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Blog di Bernardino (Dino) Ciuffetti
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07 Set 11 How to map DNS responses based to user’s geo location

In this short abstract I’ll show you how did I make my work on trying to create a highly scalable, geo localized and distributed system using the DNS.

What we are going to create is a simple but powerful DNS system that can handle queries for a domain returning records based on the user’s geo location.

To accomplish this task we have to choose a good opensource DNS server. My choice was powerdns (http://wiki.powerdns.com/trac).
Powerdns is a great piece of software. It’s a powerful DNS server daemon that can be configured to fit in different DNS environments.
You can save domain zones into different backends (MySQL, Oracle, bind zone file, ldap, etc), and you can have primary and secondary DNS servers with automatic zone replication. This is all what you need to create a full featured DNS system.

One of the powerdns backends do accomplish the geo lookup task, and it’s called “geobackend” (http://wiki.powerdns.com/trac/browser/trunk/pdns/modules/geobackend/README).

Our test environment will consist in a primary DNS server (powerdns as a master), a secondary DNS server (powerdns as a slave) and a geo lookup DNS server (powerdns as master with geobackend enabled). We will enable automatic zone transfer between the primary and the slave server, so that if you add a new record on the master it will be automatically created on the slave.

So, we need 3 servers with powerdns installed. The installation process may be different in each case, but if you are using debian, the task can be as simple as running by root the following command:
apt-get install pdns-server

Now you need the backend where you will save the zone data. May be you want to choose “MySQL” for the master and “bind format file” for the slave DNS. The geo dns server will not need a zone backend because its single task is to retrieve the caller’s IP address and fetch its geographic location from a particular location file, then lookup this location from a map file and return back to the calling user the associated CNAME record that’s into the map file.
A quick brain guideline is given below.

My system (yourdomain.com) is composed like this:
ns1.yourdomain.com (primary DNS server with mysql backend)
ns2.yourdomain.com (secondary DNS server with auto zone replication on bind zone file)
ns1.geo.yourdomain.com (geo lookup DNS server with geobackend)

I executed the steps below:

On ns1.yourdomain.com you have to:
1) install powerdns with the gmysql backend
2) install MySQL server, create a database and grant a user on that DB
3) configure powerdns as master, with gmysql backend connecting to MySQL
4) please note that this server is authoritative to the “yourdomain.com” zone
5) delegate the “geo” zone with a NS record to the geo dns server: “geo IN NS ns1.geo.yourdomain.com”
6) create the glue record for the geodns with the record: “ns1.geo IN A ip_geo_dns_server”

On ns2.yourdomain.com you have to:
1) install powerdns with the bind backend
2) configure powerdns to be a slave with bind backend and enable ns1.yourdomain.com as a supermaster
3) please note that this server is authoritative to the “yourdomain.com” zone

On ns1.geo.yourdomain.com you have to:
1) install powerdns with the geo backend
2) configure powerdns as master with geobackend
3) please note that this server is authoritative to the “geo.yourdomain.com” zone
4) create a map file to handle the association between your country location (eg: uk) and the CNAME that the server will reply
5) download the location database zone, for example I use: zz.countries.nerd.dk (http://countries.nerd.dk/)

If you need how to do that in details please do not hesitate to write me a email. You will find it into my contact page.
Ciao, Dino.

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