|Title||A DNS RR for specifying the location of services (DNS SRV)
Gulbrandsen, P. Vixie
Network Working Group A. Gulbrandsen
Request for Comments: 2052 Troll Technologies
Updates: 1035, 1183 P. Vixie
Category: Experimental Vixie Enterprises
A DNS RR for specifying the location of services (DNS SRV)
Status of this Memo
This memo defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet
community. This memo does not specify an Internet standard of any
kind. Discussion and suggestions for improvement are requested.
Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
This document describes a DNS RR which specifies the location of the
server(s) for a specific protocol and domain (like a more general
form of MX).
Overview and rationale
Currently, one must either know the exact address of a server to
contact it, or broadcast a question. This has led to, for example,
ftp.whatever.com aliases, the SMTP-specific MX RR, and using MAC-
level broadcasts to locate servers.
The SRV RR allows administrators to use several servers for a single
domain, to move services from host to host with little fuss, and to
designate some hosts as primary servers for a service and others as
Clients ask for a specific service/protocol for a specific domain
(the word domain is used here in the strict RFC 1034 sense), and get
back the names of any available servers.
When a SRV-cognizant web-browser wants to retrieve
it does a lookup of
and retrieves the document from one of the servers in the reply. The
example zone file near the end of the memo contains answering RRs for
The format of the SRV RR
Here is the format of the SRV RR, whose DNS type code is 33:
Service.Proto.Name TTL Class SRV Priority Weight Port Target
(There is an example near the end of this document.)
The symbolic name of the desired service, as defined in Assigned
Numbers or locally.
Some widely used services, notably POP, don't have a single
universal name. If Assigned Numbers names the service
indicated, that name is the only name which is legal for SRV
lookups. Only locally defined services may be named locally.
The Service is case insensitive.
TCP and UDP are at present the most useful values
for this field, though any name defined by Assigned Numbers or
locally may be used (as for Service). The Proto is case
The domain this RR refers to. The SRV RR is unique in that the
name one searches for is not this name; the example near the end
shows this clearly.
Standard DNS meaning.
Standard DNS meaning.
As for MX, the priority of this target host. A client MUST
attempt to contact the target host with the lowest-numbered
priority it can reach; target hosts with the same priority
SHOULD be tried in pseudorandom order. The range is 0-65535.
Load balancing mechanism. When selecting a target host among
the those that have the same priority, the chance of trying this
one first SHOULD be proportional to its weight. The range of
this number is 1-65535. Domain administrators are urged to use
Weight 0 when there isn't any load balancing to do, to make the
RR easier to read for humans (less noisy).
The port on this target host of this service. The range is
0-65535. This is often as specified in Assigned Numbers but
need not be.
As for MX, the domain name of the target host. There MUST be
one or more A records for this name. Implementors are urged, but
not required, to return the A record(s) in the Additional Data
section. Name compression is to be used for this field.
A Target of "." means that the service is decidedly not
available at this domain.
Domain administrator advice
Asking everyone to update their telnet (for example) clients when the
first internet site adds a SRV RR for Telnet/TCP is futile (even if
desirable). Therefore SRV will have to coexist with A record lookups
for a long time, and DNS administrators should try to provide A
records to support old clients:
- Where the services for a single domain are spread over several
hosts, it seems advisable to have a list of A RRs at the same
DNS node as the SRV RR, listing reasonable (if perhaps
suboptimal) fallback hosts for Telnet, NNTP and other protocols
likely to be used with this name. Note that some programs only
try the first address they get back from e.g. gethostbyname(),
and we don't know how widespread this behaviour is.
- Where one service is provided by several hosts, one can either
provide A records for all the hosts (in which case the round-
robin mechanism, where available, will share the load equally)
or just for one (presumably the fastest).
- If a host is intended to provide a service only when the main
server(s) is/are down, it probably shouldn't be listed in A
- Hosts that are referenced by backup A records must use the port
number specified in Assigned Numbers for the service.
Currently there's a practical limit of 512 bytes for DNS replies.
Until all resolvers can handle larger responses, domain
administrators are strongly advised to keep their SRV replies below
All round numbers, wrote Dr. Johnson, are false, and these numbers
are very round: A reply packet has a 30-byte overhead plus the name
of the service ("telnet.tcp.asdf.com" for instance); each SRV RR adds
20 bytes plus the name of the target host; each NS RR in the NS
section is 15 bytes plus the name of the name server host; and
finally each A RR in the additional data section is 20 bytes or so,
and there are A's for each SRV and NS RR mentioned in the answer.
