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5.3. Domain Name Service (DNS)

As useful as they are, NIS and WINS still suffer from flaws that make them unsuitable for "entire-Internet" uses.

Scale

Even though these schemes allow for multiple servers, each server must have a complete copy of the entire network topology.[4] This topology must be duplicated to every other server, a time-consuming process if the universe becomes sufficiently large. WINS also suffers because of its dynamic registration model. A sufficient number of WINS clients could melt down any set of Internet-wide WINS servers with registration requests.

[4]NIS+ offers mechanisms for a client to search for information outside of the local domain, but they are not as flexible as those in DNS.

Administrative control

We've been talking about strictly technical issues up until now, but that's not the only side of administration. NIS, in particular, requires a single point of administration. Whomever controls the master server controls the entire NIS domain lead by that machine. Any changes to the network namespace must pass through that administrative gatekeeper. This doesn't work for a namespace the size of the Internet.

A new model called Domain Name Service (DNS) was invented to deal with the flaws inherent in maintaining host files or NIS/NIS+/WINS-like systems. Under DNS, the network namespace is partitioned into a set of somewhat arbitrary "top-level domains." Each top-level domain can then be subdivided into smaller domains, each of those partitioned, and so on. At each dividing point it is possible to designate a different party to retain authoritative control over that portion of the namespace. This handles our administrative control concern.

Network clients that reside in the individual parts of this hierarchy consult the name server closest to them in the hierarchy. If the information the client is looking for can be found on that local server, it is returned to the client. On most networks, the majority of name-to-IP address queries are for machines on that network, so the local servers handle most of the local traffic. This satisfies the scale problem. Multiple DNS servers (also known as secondary or slave servers) can be set up for redundancy and load-balancing purposes.

If a DNS server is asked about a part of the namespace that it does not control or know about, it can either instruct the client to look elsewhere (usually higher up in the tree) or fetch the required information on behalf of the client by contacting other DNS servers.

In this scheme, no single server needs to know the entire network topology, most queries are handled locally, local administrators retain local control, and everybody is happy. DNS offers such an advantage compared to other systems that most other systems like NIS and WINS offer a way to integrate DNS. For instance, SunOS NIS servers can be instructed to perform a DNS query if a client asks them for a host they do not know. The results of this query are returned as a standard NIS query reply so the client has no knowledge that any magic has been performed on its behalf. Microsoft DNS servers have similar functionality: if a client asks a Microsoft DNS server for the address of a local machine that it does not know about, the server can be configured to consult a WINS server on the client's behalf.

5.3.1. Generating DNS Configuration Files

Production of DNS configuration files follows the same procedure that we've been using to generate host and NIS source files, namely:

  • Store data in a separate database (the same database can and probably should be the source for all of the files we've been discussing).

  • Convert data to the output format of our choice, checking for errors as we go.

  • Use RCS (or an equivalent source control system) to store old revisions of files.

For DNS, we have to expand the second step because the conversion process is more complicated. As we launch into these complications, you may find it handy to have the DNS and BIND book by Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu (O'Reilly) on hand for information on the DNS configuration files we'll be creating.

5.3.1.1. Creating the administrative header

DNS configuration files begin with an administrative header that provides information about the server and the data it is serving. The most important part of this header is the Start of Authority (SOA) resource record. The SOA contains:

  • The name of the administrative domain served by this DNS server

  • The name of the primary DNS server for that domain

  • Contact info for the DNS administrator(s)

  • The serial number of the configuration file (more on this in a moment)

  • Refresh and retry values for secondary servers (i.e., when they synchronize with the primary server)

  • Time To Live (TTL) settings for the data being served (i.e., how long the information being provided can be safely cached)

Here's an example header:

@ IN SOA   dns.oog.org. hostmaster.oog.org. (
                          1998052900 ; serial
                            10800    ; refresh
                            3600     ; retry
                            604800   ; expire
                            43200)   ; TTL

@                           IN  NS  dns.oog.org.

