Design - Distributed DNS

Understanding distributed DNS

Tasks move around frequently in DC/OS, resources must be dynamically resolved by an application protocol, and they are referred to by name. This means that DNS is an integral part of DC/OS. Rather than implementing a ZooKeeper or Mesos client in every project, we have chosen DNS as the common language for discovery amongst all of our components in DC/OS.

To do this, we use Mesos-DNS, which runs on each of the DC/OS masters. In the client systems, we put each of the masters into the directory /etc/resolv.conf. If a master goes down, DNS queries to that master will time out. DNS Forwarder (Spartan) solves this problem by dual-dispatching DNS queries to multiple masters and returning the first result. To further alleviate risk, DNS Forwarder (Spartan) routes queries to nodes that it determines are best suited to perform a query. Specifically, if a domain ends in mesos, it will dispatch queries to the Mesos masters. If it does not end in mesos, it will send the query to two of the configured upstream nodes.


DNS Forwarder (Spartan) is very simple. It has dual-dispatch logic and hosts a domain spartan which has only one record – ready.spartan. The purpose of this record is to investigate the availability of DNS Forwarder (Spartan). Many services, including ICMP, ping this address prior to starting. DNS Forwarder (Spartan) obtains its information from Exhibitor. For this reason, it is critical that Exhibitor is configured correctly on the masters. Alternatively, if the cluster is configured using static masters, it will load them from the static configuration file.


DNS Forwarder (Spartan) also enables high availability of ZooKeepers. You can always use the addresses zk-1.zk, zk-2.zk, zk-3.zk, zk-4.zk, zk-5.zk. If there are fewer than five ZooKeepers, DNS Forwarder (Spartan) will point multiple records at a single ZooKeeper.


Since DNS is such a specialized, sensitive subsystem, we have chosen to protect it with a watchdog. There is a service installed on each node that runs every five minutes and checks whether or not it can query ready.spartan. To avoid harmonic effects, it sleeps for one minute past its initial start time, to avoid racing Spartan. You can monitor the system health of the watchdog as DNS Forwarder (Spartan) Watchdog in the system health dashboard.

In addition to this watchdog, we also run genresolv, which checks whether or not DNS Forwarder (Spartan) is alive to generate the resolv.conf. If it believes DNS Forwarder (Spartan) not to be alive, it then rewrites the resolv.conf with the upstream resolvers that you have configured into your DC/OS cluster.

DNS Forwarder Interface

DNS Forwarder (Spartan) creates its own network interface. This interface is actually a dummy device called spartan. This device hosts three IPs:,, You can monitor the health of the DNS Forwarder (Spartan) component in the system health dashboard.