This size estimate is extremely crude, but shouldn't underestimate
the actual answer size by much. If an answer may be close to the
limit, using e.g. "dig" to look at the actual answer is a good idea.
The "Weight" field
Weight, the load balancing field, is not quite satisfactory, but the
actual load on typical servers changes much too quickly to be kept
around in DNS caches. It seems to the authors that offering
administrators a way to say "this machine is three times as fast as
that one" is the best that can practically be done.
The only way the authors can see of getting a "better" load figure is
asking a separate server when the client selects a server and
contacts it. For short-lived services like SMTP an extra step in the
connection establishment seems too expensive, and for long-lived
services like telnet, the load figure may well be thrown off a minute
after the connection is established when someone else starts or
finishes a heavy job.
The Port number
Currently, the translation from service name to port number happens
at the client, often using a file such as /etc/services.
Moving this information to the DNS makes it less necessary to update
these files on every single computer of the net every time a new
service is added, and makes it possible to move standard services out
of the "root-only" port range on unix.
A SRV-cognizant client SHOULD use this procedure to locate a list of
servers and connect to the preferred one:
Do a lookup for QNAME=service.protocol.target, QCLASS=IN,
If the reply is NOERROR, ANCOUNT>0 and there is at least one SRV
RR which specifies the requested Service and Protocol in the
If there is precisely one SRV RR, and its Target is "."
(the root domain), abort.
Else, for all such RR's, build a list of (Priority, Weight,
Sort the list by priority (lowest number first)
Create a new empty list
For each distinct priority level
While there are still elements left at this priority
Select an element randomly, with probability
Weight, and move it to the tail of the new list
For each element in the new list
query the DNS for A RR's for the Target or use any
RR's found in the Additional Data secion of the
earlier SRV query.
for each A RR found, try to connect to the (protocol,
else if the service desired is SMTP
skip to RFC 974 (MX).
Do a lookup for QNAME=target, QCLASS=IN, QTYPE=A
for each A RR found, try to connect to the (protocol,
- Port numbers SHOULD NOT be used in place of the symbolic service
or protocol names (for the same reason why variant names cannot
be allowed: Applications would have to do two or more lookups).
- If a truncated response comes back from an SRV query, and the
Additional Data section has at least one complete RR in it, the
answer MUST be considered complete and the client resolver
SHOULD NOT retry the query using TCP, but use normal UDP queries
for A RR's missing from the Additional Data section.
- A client MAY use means other than Weight to choose among target
hosts with equal Priority.
- A client MUST parse all of the RR's in the reply.
- If the Additional Data section doesn't contain A RR's for all
the SRV RR's and the client may want to connect to the target
host(s) involved, the client MUST look up the A RR(s). (This
happens quite often when the A RR has shorter TTL than the SRV
or NS RR's.)
- A future standard could specify that a SRV RR whose Protocol was
TCP and whose Service was SMTP would override RFC 974's rules
with regard to the use of an MX RR. This would allow firewalled
organizations with several SMTP relays to control the load
distribution using the Weight field.
- Future protocols could be designed to use SRV RR lookups as the
means by which clients locate their servers.
This is (part of) the zone file for asdf.com, a still-unused domain:
@ SOA server.asdf.com. root.asdf.com. (
1995032001 3600 3600 604800 86400 )
ftp.tcp SRV 0 0 21 server.asdf.com.
finger.tcp SRV 0 0 79 server.asdf.com.
; telnet - use old-slow-box or new-fast-box if either is
; available, make three quarters of the logins go to
telnet.tcp SRV 0 1 23 old-slow-box.asdf.com.
SRV 0 3 23 new-fast-box.asdf.com.
; if neither old-slow-box or new-fast-box is up, switch to
; using the sysdmin's box and the server
SRV 1 0 23 sysadmins-box.asdf.com.
SRV 1 0 23 server.asdf.com.
; HTTP - server is the main server, new-fast-box is the backup
; (On new-fast-box, the HTTP daemon runs on port 8000)
http.tcp SRV 0 0 80 server.asdf.com.
SRV 10 0 8000 new-fast-box.asdf.com.
; since we want to support both http://asdf.com/ and
; http://www.asdf.com/ we need the next two RRs as well
http.tcp.www SRV 0 0 80 server.asdf.com.
SRV 10 0 8000 new-fast-box.asdf.com.
; SMTP - mail goes to the server, and to the IP provider if
; the net is down
smtp.tcp SRV 0 0 25 server.asdf.com.
SRV 1 0 25 mailhost.ip-provider.net.
@ MX 0 server.asdf.com.
MX 1 mailhost.ip-provider.net.