Most of this information is just tacked on the front of a DNS configuration file verbatim each time it is generated. The one piece we need to worry about is the serial number. Once every X seconds (where X is determined by the refresh value from above), secondary name servers contact their primary servers looking for an update to their DNS data. Modern DNS secondary servers (like BIND v8+ or Microsoft DNS) can also be told by their master server to check for an update when the master data has changed. In both cases, the secondary servers query the primary server for its SOA record. If the SOA record contains a serial number higher than their current serial number, a zone transfer is initiated (that is, the secondary downloads a new data set). As a result, it is important to increment this number each time a new DNS configuration file is created. Many DNS problems are caused by failures to update the serial number.

There are at least two ways to make sure the serial number is always incremented:

  1. Read the previous configuration file and increment the value found there.

  2. Compute a new value based on an external number source "guaranteed" to increment over time (like the system clock or RCS version number of the file).

Here's some example code that uses a combination of these two methods to generate a valid header for a DNS zone file. It creates a serial number formatted as recommended in Albitz and Liu's book (YYYYMMDDXX where Y=year, M=month, D=day, and XX=a two-digit counter to allow for more than one change per day):

# get today's date in the form of YYYYMMDD
@localtime = localtime;
$today = sprintf("%04d%02d%02d",$localtime[5]+1900,
                                $localtime[4]+1,
                                $localtime[3]);

# get username on either NT/2000 or Unix
$user = ($^O eq "MSWin32")? $ENV{USERNAME} :
                            (getpwuid($<))[6]." (".(getpwuid($<))[0].")";

sub GenerateHeader{
    my($header);

    # open old file if possible and read in serial number     
    # assumes the format of the old file
    if (open (OLDZONE,$target)){
	    while (<OLDZONE>) {
	        next unless (/(\d{8}).*serial/); 
	        $oldserial = $1;
	        last;
	    }
	    close (OLDZONE);
    }
    else {
	    $oldserial = "000000"; # otherwise, start with a 0 number
    }
    
    # if old serial number was for today, increment last 2 digits, else 
    # start a new number for today
    $olddate = substr($oldserial,0,6);
    $count = (($olddate == $today) ? substr($oldserial,6,2)+1 : 0);

    $serial = sprintf("%6d%02d",$today,$count);

    # begin the header
    $header .= "; dns zone file - GENERATED BY $0\n";
    $header .= "; DO NOT EDIT BY HAND!\n;\n";
    $header .= "; Converted by $user on ".scalar((localtime))."\n;\n";
    
    # count the number of entries in each department and then report
    foreach my $entry (keys %entries){
        $depts{$entries{$entry}->{department}}++;
    }
    foreach my $dept (keys %depts) {
        $header .= "; number of hosts in the $dept department:            
                    $depts{$dept}.\n";
    }
    $header .= "; total number of hosts: ".scalar(keys %entries)."\n;\n\n";

    $header .= <<"EOH";

@ IN SOA   dns.oog.org. hostmaster.oog.org. (
                           $serial ; serial
                            10800    ; refresh
                            3600     ; retry
                            604800   ; expire
                            43200)   ; TTL

@                           IN  NS  dns.oog.org.

EOH

   return $header;
}

Our code attempts to read in the previous DNS configuration file to determine the last serial number in use. This number then gets split into date and counter fields. If the date we've read is the same as the current date, we need to increment the counter. If not, we create a serial number based on the current date with a counter value of 00. Once we have our serial number, the rest of the code concerns itself with writing out a pretty header in the proper form.

5.3.1.2. Generating multiple configuration files

Now that we've covered the process of writing a correct header for our DNS configuration files, there is one more complication we need to address. A well-configured DNS server has both forward (name-to-IP address) and reverse (IP address-to-name) mapping information available for every domain, or zone, it controls. This requires two configuration files per zone. The best way to keep these synchronized is to create them both at the same time.

This is the last file generation script we'll see in this chapter, so let's put everything we've done so far together. Our script will take a simple database file and generate the necessary DNS zone configuration files.

To keep this script simple, I've made a few assumptions about the data, the most important of which has to do with the topology of the network and namespace. This script assumes that the network consists of a single class C subnet with a single DNS zone. As a result, we only create a single forward mapping file and its reverse map sibling file. Adding code to handle multiple subnets and zones (i.e., creating separate files for each) would be an easy addition.

