Setting up DNS service discovery in kubernetes

Aug 13, 2015

The usual way to set up service discovery in kubernetes is through environment variables, which are made available to all the Docker containers launched inside pods across the system. But another (and arguably more simplistic and elegant) way to handle service discovery is through DNS.

Kubernetes offers a cluster addon for DNS service discovery, which most environments enable by default. SkyDNS seems to be the standard DNS server of choice, since it was designed to work on top of etcd. The kube-dns addon is composed of a kubernetes service which, like all services, is allocated an arbitrary VIP within the preconfigured subnet (this is the IP that every other service will use for DNS); and a replication controller that will manage pods with the following containers inside them:

  • a local etcd instance
  • the SkyDNS server
  • a process called kube2sky which binds SkyDNS to the kubernetes cluster
  • a health check called healthz that monitors how DNS is being resolved

In order to set everything up, you will need to retrieve the definition files for the service and replication controller, like so:

curl -sO
curl -sO

You will then need to edit skydns-rc.yaml so that the MASTER_IP placeholder is replaced with the IP of your kubernetes master node:

sed -i -e 's/MASTER_IP/' skydns-rc.yaml

I’ve assumed that the kube-dns addon will use a service IP of If this does not correspond to your own subnet range, you can replace this value in skydns-svc.yaml. The second assumption is that kube.local will be used as the DNS domain. You will need to replace all occurrences in skydns-rc.yaml if you want it any other way. Once you’re happy, you can start all the services:

kubectl create -f skydns-rc.yaml
kubectl create -f skydns-svc.yaml

This will create a replication controller and service under the kube-system namespace. To check their status, run:

kubectl get pods --namespace=kube-system
kubectl get services --namespace=kube-system

Once your pod is completely up-and-running, you will need to pass in the DNS server IP and domain to all of the kubelet agents running on your minion hosts. To do this, you will likely need to change the local systemd unit files on your minions. You will need to add the following flags to the command specified in the ExecStart block:


To test that it’s working, create a file named busybox.yaml containing:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: busybox
  namespace: default
  - image: busybox
      - sleep
      - "3600"
    imagePullPolicy: IfNotPresent
    name: busybox
  restartPolicy: Always

and create it in kubernetes:

kubectl create -f busybox.yaml

This should provision the above pod on a minion configured to use the DNS service we have just set up. To test that this is so, you can run:

kubectl exec busybox -- nslookup kubernetes

You can substitute kubernetes any service name that is currently running, and it will resolve to the IP of a pod that the service ordinarily directs to. And that’s it, happy hacking!