I don't think I'm going mad here...

Our AD domain controllers (Server 2016) are the DNS servers for foo.example. Within that, we have a delegation, r53.foo.example, which points out to the nameservers for that zone in Amazon Route 53.

One of the records in the Route 53 zone is a CNAME to an EC2 instance's public DNS name, i.e.

bar.r53.foo.example IN A ec2-1-2-3-4.us-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com.

The Windows DNS server is set to use Google public DNS servers as forwarders, and root hints are disabled. Recursion is enabled.

From a client, if I query ec2-1-2-3-4.us-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com, it resolves correctly. Then, clear all the DNS caches.

If I now query bar.r53.foo.example, the Windows DNS server will query the delegated zone's DNS server (because of the delegation), and get the CNAME result, but that upstream server doesn't recursively resolve the A record.

Windows then sends an A record query to the delegated zone's nameserver - and not the NS for us-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com, and gets a REFUSED response.

I would have expected it to either use the configured forwarders (because ec2-1-2-3-4.us-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com is not in a zone it hosts authoritatively nor a delegated zone), or to at least recursively resolve using the NS for us-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com. Instead, it leaves clients without a full resolution.

If the ec2-1-2-3-4.us-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com IN A record happens to already be in the server's cache, then the client query resolves completely, but obviously this isn't guaranteed.

This smells like a bug, but maybe I'm missing something?

Edit to add: this is only true under Server 2016 DNS server. Same config under 2012 R2 gives the expected behaviour.

  • Recursion on but root hints off is inconsistent. A resolver needs to know where the root is, in order to have a place to start recursing from. Also, having a server be both a recursor and a forwarder seems odd. How is it supposed to know when you want it to forward and when you want it to recurse? Apr 8, 2017 at 7:51
  • @CalleDybedahl Thanks for the comment. Behaviour is the same with or without root hints enabled; with them disabled it should use the forwarders (in this case Google Public DNS, and friends) for any zones it is not authoritative for. Note also that under Server 2012 R2, this is indeed the case: it's only 2016 where it's hitting the wrong NS.
    – rmc47
    Apr 8, 2017 at 12:59
  • See also.
    – briantist
    Jul 21, 2017 at 16:15
  • I am experiencing the same issue I believe. Using Azure traffic manager instead of AWS stuff. But same sorta idea. Zone delegated external, contains a CNAME, CNAME refers to traffic manager name, which resolves IP. Server 2016 is returning a CNAME, but not doing the resolution against it to an IP. So, looks like the same issue. Nov 13, 2017 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


Since it looks like a few people are hitting this, our workaround:

We run a small Ubuntu VM running ISC Bind. This acts as the recursive resolver, and is used as the DNS server by all client PCs. That has forwarders configured to our ISP's DNS servers for "external" zones, and slave zones for the AD domain:

zone "internal.domain" { type forward; forward only; forwarders { domain.controller.ip; }; };

That way the Windows DNS server only acts as an authoritative resolver, and the recursive resolution is handled by Bind.

(If you want high availability, you can then use VRRP or similar to cluster a pair of recursive resolvers - we run our primary on our regular virtualisation infrastructure, and secondary on a Raspberry Pi, because we can...)

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