Here's a quick walk-through:

  1. Read in the database file into a hash of hashes, checking the data as we go.

  2. Generate a header.

  3. Write out the forward mapping (name-to-IP address) file and check it into RCS.

  4. Write out the reverse mapping (IP address-to-name) file and check it into RCS.

Here is the code and its output:

use Rcs;

$datafile   = "./database"; # our host database
$outputfile = "zone.$$";    # our temporary output file
$target     = "zone.db";    # our target output
$revtarget  = "rev.db";     # out target output for the reverse mapping
$defzone    = ".oog.org";   # the default zone being created
$recordsep  = "-=-\n";     

# get today's date in the form of YYYYMMDD 
@localtime = localtime;
$today = sprintf("%04d%02d%02d",$localtime[5]+1900,
                                $localtime[4]+1,
                                $localtime[3]);

# get username on either NT/2000 or Unix
$user = ($^O eq "MSWin32")? $ENV{USERNAME} :
                            (getpwuid($<))[6]." (".(getpwuid($<))[0].")";

# read in the database file
open(DATA,$datafile) or die "Unable to open datafile:$!\n";

while (<DATA>) {
    chomp; # remove record separator
    # split into key1,value1
    @record = split /:\s*|\n/m; 

    $record ={};                     # create a reference to empty hash
    %{$record} = @record;            # populate that hash with @record

    # check for bad hostname
    if ($record->{name} =~ /[^-.a-zA-Z0-9]/) {
	    warn "!!!! ",$record->{name} .
         " has illegal host name characters, skipping...\n";
	    next;
    }

    # check for bad aliases
    if ($record->{aliases} =~ /[^-.a-zA-Z0-9\s]/) {
	    warn "!!!! " . $record->{name} .
             " has illegal alias name characters, skipping...\n";
	    next;
    }

    # check for missing address
    unless ($record->{address}) {
	    warn "!!!! " . $record->{name} .
             " does not have an IP address, skipping...\n";
	    next;
    }

    # check for duplicate address
    if (defined $addrs{$record->{address}}) {
	    warn "!!!! Duplicate IP addr:" . $record->{name}.
             " & " . $addrs{$record->{address}} . ", skipping...\n";
	    next;
    }
    else {
   	    $addrs{$record->{address}} = $record->{name};
    }

    $entries{$record->{name}} = $record; # add this to a hash of hashes

}
close(DATA);

$header = &GenerateHeader;

# create the forward mapping file
open(OUTPUT,"> $outputfile") or 
  die "Unable to write to $outputfile:$!\n";
print OUTPUT $header;

foreach my $entry (sort byaddress keys %entries) {
    print OUTPUT
          "; Owned by ",$entries{$_}->{owner}," (",
          $entries{$entry}->{department},"): ",
          $entries{$entry}->{building},"/",
          $entries{$entry}->{room},"\n";

    # print A record
    printf OUTPUT "%-20s\tIN A     %s\n",      
      $entries{$entry}->{name},$entries{$entry}->{address};

    # print any CNAMES (aliases)
    if (defined $entries{$entry}->{aliases}){
 	    foreach my $alias (split(' ',$entries{$entry}->{aliases})) {
           printf OUTPUT "%-20s\tIN CNAME %s\n",$alias,
                                                $entries{$entry}->{name};
	    }
    }
    print OUTPUT "\n";
}

close(OUTPUT);

Rcs->bindir('/usr/local/bin');
my $rcsobj = Rcs->new;
$rcsobj->file($target);
$rcsobj->co('-l');
rename($outputfile,$target) or 
  die "Unable to rename $outputfile to $target:$!\n";
$rcsobj->ci("-u","-m"."Converted by $user on ".scalar(localtime));

# now create the reverse mapping file
open(OUTPUT,"> $outputfile") or 
  die "Unable to write to $outputfile:$!\n";
print OUTPUT $header;
foreach my $entry (sort byaddress keys %entries) {
    print OUTPUT
          "; Owned by ",$entries{$entry}->{owner}," (",
          $entries{$entry}->{department},"): ",
          $entries{$entry}->{building},"/",
          $entries{$entry}->{room},"\n";

    printf OUTPUT "%-3d\tIN PTR    %s$defzone.\n\n", 
      (split/\./,$entries{$entry}->{address})[3], 
      $entries{$entry}->{name};