; NNTP - use the IP providers's NNTP server
nntp.tcp SRV 0 0 119 nntphost.ip-provider.net.
; IDB is an locally defined protocol
idb.tcp SRV 0 0 2025 new-fast-box.asdf.com.
server A 172.30.79.10
old-slow-box A 172.30.79.11
sysadmins-box A 172.30.79.12
new-fast-box A 172.30.79.13
; backup A records - new-fast-box and old-slow-box are
; included, naturally, and server is too, but might go
; if the load got too bad
@ A 172.30.79.10
; backup A RR for www.asdf.com
www A 172.30.79.10
; NO other services are supported
*.tcp SRV 0 0 0 .
*.udp SRV 0 0 0 .
In this example, a telnet connection to "asdf.com." needs an SRV
lookup of "telnet.tcp.asdf.com." and possibly A lookups of "new-
fast-box.asdf.com." and/or the other hosts named. The size of the
SRV reply is approximately 365 bytes:
30 bytes general overhead
20 bytes for the query string, "telnet.tcp.asdf.com."
130 bytes for 4 SRV RR's, 20 bytes each plus the lengths of "new-
fast-box", "old-slow-box", "server" and "sysadmins-box" -
"asdf.com" in the query section is quoted here and doesn't
need to be counted again.
75 bytes for 3 NS RRs, 15 bytes each plus the lengths of
"server", "ns1.ip-provider.net." and "ns2" - again, "ip-
provider.net." is quoted and only needs to be counted once.
120 bytes for the 6 A RR's mentioned by the SRV and NS RR's.
RFC 1918: Rekhter, Y., Moskowitz, R., Karrenberg, D., de Groot, G.,
and E. Lear, "Address Allocation for Private Internets",
RFC 1918, February 1996.
RFC 1916 Berkowitz, H., Ferguson, P, Leland, W. and P. Nesser,
"Enterprise Renumbering: Experience and Information
Solicitation", RFC 1916, February 1996.
RFC 1912 Barr, D., "Common DNS Operational and Configuration
Errors", RFC 1912, February 1996.
RFC 1900: Carpenter, B., and Y. Rekhter, "Renumbering Needs Work",
RFC 1900, February 1996.
RFC 1920: Postel, J., "INTERNET OFFICIAL PROTOCOL STANDARDS",
STD 1, RFC 1920, March 1996.
RFC 1814: Gerich, E., "Unique Addresses are Good", RFC 1814, June
RFC 1794: Brisco, T., "DNS Support for Load Balancing", April 1995.
RFC 1713: Romao, A., "Tools for DNS debugging", November 1994.
RFC 1712: Farrell, C., Schulze, M., Pleitner, S., and D. Baldoni,
"DNS Encoding of Geographical Location", RFC 1712, November
RFC 1706: Manning, B. and R. Colella, "DNS NSAP Resource Records",
RFC 1706, October 1994.
RFC 1700: Reynolds, J., and J. Postel, "ASSIGNED NUMBERS",
STD 2, RFC 1700, October 1994.
RFC 1183: Ullmann, R., Mockapetris, P., Mamakos, L., and
C. Everhart, "New DNS RR Definitions", RFC 1183, November
RFC 1101: Mockapetris, P., "DNS encoding of network names and other
types", RFC 1101, April 1989.
RFC 1035: Mockapetris, P., "Domain names - implementation and
specification", STD 13, RFC 1035, November 1987.
RFC 1034: Mockapetris, P., "Domain names - concepts and
facilities", STD 13, RFC 1034, November 1987.
RFC 1033: Lottor, M., "Domain administrators operations guide",
RFC 1033, November 1987.
RFC 1032: Stahl, M., "Domain administrators guide", RFC 1032,
RFC 974: Partridge, C., "Mail routing and the domain system",
STD 14, RFC 974, January 1986.
The authors believes this RR to not cause any new security problems.
Some problems become more visible, though.
- The ability to specify ports on a fine-grained basis obviously
changes how a router can filter packets. It becomes impossible
to block internal clients from accessing specific external
services, slightly harder to block internal users from running
unautorised services, and more important for the router
operations and DNS operations personnel to cooperate.
- There is no way a site can keep its hosts from being referenced
as servers (as, indeed, some sites become unwilling secondary
MXes today). This could lead to denial of service.
- With SRV, DNS spoofers can supply false port numbers, as well as
host names and addresses. The authors do not see any practical
effect of this.
We assume that as the DNS-security people invent new features, DNS
servers will return the relevant RRs in the Additional Data section
when answering an SRV query.
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