Monday, July 28, 2014

Using iptables to route DNS searches away from Google DNS rate-limiting

I have a local CloudFoundry deployment where the Google DNS server is placed near the top of the /etc/resolv.conf file for my Ubuntu environment. Long story short, the applications in there started to get a little too busy in their RESTful requests to external servers and ran afoul of the Google rate-limiting policy for DNS lookups ( .

We had a couple of local DNS servers at hand…blush…but I wanted to experiment with results before committing to a full reconfiguration of the environment to push out the new resolv.conf files to all DEAs, which would entail evacuating all applications from their wardens and waiting for Health Manager to restart the applications in other DEAs. I also had the option to launch a distributed script across all VMs to modify the resolv.conf file for the DEA and for all the wardens, but I thought it would be risky since some buildpacks could have DNS caches in place, which would be a major blind-spot in my testing.

Enter iptables, which was something I had somewhat successfully avoided for all these years other than the occasional OUTPUT rule. “Output” rules would have worked very well if it was not for one caveat: my local DNS servers were on the private network for my VMs whereas the Google DNS lookup was obviously being routed through the public interface. The obvious fix was to replace the source address in the packets with the private IP address of the VM, which would move the DNS traffic to the internal interface. In itself this last step precludes a solution based on changes to resolv.conf files.

After some searching I came across this excellent tutorial* to help me morph the conceptual solution into the final iptables instructions:


# a. Replaces the destination of all warden DNS requests directed at the original DNS
# with the address for the target
iptables -t nat -A OUTPUT -p udp -j DNAT --dport 53 –d $src_dns_server --to-destination x.x.x.x

# b. In the post routing phase, with the DNS requests already pointing at the target DNS,
# replace the source of the packet with the private IP address of the VM, so that the
# request to x.x.x.x will go out through the private interface.
iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -p udp -j SNAT -d x.x.x.x --to-source $dea_private_ip

# c. Make the same change as #a for the wardens. I did not have an explicit warden-output chain,
# but the warden output chain was tied to warden-prerouting chain.
iptables -t nat -I warden-prerouting 1 -p udp -j DNAT --dport 53 –d $src_dns_server --to-destination x.x.x.x

# d. Make the same change as #b for the wardens

iptables -t nat -I warden-postrouting 1 -p udp -j SNAT –d x.x.x.x --to-source $dea_private_ip

As a concrete and slightly trite example, if an application requested a DNS lookup for “”, the IP addresses in DNS search packet would be originally generated as


rule #c will transform the target DNS address to


and rule #d will transform the source request address to


* I also bookmarked this practical cookbook for a different challenge on a different day:

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