Writing Plugins for CoreDNS

A introduction into writing plugin for CoreDNS.

As CoreDNS uses Caddy for setting up and using plugin, the process of writing plugin is remarkably similar. This post slightly reworks (and simplifies in some cases) those pages.

A new plugin adds new 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.

How to Register a CoreDNS Plugin

Caddy supports different type of plugins, CoreDNS, for instance, registers itself as a Caddy server type plugin. CoreDNS currently supports one type of plugins; a plugin.

Start a new Go package with an init function. Then register your plugin:

import "github.com/mholt/caddy"

func init() {
  caddy.RegisterPlugin("foo", caddy.Plugin{
    ServerType: "dns",
    Action:     setup,

Every plugin must have a name, foo, in this case. The ServerType must be dns. The Action speficied here is to say it will call a function called setup whenever the directive foo is encountered in the Corefile.

The Setup Function

The Action field of the caddy.Plugin struct is what makes a directive plugin unique. This is the function to run when CoreDNS is parsing and executing the Corefile.

The action is simply a function that takes 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)

  return nil

It is the responsibility of the setup function to parse the directive’s tokens and configure itself. The Controller struct makes this quite easy. If we expect a line in the Corefile such as:

foo gizmo

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

for c.Next() {              // Skip the directive name.
    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 directive by iterating over c.Next() which is true as long as there are more tokens to parse. Since a directive may appear multiple times, you must iterate over c.Next() to get all the appearances of your directive and consume the first token (which is the directive name).

Adding to CoreDNS

To plug your plugin into CoreDNS, import it. This is done in core/coredns.go:

import _ "your/plugin/package/path/here"

This makes CoreDNS compile your plugin, but it is still not available, so the second step is to add it to directives.go:

Add the name (foo) of your plugin at the end of the file in the directives string slice. Note the ordering is important, because this is determines how the plugins are chained together.

How DNS 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 the DNS rcode, and the error is one that should be handled and/or logged. Read the plugin.md doc 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, this is mainly used to see if an plugin is active, i.e. the auto plugin used this to detect if metrics are active and if so, adds updates the zone info.

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

That’s all there is to it.

How to Add the Handler to CoreDNS

So, back in your setup function. You’ve just parsed the tokens and set up your plugin handler with all the proper configuration:

func setup(c *caddy.Controller) error {
  for c.Next() {
    // Get configuration.

  // Now what?

To chain in your new handler, get the config for the current site from the dnsserver package. Then wrap your handler in a plugin function:

cfg := dnsserver.GetConfig(c)
mid := func(next plugin.Handler) plugin.Handler {
  return MyHandler{Next: next}

And you’re done! Of course, in this example, we simply allocated a MyHandler with no special configuration. It doesn’t really matter as long as you chain in the next handler properly!


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.

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

Miek Gieben
Published: and tagged coredns, documentation, plugin and plugins using 862 words.