Configuring Downstream Servers

As dnsdist is a loadbalancer and does not do any DNS resolving or serving by itself, it needs downstream servers. To add downstream servers, either include them on the command line:

dnsdist -l -a 2620:0:ccc::2 2620:0:ccd::2

Or add them to the configuration file:


These two equivalent configurations give you sane load balancing using a very sensible distribution policy. Many users will simply be done with this configuration. It works as well for authoritative as for recursive servers.


dnsdist uses a health check, sent once every second, to determine the availability of a backend server.

By default, an A query for “” is sent. A different query type, class and target can be specified by passing, respectively, the checkType, checkClass and checkName parameters to newServer().

The default behavior is to consider any valid response with an RCODE different from ServFail as valid. If the mustResolve parameter of newServer() is set to true, a response will only be considered valid if its RCODE differs from NXDomain, ServFail and Refused.

The number of health check failures before a server is considered down is configurable via the maxCheckFailures parameter, defaulting to 1. The CD flag can be set on the query by setting setCD to true. e.g.:

newServer({address="", checkType="AAAA", checkType=DNSClass.CHAOS, checkName="", mustResolve=true})

You can turn on logging of health check errors using the setVerboseHealthChecks() function.

Since the 1.3.0 release, the checkFunction option is also supported, taking a Lua function as parameter. This function receives a DNSName, two integers and a DNSHeader object (DNSHeader (dh) object) representing the QName, QType and QClass of the health check query as well as the DNS header, as they are defined before the function was called. The function must return a DNSName and two integers representing the new QName, QType and QClass, and can directly modify the DNSHeader object.

The following example sets the CD flag to true and change the QName to “” and the QType to AAAA while keeping the initial QClass.

function myHealthCheck(qname, qtype, qclass, dh)

  return newDNSName(""), DNSQType.AAAA, qclass

newServer({address="2620:0:0ccd::2", checkFunction=myHealthCheck})

Source address selection

In multi-homed setups, it can be useful to be able to select the source address or the outgoing interface used by dnsdist to contact a downstream server. This can be done by using the source parameter:

newServer({address="", source=""})
newServer({address="", source="eth1"})
newServer({address="", source=""})

The supported values for source are:

  • an IPv4 or IPv6 address, which must exist on the system
  • an interface name
  • an IPv4 or IPv6 address followed by ‘@’ then an interface name

Please note that specifying the interface name is only supported on system having IP_PKTINFO.

Securing the channel

Securing the path to the backend

As explained briefly in the quickstart guide, dnsdist has always been designed as a load-balancer placed in front of authoritative or recursive servers, assuming that the network path between dnsdist and these servers is trusted. This is particularly important because for performance reasons it uses a single connected socket for UDP exchanges by default, and easy to predict DNS query IDs, which makes it easy for an attacker to poison responses.

If dnsdist is instead intended to be deployed in such a way that the path to its backend is not secure, the UDP protocol should not be used, and ‘TCP-only’, DNS over TLS and DNS over HTTPS protocols used instead, as supported since 1.7.0.

Using these protocols leads to all queries, regardless of whether they were initially received by dnsdist over UDP, TCP, DoT or DoH, being forwarded over a TCP socket, a secure DNS over TLS channel or a secure DNS over HTTPS channel.

The TCP-only mode for a backend can be enabled by using the tcpOnly parameter of the newServer() command.

The DNS over TLS mode via the the tls parameter of the newServer() command. Additional parameters control the validation of the certificate presented by the backend (caStore, validateCertificates), the actual TLS ciphers used (ciphers, ciphersTLS13) and the SNI value sent (subjectName).

The DNS over HTTPS mode in the same way than DNS over TLS but with the additional dohPath keyword indicating that DNS over HTTPS should be used instead of DNS over TLS.

If it is absolutely necessary to support UDP exchanges over an untrusted network, a few options have been introduced in 1.8.0 to make spoofing attempts harder:

should be set at its highest possible value (default since 1.4.0) to make that setting fully efficient.

  • setRandomizedOutgoingSockets() can be used to randomize the outgoing socket used when forwarding a query to a backend.

This requires configuring the backend to use more than one outgoing socket via the sockets parameter of newServer() to be of any use.