A distributed computing system using a data communications network may have a number of service providers for a given service or remote procedure call. A client on the network makes reference to a name service to obtain the network address of one of these service providers. The name service maintains for each client or group of clients a configuration profile of the service providers in order to resolve the issue of selecting one of the several service providers when a request is made. A single configuration profile is a priority-ordered search list that maps from a service identifier (e.g., remote procedure call interface specification) into service provider (e.g., remote procedure call server) names. A configuration profile may include names for individual service providers, and/or named groups of service providers, and/or other configuration profiles. Configuration profiles are stored in a manner that makes them accessible throughout the distributed system, e.g., in the name service. Configuration profiles may be chained together by referencing other configuration profiles to provide a hierarchy of configuration profiles.