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A DNS RR for specifying the location of services (DNS SRV)

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 2052.
Authors Paul A. Vixie , Arnt Gulbrandsen
Last updated 2013-03-02 (Latest revision 1996-01-22)
RFC stream Legacy stream
Stream Legacy state (None)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
RFC Editor Note (None)
IESG IESG state RFC 2052 (Experimental)
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD (None)
Send notices to (None)
Network Working Group                                   Arnt Gulbrandsen
INTERNET-DRAFT                                        Troll Technologies
Updates: RFC1035, RFC1183                                     Paul Vixie
Category: Experimental                                 Vixie Enterprises
                                                            January 1996

            A DNS RR for specifying the location of services


   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).

Status of this memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working doc-
   uments of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas, and
   its working groups.  Note that other groups may also distribute work-
   ing documents as Internet-Drafts.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference mate-
   rial or to cite them other than as ``work in progress.''

   To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
   "1id-abstracts.txt" listing contained in the Internet-Drafts Shadow
   Directories on (US East Coast),
   (Europe), (US West Coast), or (Pacific

   This draft has file name "draft-gulbrandsen-dns-rr-srvcs-02.txt" and
   expires on July 20, 1996.

Overview and rationale

   Currently, one must either know the exact address of a server to con-
   tact it, or broadcast a question.  This has led to e.g. 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

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   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 RFC1034 sense), and get
   back the names of any available servers.

Introductory example

   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 draft contains answering RRs
   for this query.

The format of the SRV RR

   Here is the format of the SRV RR: ttl class SRV priority weight port target

        (There is an example near the end of the RFC.)

        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 uni-
        versal 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 (it has to be, it's part of the
        DNS look-up key).

        The symbolic name of the desired protocol.  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 Ser-
        vice).  Case insensitive.

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        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 pri-
        ority 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 avail-
        able 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:

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      - 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 subopti-
        mal) 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 administra-
   tors are strongly advised to keep their SRV replies below 512 bytes.

   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 ("" for instance); each SRV RR adds
   20 bytes plus the name of the target host; each NS RR in the NS sec-
   tion 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 adminis-
   trators 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 con-
   tacts it.  For short-lived services like SMTP an extra step in the
   connection establishment seems too expensive, and for long-lived

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   services like telnet, the load figure may well be thrown off a minute
   after the connection is established when someone else starts or fin-
   ishes 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 ser-
   vice is added, and makes it possible to move standard services out of
   the "root-only" port range on unix.

Usage rules

   A SRV-cognizant client SHOULD use this procedure to locate a list of
   servers and connect to the preferred one:

        Do a lookup for, 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,
             Target) tuples

             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

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                  earlier SRV query.

                  for each A RR found, try to connect to the (protocol,
                  address, service).

        else if the service desired is SMTP

             skip to RFC974 (MX).


             Do a lookup for QNAME=target, QCLASS=IN, QTYPE=A

             for each A RR found, try to connect to the (protocol,
             address, service)


      - 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.)

      - SRV RRs with Protocol TCP and Service SMTP override MX RR's.
        This allows firewalled organizations with several SMTP relays to
        control the load distribution using the Weight field.

      - Designers of new protocols are urged to specify that SRV lookups
        be mandatory for those protocols.

Fictional example

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   This is (part of) the zone file for, a still-unused domain:

        @               SOA (
                            1995032001 3600 3600 604800 86400 )
        ftp.tcp         SRV 0 0 21
        finger.tcp      SRV 0 0 79
        ; telnet - use old-slow-box or new-fast-box if either is
        ; available, make three quarters of the logins go to
        ; new-fast-box.
        telnet.tcp      SRV 0 1 23
                        SRV 0 3 23
        ; 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
                        SRV 1 0 23
        ; 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
                        SRV 10 0 8000
        ; since we want to support both and
        ; we need the next two RRs as well
        http.tcp.www    SRV 0 0 80
                        SRV 10 0 8000
        ; SMTP - mail goes to the server, and to the IP provider if
        ; the net is down
        smtp.tcp        SRV 0 0 25
                        SRV 1 0 25
        @               MX  0
                        MX  1
        ; NNTP - use the IP providers's NNTP server
        nntp.tcp        SRV 0 0 119
        ; IDB is an locally defined protocol
        idb.tcp        SRV  0 0 2025
        ; addresses
        server          A
        old-slow-box    A
        sysadmins-box   A
        new-fast-box    A
        ; 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

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        ; backup A RR for
        www             A
        ; NO other services are supported
        *.tcp          SRV  0 0 0 .
        *.udp          SRV  0 0 0 .

   In this example, a telnet connection to "" needs an SRV
   lookup of "" and possibly A lookups of "new-fast-" 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, ""
      130 bytes for 4 SRV RR's, 20 bytes each plus the lengths of "new-
        fast-box", "old-slow-box", "server" and "sysadmins-box" -
        "" 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",
        "" and "ns2" - again, "" 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 1794: T. Brisco, "DNS Support for Load Balancing", 04/20/1995.

   RFC 1713: A. Romao, "Tools for DNS debugging", 11/03/1994.

   RFC 1712: C. Farrell, M. Schulze, S. Pleitner, D. Baldoni, "DNS
        Encoding of Geographical Location", 11/01/1994.

   RFC 1706: B. Manning, R. Colella, "DNS NSAP Resource Records",

   RFC 1700: J. Reynolds, J. Postel, "ASSIGNED NUMBERS", 10/20/1994.

   RFC 1536: A. Kumar, J. Postel, C. Neuman, P. Danzig, S. Miller, "Com-
        mon DNS Implementation Errors and Suggested Fixes.", 10/06/1993.

   RFC 1183: R. Ullmann, P. Mockapetris, L. Mamakos, C. Everhart, "New
        DNS RR Definitions", 10/08/1990.

   RFC 1101: P. Mockapetris, "DNS encoding of network names and other
        types", 04/01/1989.

   RFC 1035: P. Mockapetris, "Domain names - implementation and specifi-
        cation", 11/01/1987.

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   RFC 1034: P. Mockapetris, "Domain names - concepts and facilities",

   RFC 1033: M. Lottor, "Domain administrators operations guide",

   RFC 1032: M. Stahl, "Domain administrators guide", 11/01/1987.

   RFC 974: C. Partridge, "Mail routing and the domain system",

Security Considerations

   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 ser-
        vices, slightly harder to block internal users from running
        unautorised services, and more important for the router opera-
        tions 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.

Authors' Addresses

   Arnt Gulbrandsen
   Troll Tech
   Postboks 6133 Etterstad
   N-0602 Oslo

   Phone: +47 22646966


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   Paul Vixie
   Vixie Enterprises
   Star Route 159A
   Woodside, CA  94062

   Phone: (415) 747-0204


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