}

close(OUTPUT);
$rcsobj->file($revtarget);
$rcsobj->co('-l'); # assumes target has been checked out at least once
rename($outputfile,$revtarget) or 
  die "Unable to rename $outputfile to $revtarget:$!\n";
$rcsobj->ci("-u","-m"."Converted by $user on ".scalar(localtime));

sub GenerateHeader{
    my($header);
    if (open(OLDZONE,$target)){
   	    while (<OLDZONE>) {
	        next unless (/(\d{8}).*serial/);
	        $oldserial = $1;
	        last;
	    }
	    close(OLDZONE);
    }
    else {
	    $oldserial = "000000";
    }
    
    $olddate = substr($oldserial,0,6);
    $count = ($olddate == $today) ? substr($oldserial,6,2)+1 : 0;

    $serial = sprintf("%6d%02d",$today,$count);

    $header .= "; dns zone file - GENERATED BY $0\n";
    $header .= "; DO NOT EDIT BY HAND!\n;\n";
    $header .= "; Converted by $user on ".scalar(localtime)."\n;\n";

    # count the number of entries in each department and then report
    foreach $entry (keys %entries){
        $depts{$entries{$entry}->{department}}++;
    }
    foreach $dept (keys %depts) {
        $header .= "; number of hosts in the $dept department: 
                    $depts{$dept}.\n";
    }
    $header .= "; total number of hosts: ".scalar(keys %entries)."\n#\n\n";

    $header .= <<"EOH";

@ IN SOA   dns.oog.org. hostmaster.oog.org. (
                          $serial     ; serial
                            10800     ; refresh
                            3600      ; retry
                            604800    ; expire
                            43200)    ; TTL

@                           IN  NS  dns.oog.org.

EOH

   return $header;
}

sub byaddress {
   @a = split(/\./,$entries{$a}->{address});
   @b = split(/\./,$entries{$b}->{address});
   ($a[0]<=>$b[0]) ||
   ($a[1]<=>$b[1]) ||
   ($a[2]<=>$b[2]) ||
   ($a[3]<=>$b[3]);
}

Here's the forward mapping file (zone.db) that gets created:

; dns zone file - GENERATED BY createdns
; DO NOT EDIT BY HAND!
;
; Converted by David N. Blank-Edelman (dnb); on Fri May 29 15:46:46 1998
;
; number of hosts in the design department: 1.
; number of hosts in the software department: 1.
; number of hosts in the IT department: 2.
; total number of hosts: 4
;

@ IN SOA   dns.oog.org. hostmaster.oog.org. (
                          1998052900 ; serial
                            10800    ; refresh
                            3600     ; retry
                            604800   ; expire
                            43200)   ; TTL

@                           IN  NS  dns.oog.org.

; Owned by Cindy Coltrane (marketing): west/143
bendir              				IN A     192.168.1.3
ben                 				IN CNAME bendir
bendoodles          				IN CNAME bendir

; Owned by David Davis (software): main/909
shimmer             				IN A     192.168.1.11
shim                				IN CNAME shimmer
shimmy              				IN CNAME shimmer
shimmydoodles       				IN CNAME shimmer

; Owned by Ellen Monk (design): main/1116
sulawesi            				IN A     192.168.1.12
sula                				IN CNAME sulawesi
su-lee              				IN CNAME sulawesi

; Owned by Alex Rollins (IT): main/1101
sander              				IN A     192.168.1.55
sandy               				IN CNAME sander
micky               				IN CNAME sander
mickydoo            				IN CNAME sander

And here's the reverse mapping file (rev.db):

; dns zone file - GENERATED BY createdns
; DO NOT EDIT BY HAND!
;
; Converted by David N. Blank-Edelman (dnb); on Fri May 29 15:46:46 1998
;
; number of hosts in the design department: 1.
; number of hosts in the software department: 1.
; number of hosts in the IT department: 2.
; total number of hosts: 4
;

@ IN SOA   dns.oog.org. hostmaster.oog.org. (
                          1998052900 ; serial
                            10800    ; refresh
                            3600     ; retry
                            604800   ; expire
                            43200)   ; TTL

@                           IN  NS  dns.oog.org.

; Owned by Cindy Coltrane (marketing): west/143
3  	IN PTR    bendir.oog.org.

