How to Add Plugins to CoreDNS

How to add plugins to CoreDNS; a tutorial.

CoreDNS is a DNS server that chains plugins. A plugin is defined as a method: ServeDNS() that gets a request and either responds to the client or passes it on to the next plugin. If none of the plugins handle the request a default response of SERVFAIL is returned.

This blog post details how to add a plugin to CoreDNS. We’re using the example of the whoami plugin which is a CoreDNS plugin and loaded by default if no Corefile is specified.

Note all the code examples here are in Go because CoreDNS is written in the Go language.

First question should be: “What should my plugin do?”. In the case of the whoami plugin its purpose is to echo back the client’s IP (IPv4 or IPv6), the transport used (“tcp” or “udp”) and the request port number.

Next question is: “What is the name of this new plugin?” Try to find a short, descriptive name for this. In this case, we already had a (good) name: whoami.


A plugin consists of a number of parts:

  1. The registration of the plugin
  2. The setup function that parses the whoami plugin and possible arguments from the Corefile
  3. The ServeDNS() and Name() methods

After we’ve defined the parts, we can:

  1. Hook it up
  2. Use it

1. Registration

Typically a plugin has a file called setup.go that handles the registration. In there, the init function should look like:

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

setup is the name of the setup function that takes care of the parsing of the Corefile. Its job is to return a type that implements the plugin.Handler interface.

So whenever the Corefile parser sees “whoami”, whoami.setup is called.

2. Setup function

Because the whoami plugin does not allow for any options, the setup function is relatively simple:

func setupWhoami(c *caddy.Controller) error {
	c.Next() // 'whoami'
	if c.NextArg() {
		return plugin.Error("whoami", c.ArgErr())

	dnsserver.GetConfig(c).AddPlugin(func(next plugin.Handler) plugin.Handler {
		return Whoami{Next: next} // Set the Next field, so the plugin chaining works.

	return nil

We use the *caddy.Controller to receive tokens from the Corefile and act upon them. Here we only check if there is nothing specified after the token whoami. If you need to do more there are c.Val(), c.Args() and friends.

The full setup.go for whoami is here.

Note that you should test the parsing as well, see setup_test.go.

3. ServeDNS() and Name()

Let’s start with the trivial Name() method which is used so other plugins can check if a certain plugin is loaded. The method just returns the string whoami.

// Name implements the Handler interface.
func (wh Whoami) Name() string { return "whoami" }

Next, the meat of the whole thing, the ServeDNS method. We will look at this method line by line.

// ServeDNS implements the plugin.Handler interface.
func (wh Whoami) ServeDNS(ctx context.Context, w dns.ResponseWriter, r *dns.Msg) (int, error) {
	state := request.Request{W: w, Req: r}

As seen the function gets a couple of parameters of which w is the client side: writing to w returns a response to the client. As you will see below all interesting properties of the client connection can be retrieved from the dns.ResponseWriter. r is the incoming query. The ServeDNS method returns an integer and/or an error. The values the integer can take are the DNS RCODEs, dns.RcodeServerFailure, dns.RcodeNotImplemented, dns.RcodeSuccess, etc.. A successful return value indicates the plugin has written to the client.

request.Request is a helper struct that abstracts and caches some client-side properties, like EDNS0 records and the DNSSEC OK bit.

Next we setup the reply message:

a := &dns.Msg{}
a.Authoritative = true

We create a new message and copy the relevant bits from the incoming reply to the one we’re planning to return. We fiddle with some message bits and set it to authoritative.

Then we are going to inspect the incoming message via the state helper struct to see what we should return.

ip := state.IP()
var rr dns.RR

switch state.Family() {
case 1:
    rr = &dns.A{}
    rr.(*dns.A).Hdr = dns.RR_Header{Name: state.QName(),
            Rrtype: dns.TypeA, Class: state.QClass()}
    rr.(*dns.A).A = net.ParseIP(ip).To4()
case 2:
    rr = &dns.AAAA{}
    rr.(*dns.AAAA).Hdr = dns.RR_Header{Name: state.QName(),
            Rrtype: dns.TypeAAAA, Class: state.QClass()}
    rr.(*dns.AAAA).AAAA = net.ParseIP(ip)

IP() returns the IP address of the client. Family() returns the IP version used. Depending on the family we either create a A or AAAA record with the client’s address. Note we don’t specify a TTL meaning it will be zero; indicating these records should not be cached.

Next we want to encode the client’s source port and transport protocol used.

srv := &dns.SRV{}
srv.Hdr = dns.RR_Header{Name: "_" + state.Proto() + "." + state.QName(),
            Rrtype: dns.TypeSRV, Class: state.QClass()}
port, _ := strconv.Atoi(state.Port())
srv.Port = uint16(port)
srv.Target = "."

SRV records are ideal for that. The domain names are either prefixed with _tcp or _udp, and the SRV record’s port number re-used to echo back the clients’s port number, meaning we create something like this: 0 IN SRV 0 0 <portNr>.

In the last bit of this method we create the full message and send it:

a.Extra = []dns.RR{rr, srv}
return 0, nil

First we add the two created resource records (rr and srv) to the additional section of the answer message: a.Extra.

Then, finally, we call the WriteMsg method on w which writes the message back to the client. We indicate a successful (even though it might have failed - we didn’t check the return value of WriteMsg) write by returning 0 and nil.

4. Hooking it up

Next we need to tell CoreDNS to compile and use this new plugin. Adding a plugin was recently simplified and only consists of editing plugin.cfg and adding the line:


The initial number is used for sorting the plugin (more on that below), then the name of the plugin as used in the registration and then the package inside the CoreDNS plugin directory.

Each plugin has a place in the list of all other ones. For instance the caching or the metrics plugin needs to come early, so that it can “see” the query and response and do cachy or metricsy things with it. A whoami plugin is not that special and can be placed relatively late in the list (hence the high number).

Now do a make (or go generate && go build) to get a coredns binary that can be used with our shiny new plugin. This binary should include dns.whoami when called with -plugins.

5. Using it

Write a Corefile:

. {

In words this says: be authoritative for the root . and below, meaning all possible queries will hit this stanza. And for each request call whoami.

Start CoreDNS with: coredns -conf Corefile -dns.port 1053. Couple of notes here. CoreDNS will look for a Corefile in the current directory so the -conf Corefile is only given here for completeness. The -dns.port will start CoreDNS on port 1053, so we don’t need to run as root.

CoreDNS will output the following:

linux/amd64, go1.13.1, b139ba3

The .:1053 indicates it has parsed our Corefile and is listening on port 1053 for queries for the root . zone and below.

So, lets send it a query with dig:

% dig +nocmd @localhost mx -p1053 +noall +additional		    0	IN	A		0	IN	SRV	0 0 58359 .

Beautiful. It is working. Checking the response, this request was sent with IPv4 over UDP from port 58359.

Let’s try using TCP:

% dig +nocmd @localhost a -p1053 +noall +additional +tcp		0	IN	A	0	IN	SRV	0 0 33435 .

Yes, it correctly sees we’ve used TCP this time (and of course a different port).

There are already a lot of different plugin in CoreDNS. New, exciting ones, are always welcome. So if you have an idea open an issue on the tracker.

This is an updated version of the previous blog about writing CoreDNS plugin.

Also see the example plugin for a simpler, plugin that just serves as an example.

Miek Gieben
Published: and tagged Documentation, Howto, Plugin and Tutorial using 1332 words.