Writing Plugins for CoreDNS

A introduction into writing plugin for CoreDNS.

A plugin adds functionality to CoreDNS, i.e. caching, metrics and basic zone file serving are all plugins.

If you want to write a new plugin and want it to be included by default, i.e. merged in the code base please open an issue first to discuss initial design and other things that may come up. Starting with a README file to explain how things work from a user perspective is usually a good idea.

See the example plugin for, uh, an example for how to structure, write and test a plugin. There are plenty of comments in the code to help you along.

How to Register a CoreDNS Plugin?

When writing your plugin code you will need to register it with CoreDNS. This can be done by calling the following function:

func init() { plugin.Register("foo", setup) }

Every plugin must have a name, foo, in this case. When foo is encountered in the configuration the setup function will be called in this package.

The Setup Function

The setup function (it may be called different, but pretty much every plugin just calls it setup) parses the configuration and populates internal data structures.

The setup function a caddy.Controller and returns an error: (We use plugin.Error to prefix returned error with plugin/foo: to improve error reporting).

func setup(c *caddy.Controller) error {
  if err != nil {
    return plugin.Error("foo", err)

  // various other code

  return nil

If we see a line in the Corefile such as:

foo gizmo

We can get the value of the first argument (“gizmo”) like so:

for c.Next() {              // Skip the plugin name, "foo" in this case.
    if !c.NextArg() {       // Expect at least one value.
        return c.ArgErr()   // Otherwise it's an error.
    value := c.Val()        // Use the value.

You parse the tokens present for your plugin by iterating over c.Next() which is true as long as there are more tokens to parse. Since a plugin may appear multiple times, you must iterate over c.Next() to get all the appearances of your plugin and consume the tokens.

Adding to CoreDNS

To plug your plugin into CoreDNS, put in plugin.cfg and run go generate.

If you’re working with an external, non core, plugin it will be easiest to make a symlink from the plugin directory to your plugin. I.e.

cd plugin
ln -s ../../example .
cd ..
vi plugin.cfg # add example:example
go generate
go build

How A Plugin Works in CoreDNS

Check out the godoc for the plugin package. The most important type is plugin.Handler.

A Handler is a function that handles a DNS request. CoreDNS will do all the bookkeeping of setting up an DNS server for you, but you need to implement these two types.

Writing a Handler

plugin.Handler is an interface similar to http.Handler except that it deals with DNS and the ServeDNS method returns (int, error). The int is status code, and the error is logged (if not nil) See plugin.md for more details about these return values.

Handlers are usually a struct with at least one field, the next Handler in the chain:

type MyHandler struct {
  Next plugin.Handler

To implement the plugin.Handler interface, we write a method called ServeDNS. This method is the actual handler function, and, unless it fully handles the request by itself, it should call the next handler in the chain:

func (h MyHandler) ServeDNS(ctx context.Context, w dns.ResponseWriter, r *dns.Msg) (int, error) {
  return h.Next.ServeDNS(ctx, w, r)

The interface also needs a method func Name() string.,

func (h MyHandler) Name() string { return "foo" }

That’s all there is to it (apart from writing all code that actually does something with the DNS request of course).

Further Reading

Simple examples of plugin that can be found in CoreDNS are:

  • root; does not register itself as a plugin. It simply performs some setup.
  • chaos; a DNS plugin that responds to CH txt version.bind requests.
  • example; an example plugin that prints “example” when responding to a query.

Don’t forget: the best documentation is the godoc and the code itself!

Miek Gieben
Published: and tagged coredns, documentation, plugin and plugins using 674 words.