; Owned by David Davis (software): main/909
11 	IN PTR    shimmer.oog.org.

; Owned by Ellen Monk (design): main/1116
12 	IN PTR    sulawesi.oog.org.

; Owned by Alex Rollins (IT): main/1101
55 	IN PTR    sander.oog.org.

This method of creating files opens up many more possibilities. Up to now, we've generated files using content from a single text file database. We read a record from the database and we write it out to our file, perhaps with a dash of nice formatting. Only data that appeared in the database found its way into the files we created.

Sometimes it is useful to have content added in the conversion process by the script itself. For instance, in the case of DNS configuration files generation, you may wish to embellish the conversion script so it inserts MX (Mail eXchange) records pointing to a central mail server for every host in your database. A trivial code change from:

# print A record
    printf OUTPUT "%-20s\tIN A     %s\n",
      $entries{$entry}->{name},$entries{$entry}->{address};

to:

# print A record
printf OUTPUT "%-20s\tIN A     %s\n",      
      $entries{$entry}->{name},$entries{$entry}->{address};
    
# print MX record
print OUTPUT "                   IN MX 10 $mailserver\n";

will configure DNS so that mail destined for any host in the domain is received by the machine $mailserver instead. If that machine is configured to handle mail for its domain, we've activated a really useful infrastructure component (i.e., centralized mail handling) with just a single line of Perl code.

5.3.2. DNS Checking: An Iterative Approach

We've spent considerable time in this chapter on the creation of the configuration information to be served by network name services, but that's only one side of the coin for system and network administrators. Keeping a network healthy also entails checking these services once they're up and running to make sure they are behaving in a correct and consistent manner.

For instance, for a system/network administrator, a great deal rides on the question "Are all of my DNS servers up?" In a troubleshooting situation, it's equally valuable to know "Are they all serving the same information?", or, more specifically, "Are the servers responding to the same queries with the same responses? Are they in sync as intended?" We'll put these questions to good use in this section.

In Chapter 2, "Filesystems" we saw an example of the Perl motto "There's More Than One Way To Do It." Perl's TMTOWTDI-ness makes the language an excellent prototype language in which to do "iterative development." Iterative development is one way of describing the evolutionary process that takes place when writing system administration (and other) programs to handle a particular task. With Perl it's all too possible to bang out a quick-and-dirty hack that gets a job done. Later on, you may return to this script and re-write it so it is more elegant. There's even likely to be yet a third iteration of the same code, this time taking a different approach to solving the problem.

Here are three different approaches to the same problem of DNS consistency checking. These approaches will be presented in the order someone might realistically follow while trying to solve the problem and refine the solution. This ordering reflects one view on how a solution to a problem can evolve in Perl; your take on this may differ. The third approach, using the Net::DNS module, is probably the easiest and most error-proof of the bunch. But Net::DNS may not address every situation, so we're going to walk through some "roll your own" approaches first. Be sure to note the pros and cons listed after each solution has been presented.

Here's the task: write a Perl script that takes a hostname and checks a list of DNS servers to see if they all return the same information when queried about this host. To make this task simpler, we're going to assume that the host has a single, static IP address (i.e., does not have multiple interfaces or addresses associated with it).

Before we look at each approach in turn, let me show you the "driver" code we're going to use:

$hostname = $ARGV[0];
@servers = qw(nameserver1 nameserver2 nameserver3); # name servers

foreach $server (@servers) {
    &lookupaddress($hostname,$server);          # populates %results
}
%inv = reverse %results;                        # invert the result hash
if (keys %inv > 1) {   
    print "There is a discrepancy between DNS servers:\n";
    use Data::Dumper;
    print Data::Dumper->Dump([\%results],["results"]),"\n";
}

For each of the DNS servers listed in the @servers list, we call the &lookupaddress( ) subroutine. &lookupaddress( ) queries a specific DNS server for the IP address of a given hostname and places the results into a hash called %results. Each DNS server has a key in %results with the IP address returned by that server as its value.

There are many ways to determine if all of the values in %results are the same (i.e., all DNS servers returned the same thing in response to our query). Here we choose to invert %results into another hash table, making all of the keys into values, and vice versa. If all values in %results are the same, there should be exactly one key in the inverted hash. If not, we know we've got a situation on our hands, so we call Data::Dumper->Dump( ) to nicely display the contents of %results for the system administrator to puzzle over.

Here's a sample of what the output looks like when something goes wrong:

There is a discrepancy between DNS servers:
$results = {
             nameserver1 => '192.168.1.2',
             nameserver2 => '192.168.1.5',
             nameserver3 => '192.168.1.2',
           };

Let's take a look at the contestants for the &lookupaddress( ) subroutines.

5.3.2.1. Using nslookup

If your background is in Unix, or you've done some programming in other scripting languages besides Perl, your first attempt might look a great deal like a shell script. An external program called from the Perl script does the hard work in the following code:

use Data::Dumper;

$hostname = $ARGV[0];
$nslookup = "/usr/local/bin/nslookup";              # nslookup binary
@servers = qw(nameserver1 nameserver2 nameserver3); # name of the name servers
foreach $server (@servers) {
    &lookupaddress($hostname,$server);              # populates %results
}
%inv = reverse %results;                            # invert the result hash
if (scalar(keys %inv) > 1) {                       
    print "There is a discrepancy between DNS servers:\n";
    print Data::Dumper->Dump([\%results],["results"]),"\n";
}

# ask the server to look up the IP address for the host
# passed into this program on the command line, add info to 
# the %results hash
sub lookupaddress {
    my($hostname,$server) = @_;

    open(NSLOOK,"$nslookup $hostname $server|") or
      die "Unable to start nslookup:$!\n";
    
    while (<NSLOOK>) {
        # ignore until we hit "Name: "
 	    next until (/^Name:/);              
        # next line is Address: response
 	    chomp($results{$server} = <NSLOOK>); 
        # remove the field name
        die "nslookup output error\n" unless /Address/;
	    $results{$server} =~ s/Address(es)?:\s+//;	    
        # we're done with this nslookup 
        last;    
    }
    close(NSLOOK);
}

The benefits of this approach are:

  • It's a short, quick program to write (perhaps even translated line by line from a real shell script).

  • We did not have to write any messy network code.

  • It takes the Unix approach of using a general purpose language to glue together other smaller, specialized programs to get a job done, rather than creating a single monolithic program.

  • It may be the only approach for times when you can't code the client-server communication in Perl; for instance, you have to talk with a server that requires a special client and there's no alternative.

The drawbacks of this approach are:

  • It's dependent on another program outside the script. What if this program is not available? What if this program's output format changes?

  • It's slower. It has to start up another process each time it wants to make a query. We could have reduced this overhead by opening a two-way pipe to an nslookup process that stays running while we need it. This would take a little more coding skill, but would be the right thing to do if we were going to continue down this path and further enhance this code.

  • You have less control. We are at the external program's mercy for implementation details. For instance, here nslookup (more specifically the resolver library nslookup is using) is handling server timeouts, query retries, and appending a domain search list for us.

5.3.2.2. Working with raw network sockets

If you are a "power sysadmin," you may decide calling another program is not acceptable. You might want to implement the DNS queries using nothing but Perl. This entails constructing network packets by hand, shipping them out on the wire, and then parsing the results returned from the server.

This is probably the most complicated code you'll find in this entire book, written by looking at the reference sources described below along with several examples of existing networking code (including the module by Michael Fuhr we'll see in the next section). Here is a rough overview of what is going on. Querying a DNS server consists of constructing a specific network packet header and packet contents, sending it to a DNS server, and then receiving and parsing the response from that server.[5]

[5]For the nitty-gritty details, I highly recommend you open RFC1035 to the section entitled "Messages" and read along.

Each and every DNS packet (of the sort we are interested in) can have up to five distinct sections:

Header

Contains flags and counters pertaining to the query or answer (always present).

Question

Contains the question being asked of the server (present for a query and echoed in a response).

Answer

Contains all the data for the answer to a DNS query (present in a DNS response packet).

Authority

Contains information on where an authoritative response may be retrieved.

Additional

Contains any information the server wishes to return in addition to the direct answer to a query.

