
  hdisk5 estapvio01 estapvio00
estapora01 hdisk0 estapvio01 estapvio00
  hdisk1 estapvio00 estapvio01
  hdisk2 estapvio01 estapvio00
  hdisk3 estapvio00 estapvio01
  hdisk4 estapvio01 estapvio00
  hdisk5 estapvio00 estapvio01

Table 5

This table shows the primary communication path for the even numbered hdisk's on the even numbered client LPAR's, is through the even numbered VIO server (actually it is through the even numbered virtual SCSI adapter, for now assume the even numbered virtual SCSI adapters are associated with the even numbered VIO server). The secondary path for the even numbered hdisk's on the even numbered client LPAR's is through the odd numbered VIO server. The logic is of course reversed for odd numbered hdisk's.

Using these traffic distribution scripts and extrapolating this node naming standard to dozens of LPAR's on a p590 frame, it becomes apparent that on LPAR's with even numbered node names, “hdisk0” will always have a primary communication path through the even numbered VIO server. Since “hdisk0” usually contains the “rootvg” volume group, it is NOT desirable to have the primary path of “hdisk0” for all LPAR's on a frame going through the same VIO server. Therefore it is recommended when configuring LPAR's between two frames (such as with HACMP), do not use all even numbered node names for the LPAR's on one frame, and all odd numbered node names on the other frame. Otherwise, the result of using the traffic distribution scripts, would be that all LPAR's with even numbered node names would use the VIO server with the even numbered node name as the primary path for “hdisk0”. Additionally, all LPAR's with odd numbered node names would use the VIO server with the odd numbered node name as the primary path for “hdisk0”, which is probably undesirable, as shown in table 6.

Frame Name Node Name hdisk0 Primary Path hdisk0 Secondary Path
Server-9119-590-SN12A345B estapora00 estapvio00 estapvio01
  estapora02 estapvio00 estapvio01
  estapora04 estapvio00 estapvio01
  estapora06 estapvio00 estapvio01
Server-9119-590-SN67D890E estapora01 estapvio03 estapvio02
  estapora03 estapvio03 estapvio02
  estapora05 estapvio03 estapvio02
  estapora07 estapvio03 estapvio02

Table 6

A more desirable configuration is to evenly distribute the “hdisk0” traffic across the dual VIO servers, which can be easily achieved if both even and odd numbered node names are used on each frame. Table 7 shows a desirable node name configuration for a group of eight Oracle servers across two p590 frames and the distribution of “hdisk0” traffic across dual VIO servers. The primary and secondary paths of all subsequently numbered “hdisk's” are also distributed evenly as previously discussed.

Frame Name Node Name hdisk0 Primary Path hdisk0 Secondary Path
Server-9119-590-SN12A345B estapora00 estapvio00 estapvio01
  estapora01 estapvio01 estapvio00
  estapora02 estapvio00 estapvio01
  estapora03 estapvio01 estapvio00
Server-9119-590-SN67D890E estapora04 estapvio02 estapvio03
  estapora05 estapvio03 estapvio02
  estapora06 estapvio02 estapvio03
  estapora07 estapvio03 estapvio02

Table 7

Of course the distribution of storage and network traffic can be manually configured across the dual VIO servers, however this takes a lot of time and effort. Also the shell scripts designed to perform this task can be configured to reverse the logic of how the traffic is distributed, so the administrator can specify the primary and secondary paths, but this means the administrator must keep track of how each LPAR is configured so they can make a determination of how to configure new LPAR's. It is much easier and more efficient to implement a node naming structure that can be used to automate at least a portion of this configuration process, and relieve the administrator from having to monitor and track this information.

In the previously defined node naming standard the sequence ID is defined as a two character identifier, and the list of possible digits are “0-9”, “A-Z”, and “a-z”. This is not quite accurate, to insure the traffic distribution scripts operate properly, the last character of the node and host name must be a digit between 0 and 9.

The partition, node and host naming standard defined in this document can be expanded for use with HACMP to identify the various network adapters required by a cluster. Normally, a node in an HACMP cluster has multiple network adapters for the purpose of providing redundant communication paths in the event of a failure of one or more or the adapters. During the configuration of the cluster each network adapter is assigned one or more IP addresses, and each address is associated with a host name. The IP addresses are referred to by there purpose in cluster such as boot, standby, persistent, heartbeat, or service address. The names given to these addresses usually reflect this purpose by attaching a suffix to the end of the node name.

Table 8 lists example host names used to identify all of the various IP addresses assigned to an HACMP cluster node with multiple network adapters. These host names illustrate a naming scheme, which is part of an HACMP configuration methodology, developed for use with the virtualization standards as described in this document.

Host Name Description
estapora01 “Service” host name that is activated when HACMP is active on the node, but does not fail over. This “service” host name always remains on the node of the same name as long as HACMP is active.
estapora01-bt01 estapora01-bt02
Host names associated with a “boot” IP address that is assigned to each network interface at boot time.
estapora01-pr01 Host name associated with a “persistent” IP address that is assigned to a network interface at boot time, but does not fail over. This host name is always active on a node regardless of whether HACMP is running or not.
estapora01-rg01 “Service” host name that is associated with a resource group that provides application resources. This is the host name that will fail over between network adapters, HACMP nodes, and across data centers.
Host name associated with a “standby” IP address that is assigned to each network interface at boot time, but does not fail over. The IP address associated with this host name is replaced during an IPAT take-over operation.
Host name associated with the “heartbeat” IP addresses, one per network adapter. If these IP addresses are manually configured by the HACMP administrator, then a host name should be assigned to each address. The methodology described in this document does not use these host names.

Table 8

As can be observed in Table 8, the node estapora01 may have many host names, some reside permanently on the node, some are only available when HACMP is active, and still others float between the network adapters, HACMP nodes, or even data centers.

Notice the division character between the node name and the suffix is a dash “-”, not an underscore “_”. Although the underscore character is supported by some DNS vendors, it is not RFC compliant. Therefore, the underscore character should never be used in a host name.

The policies, guidelines, standards, and procedures set forth in this document for your consideration are as follows: