I am on AWC EC2, as my server is going to make a lot of query for third party domains, I am thinking the following options

  • install nscd on all servers
  • use the default ec2 name recursor
  • install my own name recursor
  • just use

I am hesitate to install centralized recursor so it is single point of failure, and subject to attack like: http://support.godaddy.com/help/article/1184/what-risks-are-associated-with-recursive-dns-queries

  1. Is it common nowadays now one will use name server support recursive DNS query like the above article suggest?

  2. In term of security and performance, I am thinking to install nscd, are there any drawback?

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    What is your definition of "a lot of query"? – Mxx Aug 1 '13 at 19:20

nscd does more than just caching DNS requests; it also caches lookups for usernames and groups along with some other less common uses. It's standard on Linux systems (it's packaged as part of glibc) and is probably already installed, and it uses very little memory, so there's no reason not to run it. It will provide good caching behavior without needing any further configuration.

Since EC2 charges for external traffic, and traffic to (the Google resolver) is going to be much slower than traffic internal to the datacenter, you should prefer EC2 DNS unless you have a very specific reason not to. You can set up the Google DNS ( and as backups for the Amazon DNS if you like, but it's very unlikely that they'll be down when the rest of the zone is working.

My recommendations for your EC2 virtual machines:

  • Use nscd, which should be set up by default (/usr/sbin/nscd; you should check your distribution's run configuration to make sure the service is started at boot).
  • Use the Amazon DNS servers as your defaults.
  • Add the Google servers as backups if you like. How you do this will vary based on your distribution. If you're not sure, check /etc/resolv.conf, which is the file that glibc (nscd) looks at, and there will usually be a comment telling you how it was configured. Servers are checked in the order they're listed in resolv.conf, so adding the Amazon IPs first and then the Google IPs will let nscd fall back to Google if for some reason Amazon isn't working.

Sources: man pages for nscd(8) and resolv.conf(5)

  • I've previously found NSCD to be quite buggy. It may be worth looking at unscd, or (actually, probably and) running your own nameserver. None of the issues godaddy hilight should affect you as long as the nameserver is firewalled so as to only accept incoming queries from your EC2 servers. – Cian Jul 31 '13 at 10:48
  • Running your own non-authoritative nameserver is nearly always a bad idea; there's just too much to go wrong. Especially in a datacenter environment, if you don't trust nscd (which I haven't had problems with that weren't related to mildly stale cache entries after moving cables around), just use the provider's DNS; it's much less likely to fail than your own. – chrylis -on strike- Jul 31 '13 at 17:12

Install dnsmasq or dnscache on three or more machines in your network. I'd recommend using AWS VPC's for the whole infrastructure but that is a somewhat separate issue.

Point all your hosts to these three nameservers.

Configure your resolv.conf with the following:

nameserver IP_ADDRESS_1
nameserver IP_ADDRESS_2
nameserver IP_ADDRESS_3
options rotate 
options timeout:1

The above setup has many advantages. First, you have resiliency at the recursive nameserver level by having a minimum of three hosts. Second, you gain the benefits of caching such that when server one does a lookup against IP_ADDRESS_1 for the first time, that nameserver on IP_ADDRESS_1 will cache the result. When another server does a lookup, the result will be returned much faster on a cache hit. Third, by setting the rotate option you balance the load across your recursive DNS infrastrucutre. Finally, by setting timeout:1 you minimize the impact of having one of your DNS servers down for maintenance.


Ubuntu install dnsmasq by default and should provide a reasonably secure and fast way to setup a DNS cache, without any drawbacks.

More details on https://unix.stackexchange.com/a/59424

  • 1
    "Ubuntu install dnsmasq by default" -- maybe it is true for desktop but it is wrong for server - just checked. – Ryan Aug 3 '13 at 4:56

The GoDaddy article you linked to is outlining the problems of running an open recursing nameserver. Indeed, that would be a can of worms, and you wouldn't want to do it. As long as your recursor is listening only on loopback or within your internal interface and/or firewalled so no one else can access it, the article doesn't apply.

Your line of thinking is excellent, and all the options you're considering are great. If you trust either EC2's or Google's recursor, by no means go ahead.

Indeed it is quite common for many mid-to-large sized organizations to run their own recursors.

For performance, I would install a pair of recursors in each availability zone, and configure them to be the first two nameservers in /etc/resolv.conf, then append the EC2 recursor. This way, you can be sure that

Installing your own recursor ensures minimal latency (as opposed to going to, and that your cache is not shared with others (which has both pros and cons.)

For a modern, well-maintained, lightweight and high performance recursor, I would highly recommend Unbound (see independent recommendation here: http://info.menandmice.com/blog/bid/37244/10-Reasons-to-use-Unbound-DNS)


IMHO it's all about your tasks. If you make much queries to small amount of addresses (e.g. 1000rps to 10 domains), local cache daemon is good enough for you. If you requests spread to much amount of addresses (one query to 1000 domains per second), I'll recommend to use local DNS recursor to speed up query process and reduce DNS traffic.Don't forget to setup cache, if you plan to use local recusor.


Never install a local DNS cache resolver, it will cause more trouble then the benefit it bring.

Ubuntu did not come with the local DNS cache resolver by default proved my point.

  • 2
    Downvoted for inaccurate and ill-conceived answer. Starting an answer out with never is a sure sign of problems. – dmourati Aug 1 '13 at 19:16
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    @Howard, please provide proof to back up your statements. – Mxx Aug 1 '13 at 19:21
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    This is bad advice. Local DNS caches are used and recommended extensively in any server where you want to alleviate DNS resolution - induced delays. I've use them for years without a single one problem, so if you are mentioning "trouble", I hope that you at least explain what the problems are. – ata Jul 15 '15 at 16:28

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