Our program will concern itself strictly with the first three of these. We'll be using a set of pack( ) commands to create the necessary data structure for a DNS packet header and packet contents. We pass this data structure to the IO::Socket module that handles sending this data out as a packet. The same module will also listen for a response on our behalf and return data for us to parse (using unpack( )). Conceptually, this process is not very difficult.

There's one twist to this process that should be noted before we look at the code. RFC1035 (Section 4.1.4) defines two ways of representing domain names in DNS packets: uncompressed and compressed. The uncompressed representation places the full domain name (for example, host.oog.org) in the packet, and is nothing special. But, if the same domain name is found more than once in a packet, it is likely a compressed representation will be used for everything but the first mention. A compressed representation replaces the domain information or part of it with a two-byte pointer back to the first uncompressed representation. This allows a packet to mention host1, host2, and host3 in longsubdomain.longsubdomain.oog.org, without having to include the bytes for longsubdomain.longsubdomain.oog.org each time. We have to handle both representations in our code, hence the &decompress routine below. Without further fanfare, here's the code:

use IO::Socket;
$hostname = $ARGV[0];
$defdomain = ".oog.org"; # default domain if not present

@servers = qw(nameserver1 nameserver2 nameserver3); # name of the name servers
foreach $server (@servers) {
    &lookupaddress($hostname,$server);              # populates %results
}
%inv = reverse %results;        # invert the result hash
if (scalar(keys %inv) > 1) {    # see how many elements it has
    print "There is a discrepancy between DNS servers:\n";
    use Data::Dumper;
    print Data::Dumper->Dump([\%results],["results"]),"\n";
}

sub lookupaddress{
    my($hostname,$server) = @_;

    my($qname,$rname,$header,$question,$lformat,@labels,$count);
    local($position,$buf);

    ###
    ### Construct the packet header
    ###
    $header = pack("n C2 n4", 
		   ++$id,  # query id
		   1,  # qr, opcode, aa, tc, rd fields (only rd set)
		   0,  # rd, ra
		   1,  # one question (qdcount)
		   0,  # no answers (ancount)
		   0,  # no ns records in authority section (nscount)
		   0); # no addtl rr's (arcount)

    # if we do not have any separators in the name of the host, 
    # append the default domain
    if (index($hostname,'.') == -1) {
	    $hostname .= $defdomain;
    }
    
    # construct the qname section of a packet (domain name in question) 
    for (split(/\./,$hostname)) {
	    $lformat .= "C a* ";
	    $labels[$count++]=length;
	    $labels[$count++]=$_;
    }
    
    ###
    ### construct the packet question section
    ###
    $question = pack($lformat."C n2",
		     @labels,
		         0,  # end of labels
		         1,  # qtype of A 
		         1); # qclass of IN
    
    ###
    ### send the packet to the server and read the response
    ###
    $sock = new IO::Socket::INET(PeerAddr => $server,
                                 PeerPort => "domain",
                                 Proto    => "udp");
    
    $sock->send($header.$question);
    # we're using UDP, so we know the max packet size
    $sock->recv($buf,512); 
    close($sock);
    
    # get the size of the response, since we're going to have to keep 
    # track of where we are in the packet as we parse it (via $position)
    $respsize = length($buf);
    
    ### 
    ### unpack the header section
    ###
    ($id,
     $qr_opcode_aa_tc_rd,
     $rd_ra,
     $qdcount,
     $ancount,
     $nscount,
     $arcount) = unpack("n C2 n4",$buf);
    
    if (!$ancount) {
	    warn "Unable to lookup data for $hostname from $server!\n";
	    return;
    }

    ###
    ### unpack the question section
    ###
    # question section starts 12 bytes in
    ($position,$qname) = &decompress(12); 
    ($qtype,$qclass)=unpack('@'.$position.'n2',$buf);
    # move us forward in the packet to end of question section
    $position += 4; 
    
    ###
    ### unpack all of the resource record sections
    ###
    for ( ;$ancount;$ancount--){
	    ($position,$rname) = &decompress($position);
	    ($rtype,$rclass,$rttl,$rdlength)=
             unpack('@'.$position.'n2 N n',$buf);
	    $position +=10;
        # this next line could be changed to use a more sophisticated 
        # data structure, it currently picks the last rr returned            
        $results{$server}=
           join('.',unpack('@'.$position.'C'.$rdlength,$buf));
	    $position +=$rdlength;
    }
}    

