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September 04, 2008
It's easy to tell we're in post-Labor Day mode in high performance computing. There has already been a flood of vendor announcements in the first few days of September, with many more to follow, I'm sure, in the weeks ahead as we head toward the SC08 hullabaloo. It's always fun to see the new HPC offerings and what the marketing departments have come up with for the product names.
Actually, I have a few pet peeves about naming conventions for products, companies and technologies. It often amazes me what people consider to be compelling brand names for these things. So as a community service, I'll offer some guidelines on tech naming conventions that I think are worthwhile. (Hey, no need to thank me.) To be honest, the list of suggestions are more like things to avoid. Here are my top five:
Don't make the brand name harder to spell than the name of your company's CEO.
This is a problem because most humans are generally poor spellers and the nature of the Internet means that difficult brand names are bound to mangled as more and more people write about the product or company. The now defunct Linux Networx tried to get a little too cute with their company name. Toward the end they reverted to LNXI, a pseudo-acronym, but at least easier to remember.
Use uppercase and lowercase letters in a sensible way.
You know who I'm talking about, eXludus. For this, I blame C and Java, two languages that popularized case sensitivity in variables. OK in programming, not so much in branding. Also, initial caps are mandatory. mental images is a great organization that has developed a cool rending app called (sigh) mental ray. But if you're not familiar with the company's aversion to capitalization, those names get lost in the marketing brochure.
Don't call something X-anything.
Names like Xfactor or Xtreme sound trendy. But c'mon, it's not the 1970s and you're not selling comic books to teenagers. Along those lines, I'd stay away from all prefixes that lean toward hyperbole: Super, Ultra, Hyper, ... you get the idea.
Don't choose a company name that sounds like a rock band.
OK, that's actually hard to avoid. Maybe the better advice here is to encourage rock bands not to come up with names that sound like tech companies. Metallica would have been a great brand for hardware firm. Silentium, a company that makes noise reduction products for computers, also happens to be the name as a Finnish Gothic metal band. Hmm.. I wonder if Silentium's noise reduction technology could be applied to Gothic metal music.
Beware of tying your brand to trendy technology jargon.
This is probably hard for the marketing weenies to resist, since getting a brand positioned as a technology leader is always foremost in their minds. But the folks that used "Grid" to name their product have probably lived to regret it. In ten years, I'm betting words like "Cloud," "Virtualization," and "SOA" will also have moved on.
To me this all seems like marketing 101, but I'm continually surprised by how many firms (even large ones that can afford marketing departments) descend into strangeness when it comes to brand names.
So what's a good name? One that is simple to say, spell, and remember, but is also unique and clever. Ideally, you don't need to resort to an acronym to shorten it. One of the best examples for a company name is Appistry, a software maker for application fabrics. The best OS name: probably Linux. And the best product name ... drum roll please: Opteron.
Posted by Michael Feldman - September 03, 2008 @ 9:00 PM, Pacific Daylight Time
Michael Feldman is the editor of HPCwire.
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