DNS: The Overlooked Cloud Service

UPDATE: Rackspace has released a DNS Service since the launch of this post. Click here to read the announcement. To read more about our DNS service, click here to visit the product page.

Elastic computing. Autoscale. Pay as you go. It all sounds pretty exciting, and it is. But in the cloud, there are many “not so flashy” systems that are required to make it work, and often, those can get overlooked. One of those systems is DNS (domain name system), the telephone directory of the Internet.

DNS is necessary when building solutions in the cloud, but not all cloud providers offer a native DNS service. For forward resolution (e.g. www.yourdomain.com gets resolved to your cloud server IP or FQDN), that typically means using a 3rd party DNS service – inconvenient and at expense to you, but doable. The bigger problem comes with reverse resolution (e.g. your cloud server IP gets resolved to a FQDN) because the cloud provider is authoritative for the reverse resolution zone (as they own the IP address space). If they don’t offer the ability to modify reverse DNS records, a number of problems can ensue (Wikipedia lists several common uses for reverse DNS here under “Uses”). For example, Amazon does not offer forward or reverse DNS capabilities and if you’ve ever tried to send mail from an EC2 instance, you know just how problematic the lack of good DNS controls can be.

Our goal at Rackspace is to offer you a complete suite of powerful yet simple and cost-effective cloud services. To that end, we are pleased to now offer self-service forward AND reverse DNS services, at no cost, in the Cloud Servers section of the Rackspace Cloud control panel (we’ve always had a tailored DNS interface for Cloud Sites). It’s integrated, easy to use, and just one of the perks you get with The Rackspace Cloud. At present, you can create A, CNAME, and MX records in forward DNS as well as edit reverse DNS records for any of your cloud server public IP addresses. We’ve heard you and we’re working on additional record type support (e.g. NS, TXT, SRV, AAAA) as well as APIs for programmatic access.

To leverage The Rackspace Cloud DNS services, be sure to set the following as the domain name servers with your domain registrar:



If you’ve got any questions about our DNS service or how to use it, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-877-934-0409 or hit us up on Live Chat – we’re here 24×7, and we love to talk about this stuff!


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Erik joined Rackspace in 2008 as Chief Architect helping to launch and grow Cloud Servers as well as integrate and optimize multiple services across the Rackspace Cloud portfolio. Erik has been involved in OpenStack since its inception and helped launch the Quantum network service. Erik currently serves as Director of Product Strategy for the Cloud Infrastructure Product Line, which includes all base cloud building block services (Cloud Servers, Cloud Networks, Cloud Block Storage, Cloud Files, Cloud Load Balancers and RackConnect). Prior to joining Rackspace, Erik was Chief Infrastructure Architect for SRA International, where he helped architect solutions for large, complex enterprise and government clients. Erik is a graduate of Virginia Tech and holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering and a minor in Computer Science.


  1. It took me a few minutes to figure out what “reserve resolution” meant until I figured out it you meant to type “reverse resolution”. 🙂

    Loving my cloud server, and now I’m going to go update my NS revords in my domain registry.

  2. I was glad to see the new reverse DNS section appear last week, even though I already had my PTR set by support sometime ago. Knowing I can change it anytime without pestering you all is a welcome change indeed.

    And now, to patiently wait for the ability to manage TXT records. :3

  3. I love the ability to configure reverse DNS, that’s great. The thing that’s keeping me away from using the forward DNS, though, is that the zone (and its records) are tied to a server instance. If I’m managing a slew of servers and I happen to thoughtlessly delete the one that I used to set up my DNS, well, there it all went. And I’m just forgetful enough to do that.

    It would be great if the zone were somehow attached to the account instead of a single server instance so that that could be prevented. I recognize that that may introduce billing complications, though.

    Some other nice-to-haves:
    1) Use of “@” as a shortcut to stand for the zone
    2) Use of shortened names without the full zone (i.e., test instead of test.domain.com)
    3) Import/export of zone data

    I know, I know – you guys add a cool feature, and immediately we start complaining about it. Sorry about that. 🙂

  4. Beau –

    Forward DNS zones/records are not tied to specific cloud servers, it’s just that you have to navigate through individual servers in the control panel to edit DNS. If you delete a server, forward DNS records remain. I can relate to the forgetful part :-), but have no worries that deleting a server will accidentally affect DNS.

    The navigation could be better and I’ll take that back as a note. We LOVE feedback from customers so please feel free to keep it coming.


  5. Erik –

    Ahh – I (and one support tech I asked about this) stand corrected. I launched an additional server and I see that through its DNS tab I’m able to see the same zone and records I see through the server I originally created it all on. That’s good news. Thanks!

  6. So for CloudSite customers we still need private persistant datastores (MySQL, key value stores like Cassandra), caching (Memcache), processing (ffmpeg) and other one off custom services .