# handle domain information that is "compressed" as per RFC1035
# we take in the starting position of our packet parse and return
# the name we found (after dealing with the compressed format pointer)
# and the place we left off in the packet at the end of the name we found
sub decompress { 
    my($start) = $_[0];
    my($domain,$i,$lenoct);
    
    for ($i=$start;$i<=$respsize;) { 
	    $lenoct=unpack('@'.$i.'C', $buf); # get the length of label

	    if (!$lenoct){        # 0 signals we are done with this section
	        $i++;
	        last;
	    }

	    if ($lenoct == 192) { # we've been handed a pointer, so recurse
	        $domain.=(&decompress((unpack('@'.$i.'n',$buf) & 1023)))[1];
	        $i+=2;
	        last
	    }
	    else {                # otherwise, we have a plain label
	        $domain.=unpack('@'.++$i.'a'.$lenoct,$buf).'.';
	        $i += $lenoct;
	    }
    }
    return($i,$domain);
}

Note that this code is not precisely equivalent to that from the previous example because we're not trying to emulate all of the nuances of nslookup's behavior (timeouts, retries, searchlists, etc.). When looking at the three approaches here, be sure to keep a critical eye out for these subtle differences.

The benefits of this approach are:

  • It isn't dependent on any other programs. You don't need to know the particulars of another programmer's work.

  • It may be as fast or faster than calling an external program.

  • It is easier to tweak the parameters of the situation (timeouts, etc.).

The drawbacks of this approach are:

  • It's likely to take longer to write and is more complex than the previous approach.

  • It requires more knowledge external to the direct problem at hand (i.e., you may have to learn how to put DNS packets together by hand, something we did not need to know when we called nslookup).

  • You may have to handle OS-specific issues yourself (hidden in the previous approach by the work already done by the external program's author).

5.3.2.3. Using Net::DNS

As mentioned in Chapter 1, "Introduction", one of Perl's real strengths is the support of a large community of developers who churn out code for others to reuse. If there's something you need to do in Perl that seems universal, chances are good that someone else has already written a module to handle it. In our case, we can make use of Michael Fuhr's excellent Net::DNS module to make our job simpler. For our task, we simply have to create a new DNS resolver object, configure it with the name of the DNS server we wish to use, ask it to send a query, and then use the supplied methods to parse the response:

use Net::DNS;

@servers = qw(nameserver1 nameserver2 nameserver3); # name of the name servers
foreach $server (@servers) {
    &lookupaddress($hostname,$server);              # populates %results
}
%inv = reverse %results;        # invert the result hash
if (scalar(keys %inv) > 1) {   # see how many elements it has
    print "There is a discrepency between DNS servers:\n";
    use Data::Dumper;
    print Data::Dumper->Dump([\%results],["results"]),"\n";
}

# only slightly modified from example in the Net::DNS manpage
sub lookupaddress{
    my($hostname,$server) = @_;

    $res = new Net::DNS::Resolver;

    $res->nameservers($server);

    $packet = $res->query($hostname);

    if (!$packet) {
	    warn "Unable to lookup data for $hostname from $server!\n";
	    return;
    }
    # stores the last RR we receive
    foreach $rr ($packet->answer) {
	    $results{$server}=$rr->address;
    }
}

The benefits of this approach are:

  • The code is legible again.

  • It is often faster to write.

  • Depending on how the module you use is implemented (is it pure Perl or is it glue to a set of C or C++ library calls?) the code you write using this module may be just as fast as calling an external compiled program.

  • It is potentially portable, depending on how much work the author of the module has done for you. Any place this module can be installed, your program can run.

  • As in the first approach we looked at, writing code can be quick and easy if someone else has done the behind-the-scenes work for you. You don't have to know how the module works; you just need to know how to use it.

  • Code re-use. You are not reinventing the wheel each time.

The drawbacks of this approach are:

  • You are back in the dependency game. This time you need to make sure this module is available for your program to run. You need to trust that the module writer has done a decent job.

  • There may not be a module to do what you need, or it may not run on the operating system of choice.

More often than not, a pre-written module is my preferred approach. However, any of these approaches will get the job done. TMTOWTDI, so go forth and do it!



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