If you’ve ever seen one of my webcasts, attended a session somewhere, or looked at my books, you will tend to see a lot of references to music. Some folks have picked up on it over the years and figured it out. Since people have basically asked in a roundabout (not trying to make a Yes reference for the musically inclined among us) way, I’ll just answer the basic question: why?

It’s no secret I’m an active musician (mainly jazz stuff these days) and I’ve recorded a few albums. I’ve been playing bass (and jazz) for 30+ years now and if I ever get a couple of weeks at home and some time, I’ll finish my new jazz project (small and regular sized big band one) which is mostly in the can and needs to be mixed and mastered. It even has participation from two members of The Yellowjackets. It’s an album I’ve wanted to record since starting in big bands back in the 80s. All but one of the arrangements are mine, and some of the tunes are originals. Oh, and the  “Are you related to Al Hirt?” question – heard it a million times since I picked up bass in 3rd grade. The answer is no. And no, I don’t play trumpet, either. I did play trombone starting in 5th grade because I didn’t want to learn a new clef and I knew couldn’t use my bass in marching band when I reached high school. I never practiced the thing and still wound up first chair. I don’t play trombone anymore, but still remember all the positions on the slide (7th position to do a B natural is a pain for a guy who is 5’6″ – trust me) and it’s helped with arranging since ‘bone is a hard instrument to arrange for.

Bringing up one of my scores - about to record a piano part on "Cygnus X-1" for the new jazz project (release date TBD)

I also did a bit of music journalism in college and a bit after, with some interviews for magazines like Keyboard and Bass Player. I interviewed a lot of folks (including some of my favorites – one Mr. DeYoung and one Mr. Lee included). I ran Bob Mintzer’s website for nearly 10 years. I’ve been lucky to be able to get to know some of them over the years outside of interviews. Trust me when I say they are really just like you and me.

But I digress.

Putting music references in things like names of servers, clusters, and SQL Server instances keeps it fun for something that could be mundane – such as a cluster node name. Although I have a very diverse taste in music, most of my references tend to be related to either Styx or Rush. I think some who know me well may be surprised I never use some sort of Disney reference (especially Tron or Mickey Mouse related), but I don’t think I have in all these years.

Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of bands and musicians I would consider among my favorites. Rush and Styx, however, are a bit different for me (although I’d probably lump Joe Jackson, Howard Jones, Bob Mintzer, and a few more at or near the top of the list depending on the day). Let me say up front that Styx and Rush definitely conjure up different images for different people. Most of it usually isn’t good. With Styx, folks think the kitsch of Roboto and for Rush, kimonos, math rock, and Geddy Lee’s voice.

Why Styx and Rush more often than not?

With Styx, people who really know me are aware that I’ve been a Styx fan for as long as (or longer) than I’ve been playing bass. Go ahead, snicker all you want. I cut my teeth learning to play along with Paradise Theater from the songbook. You may think I know a lot about clustering – but when it comes to Styx, I’m just as deep (so-to-speak). So it should come as no surprise that in some circles, I’m considered somewhat of an expert on Styx and its memorabilia (although I do not really collect much anymore; I’ve kept a few pieces over the years and sold others). Some of my stuff can be seen in the (in)famous Behind the Music on the band. Although I update it infrequently, I still maintain StyxCollector.com which has interviews I’ve done with band members over the years and information on the Roboto mask I own (see the SC.com website for info; it’s one of two that lights up – Dennis DeYoung has the other). I’ve been threatening to post an online discography, but this SQL thing keeps me kinda busy. Any of you SQL-type folks want to help me make a searchable one with a SQL Server backend? 🙂

Allan's Roboto Mask

I was also briefly in the VH-1 True Spin segment for “Mr. Roboto” (check just around the 1:03 mark for my few seconds of fame). That segment was taped in a Residence Inn in Rochester, NY, that I was in for the day job (I believe I was doing a gig at Xerox). It’s really the only time my Roboto mask has left where I live. The funny thing I remember about that recording was they asked me a ton of questions and I was sick as a dog. Fun times.

The Rush stuff should be a bit more obvious (I hope) since I play bass. You may hate Geddy Lee’s voice (it’s definitely a love  it or hate it proposition), but his (and his fellow bandmates’) musicianship is unquestionable. I didn’t get into Rush right away after starting to play bass. I liked them mainly via MTV. I can still play along with albums like Exit Stage Left and Hold Your Fire with my eyes closed. I was even in a Rush tribute band for awhile a few years back (see pic below). I didn’t sing (thankfully!), but I did play bass and keyboards (including triggering stuff with my feet with a Roland PK-5A while playing bass and/or regular keyboards at the same time – talk about coordination). My keyboard rig went through a few iterations before the band split up. The one pictured is the last, and simplest, one.

Playing bass and keys live (foot controller not pictured)

I usually use Rush references when I have 3-server configurations (excluding domain controller) and Styx for everything else. Band members tend to be the node or server names (hence in a 3-server configuration – ALEX, GEDDY, and NEIL; in a 2-node config, DENNIS and TOMMY), albums the SQL Server instance names (such as EQUINOX or MOVINGPICTURES), the band name the domain (RUSH or STYX), etc. It makes sense to me and I’m not hopping from demo environment to demo environment trying to figure out a naming convention. I know what I’m looking at no matter which band this configuration happens to be.

There is a more serious undertone to this somewhat whimsical post: naming conventions matter. Whether you use baseball stadiums, rock bands, musicians, or something more practical like location plus some other relevant information, your servers, clusters, and instances should be consistent and make sense in your environment (such as BOSSQLPRODCLU01, where BOS = Boston, SQL = SQL Server, PROD = Production, CLU = Clustered, 01 = the first one in this type of configuration). What you want is something easy to remember that is consistently followed everywhere in your IT environment. It makes administration so much easier, and it also means you have standards and you can flag things that do not adhere to them. When you look at an object, you should instantly be able to identify what it is. Having some cryptic, million letter string may sound great to your security guys, but it makes no sense in the real world.

Devising a naming convention, no matter how cute, funny, or entertaining it appears to be, is a serious matter. Treat it as such. You’ll thank me for it later. Domo arigato!