    Does this DNS work bring us one step closer to being able to connect our CloudSite to dedicated resources that we already manage and pay for under one account? By connect I mean connecting through an internal firewall directly to a CloudServer. Ideally the cloud server would have a private domain name similar in nature to the mysql internal connection names that we currently use on CloudSites.

    Note that I am making no request that CloudServers have internal access to CloudSites. This could have unforeseen security risks. I’m just talking about providing additional services to CloudSites in the most logical way possible with the shortest pipe. That means connecting to a CloudServer using highspeed intra data center connections.

    In my real world example I need memcache. I currently have a less than ideal file based caching solution that will not scale long term. If I have to connect to my CloudServer using the public IP I’m not sure if that will work.



  7. Did you guys ever fix the issue where you can’t delegate subzones to mosso? For example, if my domain name (foo.com) is managed by GoDaddy, there was no way to tell Mosso to be authoritative for the bar.foo.com zone. Slicehost could do this without a problem.

    Hopefully this is now fixed – will give it a try.

  8. It is true that DNS is often an after-thought. I attribute that to the precedent that Amazon EC2 set being a major player in the space. The initial intention for cloud infrastructure was to mainly act as an ‘overflow lot’ for traditional hosting and infrastructure services. Now that Cloud Services have grown up to be a challenge to traditional hosting, it is important to provide DNS with the attention it deserves. I would even argue that DNS should break-loose from its former status as a facilitating service and become a service in its own right (leave it to inventors and thinkers to cook up new uses).

    In my own case, I have been depending on third-parties for DNS services and them pointing the records to various Cloud services as the need arises. I like the Mosso/Rackspace Cloud approach to DNS. The only thing I would recommend that they borrow/learn from Amazon EC2, is the ability for users to buy and keep IP addresses independent of the Cloud Server lifespan. This coupled with the promised storage of backups on Cloud-files will bring Mosso Cloud more silver-lining.

  9. +1 Donny.

    For me, IP independence from cloud servers is what’s keeping the Rackspace Cloud from evolving from a purely development platform into a production one.

  10. We’d love to see IP independence as well. Having a bucket of IPs (up-sell opportunity anyone?) that can be assigned to any one of your instances could definitely set you apart from the rest. Aside from that … I’m a promoter! Rackspace rocks!

  11. Hello,

    I’d like to run a DNS server on the cloud server.

    Will Rackspace make secondary dns service , reading zones from my primary ?
    There are some rackspace competitors that offer this service for free for server customers.

    As an alternative will it be possible to import Bind zone file to the dns1.stabletransit.com control panel ?

    I have more than 200 domains and do not want to insert records one by one on the web interface. I could pay for it.

    Thank you

  12. Admittedly, Rackspace DNS is tied to a cloud server instance, so you can handle it that way (you will have to enter them one by one). But if you want a full-fledged DNS server, you can just get a CloudServer instance and since it is a Linux server, and you will have root access, you can actually setup BIND or anything else you want and run your own DNS server.

    It would be perfect though if Rackspace allowed IP addresses to be handled independent of server instances so that you can be sure that your DNS server will have the same IP address even if you decide to switch instances where your BIND server is setup

  13. Hey, found this almost two year old post while Googling to see if Rackspace Cloud supported TXT records somehow… Apparently still nothing? Looks like just A, CNAME, and MX, just like when this was posted.

    Anyway, TXT records would be helpful. 🙂



  14. DNS is becoming less and less a forgotten/afterthought service.
    In the last two years (since my first post), I have been building infrastructure on Amazon EC2 and they have something going re: DNS. Actually, they had something going about 2 years ago but it was too raw for wide adoption – Amazon Route 53.
    Route53 provides the services we mentioned discussed above with a 90-second TTL i.e: You can create a domain records, it gives you unique nameservers to configure with your registrar, and after initial propagation, any DNS zones you create or update propagate worldwide within 90 seconds. Amazon has the money and dedication to create multi-geography servers to handle this propagation.

    In my case, I have moved all my DNS records from Site5 (who only lease static IP4s if customers can convince them of need) and pointed them to Route53. I still have some servers on hosts other than Amazon EC2, but I can point/re-point DNS zones from Route53 and only have to wait 1-2 minutes for propagation.

    Route53 is currently just an API and does not yet have a UI on the AWS dashboard. But if you create an Amazon IAM ID/Key pair, you can use an available firefox plugin or service such as https://interstate53.com/ to point & click to manage your records. And since you can disable the IAM when done, there is no security risk or longterm account to keep with https://interstate53.com/

    Rackspace is a promising service, but it needs to adapt faster and make life easier for users in order to stay competitive with Amazon. Almost every other day, I get an update of new things that are being added to Amazon AWS —

  15. Hi, just wanting to confirm – is secondary name service supported yet? reading my zones from an external primary?